Tin Can

If you’re in the eLearning industry, you’ve probably heard the recent buzz around xAPI (sometimes referred to as Experience API or Tin Can). According to Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), it lets applications share data about human performance, including quiz scores, performance in a mobile app, and whether someone has read an article or watched a training video.

That may sound better than using SCORM files, but is it really worth the hype?

Implementing xAPI may seem like a huge step forward, especially since it can be used in place of the old industry standard, SCORM. And by design, it’s meant to capture information on the 90% of learning, which may take place outside of formal training programs.

Arguably, the main advantage xAPI has over SCORM is increased flexibility. For example:

  • xAPI does not require a permanent internet connection or a web browser – learning can take place offline through users’ smartphones and tablets
  • xAPI provides more tracking options than SCORM (i.e. interactive and team-based learning, on top of the standard completions, time spent, and pass/fail rates)
  • xAPI communicates with a Learning Record Store (LRS), which can communicate with your LMS or stand alone

However, the need for xAPI largely stems from ill-equipped business systems, and it should not be treated as a “be-all-end-all” solution. Insights are often still limited to what you could find within your existing data set, especially if your LMS provides great data.

An Alternative to xAPI

If you have an LMS with sufficient integrations in place, you should already have access to business-level, course-level, and content-level data. The problem is, many training teams hone in on metrics like audience reaction, and miss the full picture.

To address this issue, consider connecting your LMS to Salesforce and your marketing tools and live training software, if applicable.

This can help you understand:

  • The traction of your training program
  • The performance of individual lessons
  • How training impacts customer retention and renewals.

This last point is particularly important, as it allows you to demonstrate the ROI of your training program.

To support these integration efforts, Skilljar provides a REST API that can be used to push training events into Skilljar from external systems in real-time. In addition, the Skilljar API offers webhooks to stream training events out to external systems as they occur. These methods can be used to create data integrations that mimic the functionality of the xAPI standard without actually needing to use it. 

The majority of SaaS platforms provide REST APIs that speak this “common language,” making it simple to set up data integrations that provide the same value that xAPI provides. 


Before jumping on the xAPI bandwagon, take the time to think about what data you need to improve your training program. And remember, just because you can report on something doesn’t mean it always makes sense to do so. The metrics you track should align with your business goals first and foremost.

To learn more about the Skilljar API, check out the getting started support article.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2022.