Setting Up an xAPI-Enabled Enterprise Learning Ecosystem from Scratch

Setting Up an xAPI-Enabled Enterprise Learning Ecosystem from Scratch

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Organizational learning has evolved by leaps and bounds to accommodate the growing needs of the modern workforce. In this blog post, we look at how an enterprise learning ecosystem is built and how efficient learning can help drive organizational growth and profitability. Let’s approach this sequentially by first examining the purpose and need of a learning ecosystem.

Why you Need a Learning Ecosystem?

It’s not possible to separate learning from work – nor would any organization big or small want to do so. Organizations of all sizes across the world realize the need for a learning system (an LMS at least) that enables them to map their staff competencies/skills and offer relevant learning to upskill their employees to work efficiently. Also, organizations realize that they need to enable on-demand learning that is available all through the year for their staff to keep up with industry trends and advancements in technology. Gone are the days when bringing together people into a conference room and running presentations with a half-bored trainer would suffice. As the average-age of the employees in the work-force decreases and a new generation of youngsters start working; it is important to switch with the times to the latest technology offerings and leverage it for skilling up the workforce. Setting up a proper and connected learning ecosystem that will be available 24 hours a day and all through the year to enable on-demand learning will help employees gain the skills needed for achieving organizational goals with ease.

Staff in the organization can virtually connect, collaborate and learn from other individuals in real-time; regardless of how far apart they may be geographically. They have access to huge repositories of data that grow exponentially each year, and they have the ability to filter that data to show the exact information needed. User-data is analyzed and interpreted to offer a better learning experience for users.

In today’s digital world, there is a problem of aplenty with a wealth of learning resources available on the internet. A well-designed learning ecosystem offers a secure learning environment that helps users connect with one another, discuss courses and up-skill themselves with ease.

Strategy for building a Learning Ecosystem

Technology has completely redefined our expectations of the learning experience. It has also made it even more challenging for learning and development practitioners to build an effective training strategy. It is difficult to build a strategy that supports a learning ecosystem without understanding the various components and how they connect and support one another. Learning leaders are left with questions such as:

  • What sort of questions should I ask when considering an LMS?
  • What sort of advanced functionality does an LMS have?
  • How can we use technology to better support informal and social learning in our existing systems?
  • How can I ensure we’re maximizing our existing capital investments?
  • How do my systems connect with our MIS system?
  • How can my organization leverage the power of Big Data?
  • How do I link individuals’ performance to the learning they have acquired?
  • Will I be able to customize staff learning based on their performance and other behavioural parameters?

The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development is a commonly used formula within the training profession to describe the optimal sources of learning by successful managers. It holds that individuals obtain 70 percent of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational events.

So far, this principle is implemented through designing and offering blended learning courses on a formal system such as a LMS. With technological advancements and the newer systems being implemented within an organization this needs to be looked at in a wider perspective. This is when it becomes essential to capture and track results of this type of learning across multiple systems within an organization. For efficient tracking of user-data, a new standard that will enable tracking of results from multiple unrelated, unlinked systems is needed. Here is where xAPI fits the bill exactly and covers all tracking requirements. Let us first understand the existing e-learning standards to understand xAPI.

Understanding Standards in eLearning

SCORM was the preferred choice for a long time to enable tracking of the progress of learners on content-course in a closed environment such as an LMS and was followed by all learning designers. But with the new developments in technology and the way learners consume content the need for an alternative standard arose. Organizations too offer help to their staff via intra organizational social channels and intranet sites for them to collaborate, learn and contribute as well. Things also changed when the use of smartphone grew and people began accessing learning content, videos, TED Talks etc. outside the ‘formal learning’ structure of the organizational LMS or internal learning platforms. In early 2008, steps were taken by ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) initiative, a program by the US Government to create an alternative for SCORM, which makes possible to collect data about a wide range of experiences a learner has online or offline. This is how TinCan or xAPI or Experience API came into being.

How xAPI works?

SCORM based LMS works as a communication link between the learner and the courses hosted within the LMS. If the learner/user navigates away from the LMS by visiting another website or online forum looking for answers or further reading; there is no way that the system can track this user-action. This is where xAPI enabled learning management systems play a crucial role; they track all user-actions, which is stored in the LRS or Learning Record Store. This data can then be used to generate reports monitoring user-behaviour. This can also be clubbed with a ‘Performance Monitoring or Tracking System’ that verifies in real-time how a learner has effectively handled an issue based on the learning derived from a course taken on the LMS.

Data drives all progress. Based on user/learner behavior and outcomes of training; organizations can take corrective measures that improve the learning content and the system running the learning content to achieve organizational goals with ease.

