I’ve been watching the emergence of project Tin Can (think SCORM for a modern world) with great interest. The folks over at Rustici Software working with Aaron Silvers and the ADL team are nearing a first release – scheduled for June this year.
In my view, the potential for what it has to offer is huge. Tin Can promises to address many of the shortcomings associated with existing SCORM standards that are now over 10 years old and as the Rustici Web site puts it “The Tin Can API fuses a decade of collective e-learning experiences with a decade of technological advances.”
Even more significantly, I believe it will have a profound impact on the way we think about, create, host and track eLearning and learning content in the future. For me, the top five benefits that can be delivered by Tin Can are these:
So what’s wrong with what we’ve got today?
The standards used for eLearning today (predominantly SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004) are inherently problematic in many ways. Experienced eLearning developers are used to working their way and innovating their way around the issues, but it’s not an ideal situation by any means. Here are a few of the top issues with SCORM today:
Today, establishing and recording a “complete picture” of an individual’s or team’s learning and achievement history is difficult. This is largely because SCORM based eLearning is treated in isolation from other forms of learning, which when you think about it is far from ideal and a rather strange state of affairs.
So here’s the before and after picture that illustrates how Tin Can radically changes things and offers the opportunities to unify the worlds of online eLearning with other forms of learning. Along with all of this will come many new business opportunities, and many new interesting learning scenarios.
How does Tin Can Work?
You can find more details about the Tin Can API and the current specification itself on the Rustici Web site at http://scorm.com/tincan/ however I’ll provide a brief summary here.
Tin Can is based on statements that are sent from the content (or “activities” as Tin Can refers to them as) to the LRS. These statements are all based around a very simple sentence structure:
Noun (actor), verb, object
At its most simple, this can be stated as:
“I did something”
Examples might include “Alex completed Tin Can API training”, “Peter experienced the SalesForce CRM demonstration”, “Jane achieved green belt in Jujitsu”, “Chris attended a Web seminar” and so on.
Statements can get a little more elaborate and can include context information. For example:
“Steve completed Company Induction Training with a result of 85% on 21st Feb 2012 at 14:35.”
Using this approach, Tin Can can capture everything you can capture today in SCORM, but it also provides much more flexibility by enabling the addition of new nouns, verbs, and objects.
The Learning Record Store (LRS)
The record keeper for these learning events is the Learning Record Store (LRS). This could be an LMS with extended support for Tin Can, but it doesn’t have to be. An LRS on its own could simply provide the repository for learning events. To be of much use it would also need to include a way of extracting the data through reports.
With statement data being able to record a multitude of different learning events, the reports available from LRS systems in the future, will be much richer and better than the typical reports available from LMS today.
The key thing to remember is that the LRS can be located anywhere and the content when it is created doesn’t need to know where. I expect many LRS will be “Cloud” based because the “Cloud” is an ideal place. Furthermore, the LRS doesn’t need to know in advance anything about the content – the location of the content, the type of content or even the identity of the learner consuming the content.
Final thoughts for now
It will be interesting to see how quickly authoring tool and LMS vendors jump on board with Tin Can. I’d like to think this will happen quickly but expect it will be slow going at first and will take time to gather momentum. This has tended to be the case with eLearning over the past 10 years.
I expect to see the more forward thinking LMS vendors adding LRS capabilities to what they already have, while continuing to support existing SCORM 1.2 and 2004 along with the Tin Can API.
I also expect to see increased App innovation with Apps built for specific platforms (such as the iPad for example) providing first rate content experiences. For the first time, content developers will be free to provide THE VERY BEST experience for specific devices (free from the shackles of SCORM) while at the same time being able to easily use the Tin Can API to push learning events through to Cloud based LRS systems for tracking purposes.
We will certainly be looking to adopt Tin Can within our Cloud-based Reach LMS and within the content oriented Apps we have in the pipeline. Delivering top quality learning experiences across the widest range of devices possible is exactly what we’re focused on. SCORM at the moment is not making that easy, Tin Can should help oil the wheels.
I'm Technical Director at CM Group. I'm responsible for the product and services development side of our business. I'm involved in business development, strategy and operations and am passionate about technology and specifically how it can be applied to learning.
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