Tag Archive | Tin Can

BLOG: Tin Can & Creating A Continuous Improvement Culture

In the latest part in his blogs from last month’s NextGen LMS conference, Unicorn’s Stuart Jones asks how do we create a continuous improvement culture?

silvers_150x200Aaron Silvers, formally of ADL – the organisation responsible for SCORM and now stewards of the Tin Can standard.

Aaron recently set up his own company called Making Better  to help organisations improve their learning and development.

Aaron opened with a wonderful quote: “Perfect is the enemy of better” –Voltaire, La Bégueule

This works on a number of levels, not least that if you wait for perfection you will never deliver anything good. And secondly, without the ability to improve, nothing gets better.

Aaron’s entire talk mirrored a lot of the discussions we’ve been having at our Agile South Coast get together over the last few months – and that is get something out there, test it, improve it based around Lean Start Up and Lean UX principles.

Interesting to me that the eLearning industry is catching up with thinking from the software development industry – assuming Aaron can make this stick.

Aaron did make some interesting points about using Tin Can statements to capture the analytics for testing eLearning content.

I’m a little conflicted by this.

tincan2Tin Can is about the learner experiences, and if we are starting lean as Aaron’s talk introduced, then we should focus on the most important information we can use.

If we capture too much, we generate noise and if we start thinking about usability for example as Tin Can data, we will generate a lot of noise, most of which won’t be useful to anyone than a course builder, whereas one would argue the purpose of Tin Can recording experiences is it is the output we are interested in – what did they learn, what did they experience.

It is tenuous to me to be thinking inputs such as where the user clicked, how they clicked being a good use of Tin Can data. And that data is temporal – it is redundant the next time the course is edited, hence the portability of that information becomes irrelevant.

So Aaron, I have to disagree with these particular points right now, at least until there is a better way of classifying this data without hacking the spec as you suggested to me.

In terms of what Aaron’s clients need from a next gen learning management system, many reoccurring themes are on show:

• Analytics – using data in a way that drives positive change
• Managing competencies
• Badges and gamification
• Content management
• Mobile friendly and accessible content delivery
• Powerful search

This is a slightly different list from what they want:
• Tailored reporting
• Content authoring
• Suggestions and Recommendations
• Smart Offline Capability
• Bundle content (top down) and playlists (bottom up)
• Web and industry standards

Often the “want list” is phase two to enable the clients to get to the MVPs (Most valuable products) first.

Next Iteration of SCORM with Aaron Silvers – catch up on where xAPI is now, how we got there, and what’s next for xAPI.

Missed the rest of Stuart’s NextGen LMS blog this week? Don’t worry you can find them all at the UniChronicles here!

More from Stuart next week.

NEWS: Unicorn Partners With YUDU For New Training Information App

Unicorn’s latest training App will be unveiled next month after Unicorn partnered with digital publishers, YUDU, to create the ‘Unicornucopia’ App.

yudu-logoThe App, downloadable onto any device (iOS, Android, Windows), is a sales support compendium of free videos, user guides, factsheets, blogs and client case studies, and is Unicorn’s first project with YUDU in the corporate training App space.

Unicornucopia will contain free guides to all Unicorn’s learning solutions, enabling prospective customers and existing clients to learn more about Unicorn’s award-winning learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, our bespoke and off the shelf eLearning, T&C monitoring, compliance training and much more.

Leaving meetings with reams of scribbled-on paper will be a thing of the past, as customers will be able to get the full interactive experience of Unicorn’s solution range whenever you need it. You will be notified when new content is released, all of which will be free.

Unicornucopia is set to be showcased for the first time at Unicorn’s next client day, on Tuesday 10 June at Kings Place, London.

screen568x568Unicorn launched its first App – the CII My CPD App – earlier this year, to support CII adviser members in recording their Continuing Professional Development to meet the regulatory requirements of the FCA. It enables member to update their CPD status on the go the moment they have completed an activity.

Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: “Mobile is an integral part of all online learning development now.

“Whereas a few years ago mLearning was viewed as a standalone branch of eLearning, with technology and lifestyle evolving in the way they have, mobile learning is arguably the main way we all consume and digest information today; simply a part of a seamlessly inter-connected learning space.

“Apps are a key part of this evolution. The CII My CPD App has been very well received and this new YUDU App is the latest we have in the pipeline to provide more streamlined and accessible learning, resource and content opportunities for people wherever they are and whenever they need it.

“One of the beauties of the new App is you don’t need to be connected to the internet, whether wirelessly or by 3G or 4G, to access the content. Once it’s downloaded you can view and review content as many times as you like wherever you may be. This is another resource we hope will make our clients lives’ a bit easier.”

YUDU and Unicorn Apps take advantage of the Tin Can API, a brand new API specification for eLearning that enables a far broader range of data to be recorded than previously possible.

Learn more about what the Tin Can API can do in this interview with Unicorn Director of IT, Stuart Jones, in eLearning Age magazine in April 2014 (pages 12-13).

To get the full lowdown on YUDU and Unicorn’s new training App solution, click here

EVENT NEWS – Lifting The Fog Around Tin Can

tin-can-api-experience-apiThere’s still a bit of a fog around Tin Can – a.k.a. the Experience API. But Unicorn will help to try to clear that blur as we sponsor the eLearning Network’s ‘LMSs and the Tin Can API’ event at De Vere West One, London on Friday 4 April.

The Experience API (aka Tin Can) has been positioned as the best way to collect, store and analyse learning data. But why? Unicorn’s Director of IT, Stuart Jones, will be amongst experts looking to provide answers to questions including:

• What the Experience API allows you to do currently
• How the Experience API works (in plain English)
• What tools and systems are available to help you use the Experience API
• How to implement the Experience API in your organisation

Stuart said: “It’s likely Tin Can will be the way all learning systems and content speak to each other in the future. It’s a new way for these different things to be able to share learner experiences between them, enabling these to be recorded and reported.stuartJonesBlogSig-300x135

“In one respect it is a modern replacement for existing e-learning technology standards, the most popular of which is SCORM. It also goes beyond replacing basic eLearning integration opening up a range of possibilities for capturing information in ways not previously possible.

“Tin Can basically does the same as SCORM/AICC and is no more scary than either. At the event I’ll be focusing on the short-terms benefits of using Tin Can, in particular Apps, and looking into the future at how some of the benefits will open up learning.”

LMSs and the Tin Can API – what’s on the agenda:

• The vision for Tin Can in large organisations – Andy Wooler (Hitachi Data Systems).
• Introducing LearningLocker: an open source Learning Record Store and Analytics engine, from the creators of Curatr – Dave Tosh/Ben Betts (HT2) • Tin Can Today – what is possible with existing tools? – Stuart Jones (Unicorn)
• The impact of Tin Can on Learning Design – Andrew Downes (Epic)

theme529_logoStuart will demonstrate how Tin Can courses are uploaded, discuss Storyline and iSpring tools and challenges, plus highlight the benefits to learning on the move.

Get Involved!

Visit the eLearning Network website and book online here – http://www.elearningnetwork.org/events/lms-and-tin-can

Reflections on Learning Solutions Conference 2014 (Part 2)

Fresh back from sunny Orlando, Unicorn CEO Peter Phillips reflects on the key themes of LS Con 14.

Theme 2 Performance Support

Perhaps the most pervasive theme throughout the conference was the need for learning to be seen as an investment not a cost, and that this will only be possible by ensuring that learning is focused on improving the results of the organisation, and being able to measure the impact.

Currently, most LMSs do not measure improved performance. Instead we measure the learning activities themselves –e-learning completions, assessment scores, and the rest of the SCORM data set, and of course classroom training through “happy sheets”.

