Creating An Integrated eLearning Experience With APIs
Trum Ronnarong/Shutterstock.com

How To Create An Integrated eLearning Experience With APIs

Discussions about APIs in the world of eLearning have always revolved around the benefits of the Tin Can API. Unlike SCORM, which can only track events that happened within an eLearning package or inside a course room, Tin Can APIs can bring together the learner’s interaction across a variety of tools and platforms that were previously not trackable. This is extremely vital today given the amount of learning that happens over mobile devices and more importantly is distributed over a variety of different learning devices.

However, analytics is simply just one component of the eLearning system. APIs can be used in a number of other ways: First off, let’s quickly take a moment to understand what APIs are and how they operate. APIs are essentially a way to connect data from one interface to another. For example, if you want to email your learners from within your LMS (or LRS for that matter) admin or collect payments from them, you do not have to build a mailing system or a payment gateway from scratch. All you need to do is to integrate your Learning Management System with an API from a mailing server or a third party payment gateway and you are done. Simply put, APIs make sure that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are dozens of ways such an integration could come in handy in an eLearning system.

Collaboration

Collaboration is an integral component of eLearning that allows individual learners to engage with each other through the learning process. There are a number of tools that can help you do this. One of these is Google Drive, which enables the sharing of documents among the learners and educators. Another of these tools is TitanPad, which helps with real-time shared document editing. Such tools take the users away from the eLearning system into a third party server. While xAPI makes it possible to track the learning over these platforms, it does not help with user experience. Toggling between the various tools during the collaboration process can be painful and also bring down productivity. A better way to do this would be to integrate these third party collaboration tools inside your learning system with the help of APIs. The learner does not leave your platform and this enhances the experience and productivity of the learner.

Course Subscription

Horizontal eLearning platforms come with hundreds of courses for the learner to pick and choose from. These platforms let the learner pay only for courses they are interested in. The typical way to do this would be to let the learner click on a ‘buy’ link to pay for the course they seek. Although this workflow is better than the other solutions like offline or wire transfer based payments, this can be made even better with the help of APIs. An LMS platform can, for example, let the learner instantly access a course at the click of a button and process the payment in the backend. Alternately, they could aggregate the courses they have accessed over a period of time and send over a monthly invoice. These technologies can be developed in-house, but it’s easier to deploy an API from one of the major payment gateway providers into your service.

Course Material Development

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using APIs for eLearning is in the development of course materials. I had previously written about dynamic learning and how agile Learning Management Systems can help the educator integrate static content with real-time data and information. APIs can help educators quickly build course packages based on real-time data sets. Take an eLearning system targeted at a police academy, for instance. eLearning tools can make use of APIs to pick the latest crime data from the local government servers and use other APIs from Google Maps to superimpose this data to form real-time crime heat maps. LMS tools can also be programmed to periodically refresh their data source so that course packages may be updated automatically without human intervention.

APIs are commonplace today and most online tools and services have one available for their product. You could integrate your LMS with a mailing software to send periodic reminders, use the YouTube API to offer complementary online courses alongside your LMS, connect with sample tests and demos on a certification providers’ website to help the learner test themselves on a subject, and more. The possibilites with APIs are limitless and it is up to the educator to make the most out of them.

Close