If you’re still confused about xAPI, the specification of the future, it might be time to learn more. Let’s take a look at the differences between xAPI and SCORM and how you can use them together or separately.

xAPI is not an evolution of SCORM, and it does not replace it. Depending on your training strategy, you might choose to use one or the other – or both. You can use them side by side, but neither requires the other to operate. Here are some of the differences between SCORM and xAPI:

SCORM Is a Wrapper; xAPI Is Not

If you use SCORM content but want the benefits of xAPI, you will likely also continue to use SCORM, because xAPI is not a wrapper. It’s a tool for collecting data across multiple learning environments. SCORM enables content in the wrapper to “talk” back and forth with SCORM-compliant environments, which makes it easier to upload courses and allows them to fit into the SCORM environment. If many of your courses are SCORM-enabled, you will likely need to continue to use SCORM.

SCORM and xAPI Collect Data Differently

So, why add on xAPI at all? SCORM collects data too, after all. It’s because SCORM and xAPI collect different kinds of data. The data that xAPI collects is deeper and more complex than the data that SCORM collects. It’s useful if you want more granular data on what’s going on in the learning environment and how learners are interacting with it. In a data-oriented world, we need more and more data in order to prove impact. xAPI helps.

The reason that xAPI collects more granular data is that it collects it differently. SCORM records the state of the course – for example, whether the course is “not started” or “started but incomplete” or “completed”. xAPI can collect data on all interactions. It can see when each learner clicked “play” on a video and when he or she clicked “pause” and left the course. It can see how much time a learner spent on certain sections of a module. This extra data can help L&D professionals identify points of disengagement, which content learners are drawn to and other important pieces of information.

xAPI Collects Data in Multiple Environments

SCORM only collects data from the LMS environment and has no ability to collect it from other learning environments. On the other hand, xAPI can collect data from any xAPI-compliant environment (e.g., the LMS, the CRM, SharePoint, an online learning library, etc.) and collect it in a repository, where it’s organized in a consistent, easy-to-view way.

While each learning environment likely has its own way of collecting data, sometimes it doesn’t match the other learning environments and collects different types of data. These differences make the data difficult to collect in one place and sort through. It’s more difficult to notice patterns, compare the data and come to conclusions.

xAPI Has an Outside Repository for Data

xAPI requires using an extra bit of software: the data repository. The data repository where all the data that xAPI collected comes together in one place to make it easy to analyze. It’s commonly called the learning record store (LRS). Some basic LRSs are available for free; more advanced versions can include extra tools to help you visualize and analyze data.

Should You Use xAPI?

The decision to use xAPI depends on your training strategy and how training fits into your company’s goals. Many training departments are using blended approaches, involving multiple learning environments, including the LMS, SharePoint, third-party content, data from the CRM, on-the-job training and more.

xAPI is a solution for collecting data from all of those environments in a consistent, useful way and depositing that data in one place. It can also be a solution for companies that want to collect more complex data in one learning environment. xAPI will be less useful to companies with less complex learning environments and less interest in using deep data to make strategical decisions.

Hopefully, this article clears up any confusions about the differences between xAPI and SCORM. Good luck as you make your decisions about which specifications to include in your learning environment!