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How well does your LMS handle xAPI?

This is a question that often comes up as we help individuals & organizations get ready to adopt xAPI: How well does my learning management system (LMS) handle xAPI?

The good news: Now that it’s been 10 years since xAPI was released, and xAPI 2.0 is now an official IEEE standard, you’ll find that many of the popular corporate, enterprise LMSes offer some degree of xAPI support.

The bad news: In many cases, xAPI support in an LMS looks a lot like SCORM does with its limited data set, and not much at all like the benefits you’re hoping to get by using xAPI.

Why does it matter?

If your LMS has a (nearly) conformant xAPI learning record store (LRS), you should be able to handle (nearly) all of the things you’re trying to do with xAPI with your LMS alone. This is how we run several of our clients’ data environments. Most of the reporting we need we can get from within the LMS, and we can build custom dashboards on top when we need more.

If your LMS only supports the basics of launch and completion reporting with xAPI, it’s likely that you’ll need a software service – an LRS – alongside your LMS in order to get the data & insights you need. The added bonus is that many LRSes can provide a lot of the data dashboarding that you’re looking for without custom programming, plus they provide support for easy data forwarding and management.


How can you tell the difference?

In our experience, it’s not enough to just ask your LMS vendor if they support xAPI. Most will say that they do, and the person you’re talking to may not understand the nuance of your ask.

Your best bet will be to test it for yourself. We’ve created a couple of simple test files to get you started (xAPI and cmi5). This is an Articulate Storyline course that uses Storyline’s built-in xAPI statements and some custom xAPI statements (both built-in and from Statement Builder). Load it up into your LMS, launch the course and take it through to then end, and then see for yourself the data the LMS is picking up.

We’ve included an Excel spreadsheet below to compare all of the statements that should be captured, but you should also check out all available capabilities of your specific LMS for viewing xAPI data (statement viewer or activity stream, CSV or report export, charts + graphs, etc.).

NOTE: Questions in this test course exist solely to capture xAPI interaction data, though you might learn something as well!


Instructions for testing

  • Download the .zip file for the published package
  • Upload the file to your LMS
    • If needed, make sure to identify it as an xAPI (or TinCan) or cmi5 package
  • Assign the course to yourself or a tester and run through the course
  • Check that the course status is Passed or Failed with a score
  • If possible to view xAPI data directly in the LMS, you can take a look at the output and compare to our spreadsheet of expected data
    • xAPI or cmi5
    • The spreadsheet is for a user that passed 100%