It’s been more than five years since the release of the current version of xAPI (1.0.3) in October 2016 and nearly nine years since the release of xAPI 1.0.0 in April 2013. During that time, adoption has progressed slowly but steadily to the point that there is now a large selection of products that offer xAPI support. This post provides an overview of xAPI’s adoption and reach as of early 2022 and some of the big-name products that now offer xAPI support.
Learning Record Stores (LRSs)
To do anything with xAPI, you need a learning record store (LRS), which is the system that receives and stores xAPI learning records. An LRS may be included as part of another system, such as a learning management system (LMS) or learning analytics platform (LAP), or a standalone system.
Because xAPI requires an LRS, the number of LRS products on the market is a good measure of adoption. Each LRS product represents a company that has put significant resources into building that product because they believe that people will buy it.
Building an LRS is not a straightforward task. To be recognized as xAPI conformant, the LRS must pass ADL’s rigorous conformance test suite, which runs 1,300 separate tests to ensure that the LRS responds correctly.
At the time of writing, ADL lists 26 LRS products that have passed the xAPI test suite. This includes standalone LRS products, such as Rustici LRS, and products that incorporate an LRS with another platform, such as Watershed learning analytics platform and Saba Cloud, an LMS.
Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
The inclusion of big players in the LMS space, like Saba, on ADL’s list is significant. That’s because, while most authoring tools (and many other products) adopted xAPI very rapidly and continue to add new xAPI functionality, adoption amongst LMS vendors has typically been slow.
This may be because some of the early messaging around xAPI promoted the idea that you could get rid of your LMS in favor of an integrated ecosystem of best-of-breed products—a vision of the future that some LMS vendors were understandably not keen to encourage!
In practice, however, we’ve seen that when clients implement xAPI for learning analytics, the LMS continues to be a valuable tool alongside other products. Rather than being replaced by an ecosystem of products, the LMS works with and alongside technologies, such as:
- video platforms,
- learning experience platforms,
- checklist applications,
- and more.
The LMS offers its own unique functionality within this ecosystem, such as hosting content and supporting compliance learning.
In contrast to the LMS space, xAPI adoption among authoring tools is nearly universal. Not only that, but authoring tool vendors also continue to extend their xAPI support.
Late in 2021, for example, Articulate announced new xAPI functionality in Storyline 360 that goes beyond the basic tracking possible with SCORM and empowers content authors to track custom learner interactions and outcomes. Authoring tool vendors' continued investment in xAPI represents their customers' increasing interest in xAPI.
Other L&D Technologies
Unlike its predecessor, SCORM, xAPI tracks learning in other contexts and technologies beyond eLearning courses, and leading products in many of these categories have implemented xAPI tracking:
- Most LXPs—such as Degreed, EdCast, and Instilled—offer xAPI tracking of learner interactions.
- Leading video platform Kaltura MediaSpace uses xAPI to track how users watch, play, and pause training videos.
- Checklist application xapify, a powerful tool for recording real-world observations of skills and learning, has xAPI tracking at its core.
- Popular survey tool Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo) uses xAPI to support real-time tracking of surveys.
- Content libraries, such as LinkedIn Learning, now offer xAPI tracking of their content.
- VR authoring tool CenarioVR uses xAPI for tracking.
There’s now a wide array of learning technologies that offer xAPI tracking, making it easier than ever for L&D professionals to select xAPI-supported solutions in just about every product category. And even where products don’t support xAPI as a feature, data can usually be converted into xAPI using tools such as Watershed’s Data Conversion Engine.
Learning technology vendors aren’t the only ones implementing xAPI. Many organizations are now making use of xAPI too.
We’ve published several case studies showing how organizations use xAPI as part of their learning analytics programs—which includes stories from Visa, Caterpillar, and Nebraska Medicine. We’ve also run webinars with PwC, Applied, and others talking about their use of xAPI.
And Watershed clients aren’t the only ones taking advantage of all that xAPI has to offer. More than 4,000 L&D professionals have participated in the xAPI Cohorts run by TorranceLearning since 2015. These cohorts run termly and are an opportunity to collaborate with other learning professionals on an xAPI project and offer weekly sessions featuring talks from xAPI experts and a lively Slack channel where you can ask questions.
What’s on the horizon for xAPI?
With xAPI adoption growing, you may have heard the news that version 2.0.0 of xAPI should be released as an IEEE standard this year. And more good news is that xAPI 2.0.0 is not significantly different from xAPI 1.0.3—aside from changes to the layout of the documentation itself to match the layout of other IEEE standards.
We hope that xAPI 2.0.0 will be both backward and forward compatible with 1.0.3, allowing L&D data to be easily translated between the two versions. For now, we’ll have to wait and see, as the IEEE working group has not confirmed this yet.
Although not a significant technical change, the move from specification to standard represents a seal of recognition that may help further xAPI adoption. In particular, some members of the IEEE working group have suggested that the publication of xAPI as a standard may be helpful to encourage adoption within government organizations.
Get started with xAPI.
If you’re ready to get started with xAPI, we have plenty of resources to help you—including an xAPI implementation guide for developers. And our Building a Business Case for Learning Analytics blog series walks through some of the ways you can use xAPI and learning analytics to improve learning in your organization.
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