Part 2: The Tin Can API – A Learning Management System Vendor’s Perspective [w/ audio]

How Can You Use The Tin Can API In Your Informal Learning Networks?

calidus tincan api

In part 1 of this series (ref The Tin Can API - Why Should eLearning Professionals Care?) I shared with you an audio recording of the interview I conducted with one of the contributors to the Tin Can API consortium.  In that interview, Ali Shahrazad from Saltbox Services helped us gel with the basic relationship of the Tin Can API (a.k.a. "Experience API") to a central data repository called a Learning Record Store (LRS).

We learned that Tin Can is a new API (application program interface) standard that lets you, me and other vendors (of, say, LMSs, eLearning authoring tools, CRMs, websites, custom applications, etc.) send information about activities by our users within those various platforms to a Learning Record Storage (LRS) database.  Once in such an LRS (which itself can be a hosted service or an otherwise proprietary toolset including the LRS with reporting, visualization or other analytics tools built on top of it), we can then analyze that information to get more robust insights of activity-type information about how users use (Tin Can developers like to say "experience,") those various platforms.

In this second part of the 4-part series, I'm including the audio interview I conducted with representatives from Callidus Cloud -- the company that creates, among other things, the hosted LMS platform I'm currently using with one of the companies I work with.

The audio's a little hard to decipher in a number of spots.  So I included a transcript of the interview immediately below the audio file.

This interview reinforces the concept of Tin Can being primarily a conduit (think: plumbing) via which to send/receive user activity information from various Tin Can-enabled software.  (Those software become enabled by developers integrating Tin Can API code with the basic workings of the software.)

Interesting, too, is the observation by the folks I spoke with at Callidous Cloud that Tin Can is just another form of SCORM.  I thought that statement would probably make the Tin Can consortium folks bristle.  But, I also didn't think it was a description that was too far off base.  Yes, yes, Tin Can is different code than SCORM.  And yes, it's designed to work with a wider set of platforms than LMSs.  But, I see their point:  like SCORM, Tin Can is essentially a standard code set that all developers of eLearning-type software (and I'm using that term loosely as such software can include social networks, CRMs, and such) can use to send and receive information about user activity to another thing.  Also, just as SCORM information is essentially useless without an LMS, so too is Tin Can information essentially useless without an LRS.

But, take a listen.  And then share your own thoughts:  What do you think?  Is Tin Can, indeed, just SCORM on steroids, as some might say?

Audio and Transcript With Callidus Cloud About The Tin Can API

DevLearn12 - Vendor use of Tin Can - Callidus Cloud Interview

MEL: so, the question i have is, ‘what’s Tin Can’?  How would we use, together, Tin Can and  a Callidus Cloud / Litmos implementation?

CALLIDUS CLOUD:  We have Tin Can, as well, so...if you upload any Tin Can-enabled content, so something out of Rapid Intake, or maybe, uh, Storyline…?

MEL: How about Articulate… yeah, we’re using Storyline.

CALLIDUS: So, if you upload that as a SCORM file, on this end we automatically detect that it’s Tin Can.  We will do the tracking and relevant things. If you’re building your own content and you do take advantage of it, but really it’s like...essentially, it’s just a new version of SCORM…

MEL: Right, so I’m having a hard time… because, it’s the “buzz” this year…

CALLIDUS: It’s the buzz…but it’s not a wrapper...(unintelligible)’s like SCORM anyway...ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) with SCORM, and after SCORM they’re coming out with Tin Can.  So it’s basically just a new format… so Tin Can itself is almost useless in the sense that it’s’s the format for that…(but) it’s actually the tools, (like) the LMS is...authoring tools, and the games, things like that, that’s where it actually comes into play...

MEL:  So, for training developers like us, all I know about SCORM is there’s a little drop-down (picklist in my authoring software) at the end when I’m getting ready to publish my content and it says, ‘SCORM 1.2,” or whatever…

CALLIDUS: ...Now there will be ‘Tin Can’.

MEL: Now, there’ll be Tin Can, okay. And so, when would I want to select Tin Can versus SCORM?

CALLIDUS: …SCORM is related to a course-centric typically, the content has to be hosted by an LMS and then it can track that in the LMS, and that's what SCORM is… Tin Can can be used in the exact same way, but it also has Tin Can statements or this kind of data format coming from any other thing. It doesn’t just have to be a course… it could also be an authoring tool, it could be that you create a game, and then every time someone opens a door it sends a statement back to the LMS or LRS which tracks that interaction.

OTHER ATTENDEE: …(can it track information about when a user) opens a PDF and looks at a video… track it…?

CALLIDUS: …Yeah...but the PDF viewer has to be Tin Can enabled. You know, like something has to send the statement.

OTHER ATTENDEE:  Is there a download that a learner has to… install...?

CALLIDUS: ...the submitting of the statements, the apps… the things that you use themselves have to be Tin Can enabled.  And then the statements themselves get sent back to a Learning Record Store, or LRS. Litmos has like an LRS...

MEL: I think I’m getting it. So, let me paraphrase to make sure I understand and then you guys can correct me if I’m wrong. So, what I’m getting out of Tin Can and how we’re using Litmos right now is that unless we do our core development ourselves and unless we do our customization of interactivity and training design, then we’re not going to really see anything new unless Litmos or Articulate creates new functionality that allows us to really leverage that kind of stuff, so for instance, one enhancement request I sent recently to Litmos just a few days ago is… you guys know Yammer, right?


MEL: ...Okay, so we use Yammer.  I’d love to see more interactivity between my LMS and my Yammer platform. So, right now we don’t know what that (interactivity) would be but Tin Can could potentially be a solution by giving me some reporting and analytics?

CALLIDUS: Yeah, the main Tin Can part would be, something happening in Yammer and then you can track that back into Litmos.

MEL: Right, right.

CALLIDUS: And then you can actually push information (from the LMS) out into Yammer, using our API.   Yammer’s a customer of ours, as well…

MEL: Oh, they’re a customer of yours?


MEL: They’re using you guys for their LMS?

CALLIDUS: Um, for part of it…

MEL: Okay, good to know. So, are you guys thinking about integration with Yammer?

CALLIDUS: Absolutely, Yammer, Chatter --… Doing both those. We never really added any social type Twitter client stuff on to our LMS… some other have, we have stayed away from it… and the reason behind that is that we don’t want to create another silo for conversation like those that already exist. You can use Yammer, or use Chatter… we want to make it so you can record, say, (activities) in your Yammer feed… Yammer conversation is still where you were having a conversation but we just help feed the conversation…

MEL: So, are you guys heading that way...?  So we can have discussions in Yammer about the courses they took in Litmos…? And then eventually, the Tin Can component might be if you guys created some of your reporting that gave visibility to what (activites and conversations) was going on in Yammer that's something that Tin Can can do that SCORM couldn’t, is that…?

CALLIDUS: … for Litmos in terms of Tin Can, it’s gonna be just about visualizing all the statements that come in.  And then making use of them in a reporting sense. And on the Rapid Intake side, that’s our authoring tool, um, Rapid Intake will be submitting Tin Can statements about things that happen...

MEL: Got it.  Cool. Thank you very much.

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About Mel

Mel is the online training architect and screencasting wizard at Kareo, one of Forbes' 2013 list of 100 Most Promising Companies in America. He's also the creator of Digital-Know-How, a training website devoted to developing learners' skills for screencasting and web video course development. Mel is also the chief blogger of; Mel's personal blog. The comments and opinions you read here are Mel's and not associated with any other company.
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