Implementation of xAPI

The next generation learning will not be constrained to a single device or a single system like an LMS. LMS will almost be an invisible partner in the entire learning ecosystem of an organization.

Do you know xAPI can help organizations build a complete learning ecosystem?

Yes, It can. Unlike SCORM, xAPI with a LRS enable learners to learn from anywhere and store xAPI statements from learning, non-learning systems as well.

Learning systems are the ones which provide the option to learn concepts formally such as learning via an LMS and also helps learn informally via idea boards, social channels, sharing videos, articles, blogs on a content management system etc.

Non-learning systems are the ones where the learner performs the tasks learnt via learning systems such as:

  1. A CRM system which captures the learner’s performance data such as a sale or a deal closed which maps to an activity performed based on learning from a course on selling.
  2. A helpdesk system which captures the learner’s performance data such as a resolved customer query, which fetched the learner a five-star rating from the customer and maps to learning from a course on a product which is supported.

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xAPI can be used effectively in:

  • Performance Management
  • Knowledge Base
  • Online Forums
  • Group Platforms
  • Help Desk Support
  • Talent Management

For an organization, a Learning Record Store (LRS) will act as a single source of learning & performance data of its employees from which the organization can extract the data through various filters and apply business intelligence and methods of statistical analysis to understand the various perspectives of the data or build a narrative that provides direction of the organization’s journey as well as understand the areas that need improvement. The scope for improvement always helps in the course correction of a learning organization.

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There are three stages in an organization implementing an efficient learning ecosystem and analyzing and using user-data effectively:

  1. Stage of awareness: This is when the organization has adopted a learning system for the first time and starting to learn to use the data being generated by the system to improve the system and its learning journey through simple means of reporting and dashboards.
  2. Stage of experimentation: This is when the organization understands that there is a good amount of learning data available and it needs to graduate from simple reporting to complex analysis and help make right business decisions that will drive its growth significantly.
  3. Stage of transformation: This is when the organization realizes the need for automated solutions to speed up the process of learning as well as make it intelligent enough to provide direction for growth to its population based on the learning data as well as the performance data that it has generated over the years of learning and performance tracking. Here AI enabled solutions will help provide right recommendations to the employees as well as enable the organization’s management

Integration of varied systems to build an eco-system

Not all systems are xAPI compliant. Some of them may have API support and some legacy system do not even support that. So how do we achieve an integrated learning/performance eco-system?

Organizations need to analyze the expected learning and performance outcomes which align with the business need and performance goals and choose the existing systems that would participate in this exercise before starting to integrate them. Once it’s decided to integrate a select number of systems to form an ecosystem to track learning and performance data the organization needs to look at the compatibility aspect to integrate with the LRS.

LRS stores only xAPI statements that means the data from varied systems need to be transformed to xAPI statements to achieve this. The diagram below depicts the ways in which learning, non-learning and even legacy systems can integrate and participate in the ecosystem.

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Scenario

A fresher is hired for customer-care support function to handle the help-desk support queries at a web-hosting services company. The trainee undergoes a full-fledged eLearning training program that covers all the possible scenarios of queries that will be raised by customers. This is created using past-data of customer complaints and queries and their related resolutions. The trainee also visits forum boards and resources like Reddit where he studies similar complaints and also gains information about problems plaguing the web-hosting industry.

On completion of the training program, the trainee is assigned on the U.S. shift and receives his first set of customer complaints. He resolves them based on his learning from the training program and is rated for his efficiency and speed of complaint resolution. All this data is fed into the LRS and the trainee is given regular feedback by his manager on how he can improve his work through performance monitoring system, which gets the required feed into it through dashboards or reports. This data is fed into the integrated Pay-Roll Processing System and consolidated annual data based on his work is used to decide his salary for the next financial year during the annual appraisal meeting.

Conclusion

This is how an efficiently designed learning ecosystem running relevant and outcome-focused courses can drive the growth of the individual learner and also help companies meet their organizational growth and financial targets. Organizations need to understand that happy employees, empowered with the right skills to do their job, will align with the company’s goals and work towards progress and generating profits. Corporate training is time-consuming and expensive; invest in the right tools and create an effective learning ecosystem that can be suitably scaled up based on future growth expectations. If you wish to focus on helping your employees and achieving your organizational profits through a state-of-the-art learning ecosystem; write to us at sales@ingegno.in.

Don’t wait and experience the Ingegno Advantage that’s helping companies win with a smile!

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Lakshminarayanan heads the Learning Technologies Team at Ingegno and is a passionate software solutions expert with over 18 years of experience in the IT-sector. He is an athlete and likes cycling long distances on holidays.

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