But research shows no correlation between happy sheet data and business performance, and the Will Thalheimer curve (see part 1 of this blog) demonstrates how the learning from single events  quickly dissipates without regular reinforcement.

The Thalheimer Curve popped up again in Bob Mosher and Con Gottfredson’s session on Performance Support, with the same theme of how to ensure we transfer and sustain learning to support on the job competency beyond the initial formal learning.

On a side note here, a large number of learning modules, delivered in a short time period, largely by PowerPoint with little interaction, no spaced reinforcement, and success measured by happy sheets is a pretty good description of LSCon J

But wait, help is at hand. The cavalry, armed only with TinCans are about to appear over the ridge.  I attended two excellent sessions at LSCon on the potential of Tin Can (or the xAPI). The first was with Andy Whittaker of Rustici, who are of course at the heart of the TinCan project. The second was led by Glenn Bull, CEO of Skilitix a charismatic exponent of an ROI led future for learning.

Given all the hype around TinCan over the past two years and more, one surprise is how early we are in the adoption cycle. According to Andy, few  LMS’s have the xAPI integrated, and those that do (which includes Unicorn’s SkillsServe) have yet to go beyond replicating SCORM, due to lack of data sources.

In fact, Glenn argued that SCORM itself has been a major inhibitor of innovation. Research shows that most LMS customers don’t like their LMS much, and top of the list of complaints is reporting. But within the constraints of SCORM data, there is no scope for better reporting.  To break out we need better data.

This was a key takeaway for me. Most of the discussion to date around the benefits of TinCan has focused on more sophisticated measurement of learning activities and broadening data capture to a wide range of off line activities.

But the real benefits will come from relating experiences to outcomes – more sales, fewer complaints, improved medical outcomes etc. Tin Can opens the door to this whole new world where learning becomes an integrated part of Business Intelligence. Hence the sessions at LACon on BI and Big Data, including a sparkling keynote presentation from Douglas Merrill former CIO at Google.

But there is a long way to go. Andy referred to a couple of early limited case studies including one in the UK National Health Service. His advice for pioneers is to start with a specific focused project.

The implications for the future of eLearning are potentially huge. For instructional designers it impacts what, when and how they deliver. Performance support implies learning activities are embedded, readily available, contextual, and just enough (small granules).

For LMS platforms the implications include single sign-on data links with other BI systems, the potential to create personal or role based learning pathways, and more meaningful, outcome based reporting.

For Unicorn these reflections will inform our current project on providing a portable CPD “learning locker” for UK financial advisers. Perhaps we will have inspiring results to present at one of those breakfast sessions next year J

BLOG – Reflections from LSCon 2014 – do you agree?

Last week three Unicorns headed to Orlando for eLearning Guild’s international Learning Solutions 2014 event. Pretending that we’re not remotely jealous of their sunshine excursion (honest!), the trio of Peter Phillips (CEO), Jackie Kennedy (COO) and award-winning instructional designer, Sam Yates, will be reflecting on the conference over a series of blogs this week.

pip_smileFirst up, Peter gives his lowdown on the overall event and discusses Will Thalheimer’s “Subscription Learning” session.

Attending a Learning Guild conference can be a bit like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. The three day conference starts each day at 7:15 a.m. with a choice from an array of “Morning Buzz” discussion groups, I’m sure these used to be called “Breakfast Bites” and included coffee and pastries, but this year you had to buy your own breakfast.

By the end of the day, you are likely to have attended a key note general session, half a dozen smaller group sessions on a bewildering variety of topics, visited the vendor expo, listened in on a couple of the Learning Stages (shorter vendor-led presentations), and with a bit of luck as you rush from room to room, had time to grab a sandwich, a coffee and a few words with fellow delegates.

All this plus “SolutionFest”, where you can pinch the ideas from over 40 real-life examples of great work by delegate volunteers, including Unicorn’s own Global Giveback award-winner Sam Yates.

