Access the PDF version of the Verizon xAPI case study

There’s more to Verizon than meets the eye. The telecommunications giant makes approximately $30 billion in revenue per year, and that’s not just from its wireless services. They install fiber optics, provide internet and cable, and conduct business in more than 150 countries.

That means new hires have a lot to learn, so Verizon has taken steps to integrate xAPI into their L&D initiatives to incrementally change the learner experience. Dwayne Thomas, Verizon’s associate director of learning and development, is responsible for introducing xAPI into the company’s ecosystem. 

The Challenge: Dreaming too big

The goal of any L&D department is creating quality training content, but, more important, pointing people in the direction of the right content. In 2012, Dwayne learned about xAPI (then referred to as Tin Can) and knew it was just the thing that would help advance Verizon’s lofty L&D goals, including:

  • Building a big data and analytics program.

  • Enabling personalized learning experiences.

  • Facilitating an integrated learning system.

  • Creating an aggregation point for all learning data.

  • Conducting training impact analysis.

These ambitious ideas could be achieved with the help of xAPI, but a meeting between the L&D and IT teams revealed that perhaps Dwayne and his team weren’t quite ready for the commitment. Adopting xAPI at the scale to accomplish their lofty goals would involve downloading the code base, buying servers, implementing server support, and running the servers themselves. L&D decided that fully adopting xAPI was a great idea, but they wouldn’t be able to present a successful business case to leadership built solely on their goals. 

The Approach: Focus on the learner experience

Dwayne and the L&D team decided to shift their focus to the learner experience and how new hires interacted with content during the onboarding process. Starting here could then help gain buy-in from IT and leadership.

At the time, Dwayne was responsible for the Verizon Wireline division’s onboarding program, which consisted mainly of a 52-page powerpoint presentation. He worked with Root, a custom content developer, to change the delivery format from a lengthy presentation to a 3-by-5 ft table top poster that would be used as a roundtable conversation piece. This custom resource helped new hires to quickly and easily learn about Verizon’s culture, credo, values, and business divisions in an interactive setting.

Even though the material was helpful in teaching new employees about all of Verizon’s services and employees’ abilities to recall information improved, the delivery of information wasn’t practical, especially since only about 40% of new hires in Wireline had access to face-to-face onboarding experiences.

After making this realization, L&D created new requirements for training Wireline new hires:

  • Content must be accessible via mobile devices.

  • Training content must be user friendly, so employees can enter and exit the content without losing their places.

  • Insights into how new hires are watching training content must be reported on the LMS and readily available to L&D.

From there, Verizon needed to build something outside of their LMS because it couldn’t support the newly defined requirements. L&D only had three months, but making changes to the LMS would take much longer than that. They also didn’t have time to partner with a company to set up a learning record store (LRS) because Verizon’s purchasing process can take several months. Instead, Dwayne employed Root and an in-house database administrator to hand code all the requirements into the database. This approach worked, but handling the reports was difficult because everything had to be done manually and L&D didn’t put any of the reporting into a data analytics tool.

Once the course was launched, it was too late to enable it with xAPI, but it wasn’t too late to look ahead. Dwayne’s team hoped to conduct a smart experiment of xAPI by partnering with another division’s L&D group who might have a need for similar requirements. Luckily, a senior vice president from another L&D department took notice of Dwayne’s course experiment and was interested in championing it for her division. Initially she was skeptical about the course and the underlying xAPI technology because it wasn’t on the corporate-approved LMS.

However, she changed her mind and was sold on xAPI once she learned that it could create the desired learning experience, provide course completion credits, and give insight into consumption and usage. The success from this experiment led to wider acceptance of L&D’s plans to fully incorporate xAPI into the learning experience.

The Solution: Informing better design with insights

L&D received permission to expand the types of data they can put in the cloud, and they’re working with the LMS and IT teams to improve how they support self-based content launches. These updates allow L&D to build xAPI-enabled content with Storyline 3, and the content can be launched and tracked using SCORM-based scoring with a bookmark, resume feature, score, and completion credit going into the LMS. Meanwhile, reporting on users’ consumption habits is reported to the LRS. Though this is just a first step, it satisfies IT’s requirements while giving the L&D team insight into the learner experience.

Verizon has used the learning experience perspective to change the type of content they deliver and how they deliver it. xAPI allows Verizon to see new hires’ consumption habits via reports and dashboards, which has led to a better understanding of where improvements should be made (see Image 1). For example, a 4.5-minute video was skipped 33% more often than a 3.5-minute video, showing L&D that employees’ attention spans are averse to longer content. 

Verizon & Watershed xAPI Case Study

Image 1: xAPI allows Verizon to see new hires' consumption habits via reports and dashboards, which has led to a better understanding of where improvements should be made.

The next adjustment was making content more accessible to learners. Wireline employees work in a performance support tool all day, but they had to leave the tool and login to the LMS to view training materials. Now, the material is embedded in the performance support tool, and managers can still see which content was watched and/or completed (see Image 2).

Verizon xAPI Use Case

Image 2: Now, the material is embedded in the performance support tool, and managers can still see which content was watched and/or completed.


What's next for Verizon & xAPI?

Verizon’s L&D team wants to send course completion credits to the LMS after learners watch applicable videos via their video delivery platform. They also want to add a feature to the LMS that scores participation quality based on course data. The scoring will be based on video completions and if the video-related questions are answered correctly. These scores will then be used to see how they impact organizational KPIs.

The Verizon team’s next steps are:

  • ensuring that xAPI is compatible with all systems and platforms, 

  • implementing an integrated learning ecosystem, and
  • making personalized learning recommendations available.

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