Tin Can API – eLearning Tracking Unschackled

I had the pleasure of checking out the small but vibrant Expo at mLearnCon 2012 in San Jose earlier today. The Expo had a smattering of service providers and product companies in the mobile learning domain. What really sparked my interest was actually outside the Expo hall. No, it wasn’t the snack bar. Rustici Software had set up a Tin Can Alley outside the Expo hall and I spent some time talking to Megan Bowe of Rustici Software about Tin Can and how it could free us from the limitations of SCORM.

SCORM has been serving the tracking needs for training departments for quite some time now. But SCORM has numerous limitations such as being closely tied to the LMS, need for constant communication with LMS while the activity is in progress (except in cases where the LMS is configured for offline tracking as well). SCORM can never track what’s happening in the discussion forums or wikis or micro-blogging that are becoming integral to content portals. And most importantly, mobile content publishing platforms never had a single standard for collecting tracking information from devices that they could exchange with other systems.

Enter Tin Can API (Tin Can denotes the two way communication that Tin Cans tied together by a string can accomplish). According to Rustici –

The Tin Can API is a brand new learning technology specification that opens up an entire world of experiences (online and offline). This API captures the activities that happen as part of a learning experience. A wide range of systems can now communicate with a simple vocabulary that captures this stream of activities.

  • People learn from interactions with other people, content, and beyond. These actions can happen anywhere and signal an event where learning could occur. All of these can be recorded with the Tin Can API.
  • When an activity needs to be recorded, the application sends statements in the form of “Noun, verb, object” or “I did this” to a Learning Record Store (LRS.)
  • Learning Record Stores record all of the statements made. An LRS can share these statements with other LRSs. An LRS can exist on its own, or inside an LMS.

Tin Can API will provide LMS vendors and other enterprise learning vendors in the areas of mobile learning and enterprise social learning an opportunity to easily track and exchange learning activities that happen outside the confines of a SCORM compliant content driven by an LMS. Example, I can find out which blog post received the maximum likes or the most comments and generate a report that depicts a pictorial graph of which topic is trending in the enterprise portal. This information can be fed back into the LMS through a Learning Record Store (LRS) that stores all learning activities. Once we figure out the security and privacy implications of using Tin Can API, I do not see a reason why this standard will become popular.

Check out this site for more insights on the capabilities and weaknesses of Tin Can API.

Srinivas Krishnaswamy


I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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Posted in LMS
2 comments on “Tin Can API – eLearning Tracking Unschackled
  1. […] And BTW, Tappestry has also adopted the Tin Can API. If you wondering what a Tin Can is, you can find the answer here. […]

  2. […] such correlations, we should have more concrete evidence of impact of training on business results. TinCan API is probably the first major step towards freeing us from the dependence on just the LMS for […]

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