I’m not sure how that three-day intensive barrage of content, with relatively little interactivity, sits with the learning principles that our profession espouses, but it certainly provided plenty of food for thought.

The brain’s ability to find patterns was mentioned several times, both positive (an essential learning skill) and negative (thinking biases and how they stifle creativity).

So, for better or worse, here is my attempt to create order from the chaos…….

Learning and Forgetting

One of my first sessions on the morning of day 1, was Will Thalheimer on “Subscription Learning”.Will Thalheimer

At the heart of this session were Will’s research-based learning and forgetting curves. Traditional one-time learning inputs, whether classroom or on-line, have a short term benefit, but the learning quickly tails away if not reinforced regularly.

Subscription Learning, then is about providing learning in small nuggets, pushed to the learner and (crucially) repeating the learning in a variety of formats – varying the message actually increases retention – and so far as possible tailored to the individual and their role.


The session contained plenty of valuable insights into spacing of learning interventions (or Penguins and Ostriches in Will’s visuals), and we will be able to apply much of this in Unicorn’s new CPD learning solution.

For more on subscription learning, I recommend you visit www.subscriptionlearning.com

You might also like to explore Duolingo, an excellent (and rare) example of subscription learning in practice.

learningandforgetting2Those charts of the learning and forgetting curves came up again in several other speakers’ presentations throughout the conference. The research behind them is relevant to how we design and deliver learning content, to the role of the LMS, and to my second theme Tin Can, Big Data and Performance Support.

I will have more to say on these in the next thrilling instalment of my LSCon 14 reflections tomorrow…….

Top 5 Talking Points from 2013 #LSCon

What does the future hold for learning? In the second of a two-part blog reflecting on Learning Solutions Conference and Expo 2013 Unicorn CEO, Peter Phillips, looks at the five hottest conference issues – mobile, Tin Can, authoring tools, what’s next for the LMS and could websites be the new LMSs?

1) Mobile is everywhere but not everything.

Mobile was pervasive this year.

It is now established as a core element in the mix of eLearning delivery and it is not going away. Increasingly with BYOD and remote working, users expect to be able to access learning away from their desk. The trend to mobile has been so rapid since the arrival of the tablet, that implications for design, authoring tools, delivery, security, the LMS and the death or otherwise of Flash are still raging and recurred throughout the sessions.

There is general agreement that mobile JIT learning will be delivered in shorter bites, with more intuitive navigation, more video, less text, and of course no Flash.

The browser v App debate seems to be moving towards the browser solution, at least for the corporate market, although if mobile is to truly transform learning for remote communities, offline will remain important for a long time yet. Does your LMS have plans for an off line Scorm player? Or should that be XAPI? See below…..

Security is a big issue in the corporate world and I picked up some useful pointers, although no definitive answers.

Some argued “create Apps to get round the corporate firewall issues” others that Apps are less secure as the content resides on the device. Better to access it through secure LMS login protocols. But then there is the issue of the security or otherwise of your local Starbucks Wifi connection (70%+ of tablets are wifi only).

The most reassuring note here is that email on BYOD is a much bigger security issue than eLearning.  Note to self, find out more about enterprise mobile security management systems like Mobile Iron and MAAS360

On a positive note, one certainty is that the eLearning community is going to have plenty of work for the foreseeable future updating and converting all that mobile-unfriendly legacy content.

2) Kick that Tin Can out – it’s the Experience API now.

The other unavoidable #lscon topic du jour was Tin Can. This new set of standards set to replace SCORM has not even been published yet but already it has a shiny new name and a nickname, XAPI for short.

So what is it? XAPI is a standard for data transfer based on an Actor Verb Object syntax. So “Jackie ate this stack of pancakes”. The new data is collected in a Learning Record Store (LRS) from where it can be accessed by your LMS (or the LRS may be part of the LMS).

