If there’s one fundamental issue the learning industry struggles with it, it’s that it looks to create solutions that don’t solve problems, but symptoms of problems. xAPI has certainly got to be the best example of this in recent years.
Fuse doesn’t support xAPI, and we have no plans to support it on the roadmap. There’s a good reason for that: when you compare what you get with xAPI versus the insight companies are generating using our Universal Analytics, there’s a really compelling case for Fuse, and a lot of limitations surrounding xAPI.
Before I illustrate just what that compelling case is, I think it’s worth backing up a few steps and looking at both the conceptual drivers for both, as well as what we should be looking to get out of analytics in learning.
Does What it Says on the Tin
xAPI (aka Tin Can) is often thought of as the ‘next generation’ of Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) courses. The problem with SCORM courses has over time found to be that they do exactly what they say on the tin, and no more. It’s near impossible to get any good analytics from them as they are only built for linear management, and secondly, they are courses.
What’s wrong with courses? It’s not a strange question, and this is an article about learning afterall. Well, it turns out that when we’re talking about truly engaging the enterprise in learning to improve company performance, courses aren’t a great fit. Picture it this way: your manager asks you to start up a monthly email newsletter, which isn’t something you’ve done before. Do you want to drop everything and go on an extensive course, or do you want to start dipping into quick videos and tutorials and learning as you begin to construct your first newsletter?
xAPI is just another version of that same problem. Yes, the primary selling point of xAPI is that you can capture and extract more interactions than SCORM into a Learning Record Store (LRS.) This allows content creators to track interesting behaviours that might inform insights. With xAPI, you might be able to, for example, get an understanding of where people are consistently getting answers to questions wrong so that you can build a heat map of areas where they may require additional training.
However, while this is conceptually great, in reality it has limited success and value. At the end of the day, it is simply another way to track interactions at the course level.It doesn’t actually solve a fundamental problem, which is that it doesn’t provide instant access to knowledge.
So why is Universal Analytics in Fuse Better?
When I asked a colleague why some companies still consider xAPI as important functionality, they said that there are "two drivers: one is the benefit of multiple learning platform's data being sent to a single place for collective analysis - providing a single source of truth. The second is the inclusion of 'real world' metrics such as sales figures, mystery shopper scores, H&S stats, compliance reports etc for learning teams to derive insights between learning and performance."
My answer back to that was: why do you need multiple learning platforms when you could have one, the same way Fuse customers do? If you have over a large number of learning platforms (some of our clients had over 100!) across a large and geographically distributed enterprise, I can see why xAPI may seem a good idea in terms of consolidating performance data, but in reality, it’s once again solving the symptoms and not the problems. And let’s be honest - we are very good at that in the learning industry!
Fuse, on the other hand, has the learning management, learning experience and data analytics all built into one platform. Our Universal Analytics is (conceptually) a Learning Record Store. We track interactions with the platforms and content - be that content views, engagement, social, or assessment data - it’s all there. We are trying to move companies away from xAPI into a world with content and data analytics that is completely accessible. We have a content methodology which advocates that knowledge be broken out of the constraints of courses. We create modern content in the form of videos and articles, and we move our customers to this mindset because it empowers them to take advantage of our knowledge intelligence engine, which makes our content more valuable.
Don’t Make a Date with a Data Scientist
One of the other big drawbacks to xAPI is that extracting useful insight from it is data scientist territory, and we all know how hard it is to get access to good data science talent.
With Fuse, there’s no data scientist required. We offer complete and transparent access to all 330 of our data points, free of charge, with our analyser tool. We have access to all the different data points, and users can pull all the information they require through our Universal Analytics tool, and use the analyser to explore the data and generate insights to be viewed in our dashboards.
For those that want to explore the data even further, the analyser can be used to make actionable insights in order to identify trends in how people are engaging with learning. It’s about getting really down into the detail not at a course level, but on an entire learning system level.
Effectively, we want our users to be able to get insights from data as soon as possible, and Universal Analytics is helping them to do that. There’s no more messing about with spreadsheets to create basic data analysis, and you don’t need to be a data scientist to extract value from the data.
Ultimately, it’s about giving back valuable time to the L&D team so that they can focus on learning for performance, rather than spending a considerable amount of time analysing datasets. It’s a tool that is allowing our customers to do a lot more with a lot less because we’ve created many of the major insights already, and it’s helping companies to explore data for extra value and while solving key problems, not symptoms.