Implementing xAPI: A Roadmap Toward Maturity

Implementing xAPI: A Roadmap Toward Maturity
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The Experience API, or xAPI, was first released in production in 2013 and achieved full IEEE standard status in 2023. In this past decade, we have seen learning industry tools and platforms develop support for xAPI, and we have also seen thousands of learning professionals develop their skills to take advantage of this new capability.

Now in my own work, I am seeing organizations invest in building out the learning data ecosystem based on the rich interoperability available from xAPI. It’s through these experiences of others that we have seen orderly stages in their ecosystem maturity.

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We look at maturity across 5 key dimensions:

Strategy and Purpose: This addresses why the team is taking on a new xAPI project. In the early stages, the goal is simply to learn; in later stages, the goal turns to educating the team and the business. At every step along the way, the work that is done not only serves the immediate project at hand but also builds credibility to take on the next phase of work.

Skillset and People:  Here we are looking at who and how many people know how to use xAPI and to use the data that it creates. In the early phases, we see the skills focused on just one or two people, and in later stages, entire teams are creating and sharing best practices.

Systems and Data Supply: This dimension addresses which tools are being used for the xAPI and data projects. Early on we see that early projects are often leveraging the team’s existing eLearning authoring tools. There is a critical juncture at the first production project at which it makes sense for the organization to move away from free trial tools to be paying for the security that is required when dealing with real employee data.

Statistics and Data Science: As the organization’s maturity advances, the sophistication of the kinds of work that can be done with the data also matures. From the early giddy days of simply seeing data move through the system, we see teams including design for data and analytics in the early planning stages for every project.

Relationships: In this dimension, we are looking at the cross-functional nature of the team that is involved in the innovation efforts around the learning data ecosystem. In the early phases, work may be done as a side or “skunkworks” project. Over time, efforts become more holistic and include IT, data, business intelligence, and other teams.

xAPI graphic

As you review your own team’s maturity, it’s important to keep in mind that each organization will follow its own path, and few will proceed through this model in a neat step-by-step manner. As such, this is best used as an informative guide rather than a rigid prescription.

Assess Your Organization’s Readiness

This quick assessment will help you identify your organization’s readiness for xAPI and data and analytics across the five dimensions. Use it solo as a guide for yourself, or distribute it amongst key stakeholders in your organization and see how the differences in your responses can inform your strategy moving forward.

Get Support along the Way

As you and your organization move forward, be sure to tap into industry resources to help make the journey smoother.

Ask your vendors for support. As you engage with them, ask how they support xAPI and data and analytics. Ask them to see samples and ask them about the data profiles that they use. They should be able to tell you how they’re using xAPI and this can be a valuable source of insight and learning for you.

Check your LMS. Many LMSes support the basics of xAPI, recording launches and completions very similar to how they do with SCORM. Some LMSes provide more of the robust interoperability that is promised in the xAPI specification. This free LMS xAPI Tester will help you discover your LMS’s capabilities so that you know what to expect.

Organize Your Projects and Your Data. Once you move beyond eLearning for your xAPI projects, you will want to organize your data profiles so that the data you generate can be useful across projects.

Learn with Your Team!

There are a number of opportunities for learning about xAPI. Free opportunities include and the xAPI Learning Cohort. There are free courses on LinkedIn and Udemy, and the Hands-On Learning and Application (HOLA!) course is also available. (Use code HOLA-HRDQ-10 for 10% off when registering.) Complement these courses about xAPI with general business education courses on data and analytics, or the book Data & Analytics for Instructional Designers.

Megan Torrance smiling
Megan Torrance

Megan Torrance is the CEO and founder of TorranceLearning, connecting learning strategy to design, development, data, and, ultimately, performance. Megan has over 25 years of experience in learning design, deployment, and consulting. Megan and the TorranceLearning team are passionate about sharing what works, so they devote considerable time to teaching and sharing about Agile project management for learning design, racial equity, and xAPI & learning analytics.

Megan is the author of Agile for Instructional Designers, Data & Analytics for Instructional Designers, and the W.I.S.E. A.T. A.I. framework. She is also a facilitator with eCornell’s Women’s Executive Leadership certificate and courses in virtual teaming, team leadership and communication, and an adjunct instructor in instructional design at Penn State University.

Connect with Megan on LinkedIn.

Recommended Webinar
Ready, Set, Go: xAPI Implementation in Your L&D Ecosystem

Learn the immense value of xAPI and get the right guidance and tips for seamless xAPI implementation in your learning and development system.

Ready, Set, Go: xAPI Implementation in Your L&D Ecosystem Webinar
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