So far, so boring, so why all the excitement?

Well, if I’ve got this right, the primary advantages over SCORM are that the standard is expected to be adopted for a wide range of activities in learning and beyond. As XAPI is taken up and evolves, so more verbs will be added.

For our industry, as XAPI goes beyond SCORM tracking of eLearning to the potential tracking and reporting on a wide range of learning activities, so “Anna watched a video, read an article, attended a seminar, commented on a blog” etc.

It opens the potential to create much broader learning journeys, and generate much richer MI from the data. YouTube, we were told, already has XAPI compatibility.

In Neil Lasher’s view, this brings eLearning and potentially the LMS into the BI space. It also creates new opportunities for instructional designers to think more about outcomes and analytics as part of the creative process.

Authoring system vendors are ahead of LMS providers in embracing XAPI and are even creating new verbs already.
In the Unicorn context, the potential for better recording and reporting the full range of CPD activities in regulated industries and professions is an obvious immediate application.

3) Have we become the Tools of our Tools?

It is central to the #LScon event that it gives delegates the opportunity to catch up with the latest in eLearning tools, compare the alternatives, and preview what’s coming next.

This year didn’t disappoint, and of course Joe Ganci was there to guide us through the maze, and provide some entertaining historical perspective on the evolution of authoring tools.

There is no doubt that Storyline is the big hit of the past year and it continues to attract lots of attention and generally very positive feedback.  The main competitor is Captivate 6.1, which interestingly is on most measures the better tool, but it is not so easy to use.

That lesson – useability and simplicity before power and complexity – is marginal in this case, both are great tools, but it’s a lesson that few LMS vendors have yet grasped.

I was delighted to learn that iSpring7 with HTML5 publishing is launching this month. It is in my opinion the best of the Powerpoint based rapid tools, technically excellent, robust and simple too.

The most interesting new arrivals are the web based tools, many of which are free, and including Smartbuilder for branching scenarios, and the quirky but impressive ZebraZapps. I’ve made a resolution to get our team looking more closely at these.

The main message though is that when it comes to the tools, it is horses for courses. Developers need a toolkit and should not allow the choice of authoring tool to determine the ID but vice versa.

4) An alternative view

On Friday morning I was lucky enough to select as my final breakout session one that turned all this attention on authoring tools on its head. Several of us left the session saying it was the best we had attended all week (although Yvonne Camus then went and topped it!).

The speakers, Harley O’Brien and Abigail Wheeler, advocated that the approach to eLearning development should mirror that of the web at large. HTML5, CSS3 and jquery are at the heart of the web. Why not build e-learning experiences in the same architecture?

The learning assets can each be created or access independently and integrated or accessed just as you would in designing a web site. They claim that this approach makes content updating much easier, is “mobile ready”, and requires only easily learnable coding skills.

This approach brings the seemingly separate world of eLearning, with its proprietary LMSs and focus on development tools, back into the much wider world of web development.

“Work on the experience not how to deliver it”, “think formats not tools” were two messages from this session. They also recommended the float learning blog

5) And the rest

There was much more to assail the senses, including the informal connections, the vendor expo and the user showcase, and plenty of discussion on the future of the LMS which, despite rumours of its imminent demise three or four years ago, remains remarkably robust.

The future of the LMS undoubtedly lies in moving from the monolithic “enterprise” model to smarter solutions that link seamlessly with other systems and services  – HR, authoring tools, helpdesk, social platforms – and use the mash up potential of the web whether it is Google maps, Facebook Comments, or search engines that can search content repositories across the enterprise and beyond.

The LMS will also unquestionably become more “intelligent”, able to recommend learning to meet individual competence needs, with better reporting, XAPI records. Mobile is of course a given.

So, to quote Yvonne Camus “Enthusiasm is a renewable resource”, and this year’s Learning Solutions certainly renewed my enthusiasm to face and help to shape an ever more exciting future of on line education.