Fresh from DevLearn 2012: Tin Can API

DevLearn attracts many leaders in the online learning industry for its annual conference. This year 2,000 learning and development practitioners gathered in Las Vegas for the October 31 – November 2 event. There were numerous sessions hosted by the best minds in the industry on the latest innovations and issues. One of the hottest topics was the new Tin Can API (Application Programming Interface).

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes


Most people involved with workplace training are familiar with SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), the technical standard for recording events in online training to a learning management system (LMS). SCORM allows us to track who takes training and how well each person performs.

Tin Can, also known as the Experience API, is the next generation SCORM in that it allows you to track learning events you have not been able to track previously. Tin Can is the plumbing used to document learning experiences. It allows you to customize what you want to know about an employee’s learning, which in turn enables an organization to evaluate what employees can do, where there is confusion, and where training is effective.

Tin Can provides a structure that records a learning activity in sentence format. Each Tin Can implementation can be customized to determine the complexity of the data collected. On the simple end, the API records three pieces of data:

  1. Noun (e.g., learner, instructor, software agent)
  2. Verb (action)
  3. Object (what)

Examples of Tin Can statements are:

  • Jill scored 70 percent in sexual harassment training.
  • Grant completed the emergency landing simulation.

Tin Can goes beyond what SCORM can do because it enables documentation of a greater variety of learning events. A few examples include:

  • Mobile learning
  • Simulations
  • Games
  • Non-online activities
  • Social learning
  • Collaborative learning

The official release for Tin Can is April 2013, but the technology specification was made available to e-learning application developers last summer. At DevLearn more than 30 vendors indicated they have adopted the Tin Can API and the number is growing almost daily.

Adoption of the new learning technology specification is a welcome improvement in the training world because its flexibility and scope allow us to capture and document a wide variety of learning activities. We can analyze collected data and offer appropriate learning activities based on an employee’s performance. We can also look at the learning activities of top performers and use that information to improve knowledge, skills, and performance of other people in the workforce.


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