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As an alliance partner, Problem Solutions is leading the development and implication of xAPI. We are very excited to post this article by Mike Hruska, President/CEO of Problem Solutions. If you would like to learn more about what xAPI can do for your organization, please reach out to us.


Human capital powers activity in commercial business and in government. It is estimated that the cost of human capital can be nearly 70% of annual operating expenses. In spite of the importance of this capital (the people and the cost to support them), real financial analysis of the impact of variable outcomes is seldom conducted. The performance of an organization varies with the performance of its human capital. While this sounds obvious, performance data required to make this analysis—and determine the associated adjustment to increase performance—is frequently isolated in multiple spreadsheets or locked in enterprise systems.

Today, mobile devices and technology have permeated most areas of our lives. The intersection between learning and performance and technology has become a space offering rich data with unknown impact. Anyone with a cell phone has ready access to people, information, knowledge, and learning apps. How does this impact their life, capabilities, or view of the world? The same question can be asked by those of us looking for answers in our organizations.  We have the data, connectivity, and pervasive computing, yet what we know, how we know it, and what we should do with it isn’t connected in a meaningful way.

Key Considerations

To get the answers to our questions we must focus on three things:

  1. Sensors in the form of connected devices — computers, mobile devices televisions, game consoles, wearable monitors, and anything else that can connect to the internet
  2. “Always-on” collection of data, both big and small as well as human context data
  3. Intelligent guidance to help us better navigate the world, or help the world better navigate around us

The intersection between sensors and the data they provide empowers the internet of things (IoT). When combined with human experience data, there is massive potential to enable better ways to human capital within our organizations and establish a feedback loop to increase the performance of the organization.

This is really not much different than what we learned from Total Quality Management, W. Edwards Deming, or Six Sigma. We use data to improve the logistics and processes within our organizations, but often do not leverage data to improve the human performance.

Recent efforts by the US government are enabling a new frontier to find answers and extend the reach of human capital managers. The result is a new specification called the Experience API (xAPI) that enables interoperability to overcome the barriers between people, activity, and systems. Moreover, xAPI will allow systems to work in concert to support employee movement along the continuum from learning to performance and to build higher levels of accomplishment. xAPI is:

  • The first in an open set of specifications and technologies focused on tracking people’s experiences both in learning and in performance.
  • An enabling specification which provides affordances for increasing human performance at increasing scales from the personal to organizational.
  • Rapidly changing the landscape of technology offerings in learning, education, and training even as the market implements the specification.
  • Catalyzing numerous product development efforts in addition to startups as early adopters of the technology.
  • Now a requirement and recommendation for technology and learning products purchased by the government.

The Future Is Here

While xAPI has been a buzzword in recent years, we believe its tipping point has arrived. The Department of Defense (DoD) has experience in propagating learning standards. DoD’s previous venture with the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) standard catalyzed the $5 Billion Learning Management System (LMS) market and arguably created the current eLearning market. In a similar fashion to SCORM, the DoD is poised to issue a formal instruction requiring the use of xAPI among its technology vendors. The rapid growth of connected devices and the need for insights from the activity data generated suggest the opportunity is much greater than SCORM. xAPI is positioned to drive massive investments in next generation learning and human capital management technology.

Using xAPI, organizations have the opportunity to build flexible ecosystems comprised of learning as well as enterprise business systems eliminating the line between learning and performance. These ecosystems will allow data driven decisions for talent management and, at the same time, enable personalized, adaptive, and tailored learning experiences to scaffold people to a much higher level.

Many existing learning technology vendors are adopting the specification, and many new companies are also emerging with products such as Saltbox’s Wax LRSTREK by Cognitive Advisors, and JobAider.  This presents more opportunities to use this technology, but it also  reveals the challenge of building an analytics culture. In many cases, the responsibility, data, and action for recruiting, learning and development, training, human resources, and talent development are distributed across an organization.  We see a need to create a mechanism inside organizations that connects the CLO, CHRO, CIO, and CTO’s goals in ways that enables data to be deliberately created and consumed as essential. Understanding, aligning, motivating, and threading activities between these key stakeholders is crucial to building both the business case and technology and design plans to do so. Most importantly, finding ways to connect this to business goals and research questions is paramount.

What’s In It for You

The affordances of these and a list of ever growing emerging technologies that leverage xAPI will provide leverage for organizations to use a set of best-of-breed technologies working together to support learners and performers along a continuum of personal and career development aligned to human capital management talent goals. Conveniently, the ecosystem strategy enabled by xAPI is flexible and offers the ability to start with the systems you have and take a plug-and-play approach. This is done by adding new capabilities as your architecture evolves and new technology becomes available.  You don’t need to throw out your old systems and technology.  Instead, you can leverage them in your future in a variety of ways. You just need to find a strategy using the emerging technology landscape to do so.

There is an aperture opening to a new and transformative space. This new space, where data about human capital can improve performance from zero to hero, is ubiquitously available from ecosystems of technology working in harmony. These ecosystems have the ability to create distinct competitive advantages in industry and government.

Where can you start?  Getting data is one thing, but developing an understanding from the data that leads to insights can unlock hidden potential in any organization. First, you need to create a common reference point between your data and outcome stakeholders. Second, evaluate how you might think differently about design and focus on “experience” design. Third, incrementally build a learning ecosystem architecture where your learning and performance technologies and products work in concert to scaffold experiences and performance. Lastly, deploy new experiences experimentally (build, test, refine) to create value for your employees.

Learning Solutions Magazine

ASTD Magazine on xAPI

Training Magazine on xAPI

 By Mike Hruska of Problem Solutions and Phil Antonelli.

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