A learning management system (LMS) is considered to be a necessary tool in most complex organizations today, especially those industries, like nuclear energy, airlines, and healthcare, where monitoring compliance with government-imposed training requirements is essential.

However, I have had my doubts about the value of an LMS for enhancing learning and contributing to a learning culture. Knowing Computer learningwho has taken which course and even knowing how they did on a test, is not evidence of learning and certainly doesn’t indicate one’s ability to apply that learning on the job. And more importantly, an LMS does not tell us the impact of that learning on the organization.

I recently attended an “xAPI Party” at Torrance Learning where the conversation was about the shift from a SCORM-based LMS to an xAPI (experience application programming interface) LMS. xAPI appears to be a huge leap forward in tracking the whole gamut of learning experiences from formal training programs to informal, social, and mobile activities. There was a lot of excitement about this change and the benefits seemed clear.

Steve Foreman, in an article for Learning Solutions Magazine, describes XAPI this way:

The xAPI operates based on activity streams, a model that uses software to track things people do. The idea of tracking activity streams emerged from social networking and is used by sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

The Experience API makes it possible to track activities that people do using computers such as performing work tasks, producing work outputs, interacting with others using social media, achieving milestones in games and simulations, and just about any other activity that one can observe or record.

Imagine that your LMS can communicate, not just with eLearning courses, but also with knowledge bases, collaboration platforms, document management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, helpdesk systems, portals, talent management, performance management, and other types of systems used in the workplace. The learning management system may track not only attendance, completions, and test scores, but actual work inputs, outputs, deliverables, tasks, and more.

However, I have to ask, “Does xAPI do a better job of facilitating learning?” Any tool is only as good as the person who’s using it and this is true for xAPI, as well. Clearly, xAPI, because it includes a wide range of workplace learning experiences, is superior to SCORM for tracking activity, but it is still about activity, not learning.

To make xAPI effective for enhancing learning, employees will have to consistently collect evidence of experience, constantly input the right data, use that data, through feedback and reflection, to help individuals and teams develop their competencies, continually assess the impact of learning on the organization as a whole, and have conversations about the meaning of those findings. These are behaviors of a learning culture.

Employee learning requires feedback, reflection, and practice. Experiences, whether formal, informal, social, or mobile, do not result in learning unless these other elements are present. If an organization is committed to a learning culture, those elements will be the way the organization functions on a day-to-day basis. Without a learning culture, I’m skeptical that any LMS (SCORM or xAPI) can enhance learning and improve performance. However, in the context of a learning culture, xAPI offers great promise for contributing to organizational learning.

[image from Pixabay]