xAPI For Tangible Learning Value
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Adapting And Iterating Learning In An xAPI World

Recently, I was chatting with an insightful xAPI expert, Anthony Altieri, whom I call a friend, about the various technologies available to demonstrate learning value, and naturally, xAPI came up. We agreed that for many, xAPI is one of two things: it's either intimidating or under-used and under-valued. Noticeably, practitioners are desperately seeking the latest and greatest "learning tools," and then quickly discarding them when they don't live up to expectations.

xAPI may be close to this tipping point. But, as my grandfather used to say, ''Never blame the tool, blame the person using it.'' Here's why you need to discover the true relevance of xAPI and the value it offers you no matter what learning practitioner role you hold.

1. Relevant Training

Astonishingly, learning departments continue applying a shotgun approach to training. Whether they're creating courses in quantity or only producing generic courses, it's not surprising their leadership doesn't find any value in what they offer.

Workplace learning is an operational activity, no different from any other internal operational activity. This requires demonstrating value for the money you get. Shotgunning and being generic about training will never show value. It's not about how much training you deliver, it's about what you are deploying and why you're doing it.

The "what" and the "why" perplex learning practitioners. A decade ago I would have given practitioners a possible pass. In today's world, this is not acceptable, and xAPI is something you must incorporate into every learning strategy.

xAPI offers a value creation opportunity. When scripted properly, xAPI tracks employee job performance, allowing you to develop learning interventions in order to target areas to improve. By using xAPI to gather data from other sources, you're equipped to provide relevant suggestions to employees, knowing the job activities they complete. This is where adaptive learning and microlearning come into the picture, but these topics are for another article.

2. Reduce Operational Costs

For leaders, targeting learning requirements to show value is half of the story. The other half of the value equation focuses on financial outcomes. One thing everyone hears often enough from their leaders is "We have to reduce costs."

Don't panic. Consider how you can reduce costs while creating value. Yes, this sounds like an oxymoron, however, this is what xAPI affords you. Being targeted and precise in your learning interventions allows you to save money developing the right learning for the right purpose (which is increasing learning value), and it also saves time and maximizes the use of existing resources.

Authoring xAPI scripts helps to cut the fat and demonstrate substantive learning value. This is what the lean methodology is all about. Your leaders will pay attention when you mention that you're making your learning efforts lean.

This may sound overwhelming, but xAPI will focus your learning efforts by being timely, relevant, adaptive, integrative, efficient, resourceful, and seamless. If you didn't catch it, these seven areas are a lean cheat I refer to as TRAInERS. If you only address a few of the TRAInERS acronym points you'll certainly see an increase in learning value while reducing overall costs.

3. Target Operational Results

Targeting operational results may be the third point in this article, but it should be the first step when designing a learning strategy. Your role is to focus learning in the right areas, on the right people, and for the right reasons to achieve certain business outcomes. Otherwise, why bother?

To do this well, you must address operational outcomes and more relevant organizational strategic expectations.

This is done by:

  • Identifying what the operational goals of the stakeholders are
  • Determining their relevance to the organization (strategic)
  • Aligning these expectations with the required learning

Every organization monitors and measures performance outcomes through performance frameworks. These results are fed directly into enterprise informational systems and they are reported. If you hear the acronym KPI or the phrase ''Key Performance Indicator,'' it's a sign your organization is actively monitoring performance.

This is where you get to shine and demonstrate the elusive value your leaders expect. Performance is found either through processes or people. Since your role is to improve people's performance, your responsibility is to trace back operational performance to specific job tasks. Then, you can develop xAPI scripts to identify employee learning requirements and monitor the outcomes through the enterprise system.

Conclusion

Granted, integrating xAPI is somewhat more involved, however, learning practitioners no longer have an excuse for why they can't deliver learning value. Using excuses and playing the operational "woe is me" card guarantees that stakeholders will re-allocate your budget to other value creation activities.

It's time to leverage xAPI and whatever iteration of it comes about. Your goal is to respond to the organizational needs and contribute to achieving its goals. When done well, xAPI helps develop relevant training and reduce operational costs, helping employees and operational leaders attain precise operational goals.

If you'd like to learn more about developing xAPI within your learning interventions, check out Anthony Altieri's LinkedIn Learning course: xAPI Foundations. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts, and remember #alwaysbelearning!

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