For well over a decade the Sharable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM as it’s affectionately known, has been the standard for tracking eLearning. SCORM is established and trusted but limited, which has given rise to a new standard, Experience API or Tin Can API (The name depends on who you ask, but refers to the same thing). While very similar in function, it is important to note that Tin Can API is not SCORM with a new name, nor is Tin Can simply an upgrade. Tin Can API changes the fundamental way in which learning data is recorded, stored, and used. However, before we talk about what makes Tin Can different from SCORM, let’s quickly recap what we these standards are.

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a set of technical specifications and guidelines designed to create a standard for which course creators and learning management systems can communicate. SCORM reports Meta level data about track completion, time, pass/fail, and a single score. To learn more feel free to read the overview ( by SCORM’s creator Advanced Distribution Learning.

Experience API/Tin Can API is a set of guidelines for a system which generates an activity statement for learning. The statement is written in format and can be applied to any type of learning, such as “I read InfoPro’s description on xAPI”. The statements are stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS) which is interoperable and can share that information with a Learning Management System (LMS), another LRS, or a third party reporting system. ADL provides an overview ( as well as background and technical specifications. Now, both Tin Can and SCORM are methods for recording data but Tin Can differs greatly in 4 areas.

1. Data Collection: Type and Method

Tin Can collects the same information as SCORM, and then so much more. SCORM was designed to communicate only metadata about if the course was opened, if it was finished, and a single test score. Tin Can collects this data as well as any other piece of information desired. Tin Can is capable of this not because it’s an upgraded SCORM but because Tin Can’s activity statement system a completely different method of recording learning information.

2. Learning Record Stores

Coupled with the Activity statement methodology of recording learning, where Tin Can sends the information greatly differs from SCORM. Instead of sending collected information straight to an LMS as SCORM does, Tin Can sends information to a Learning Record Store (LRS), a database of activity statements. That information then can be shared with an LMS for integration much the same as SCORM, or sent to another LRS to share worker information across organizations, or with a third party analysis tool. This fundamental shift in where the information is stored makes a huge difference and frees the learning information for new uses.

3. Interoperability

Another major distinction between SCORM and Tin Can is their ability to work in various capacities. SCORM was developed with the intent of Web Based Training , in a controlled environment, and because of this struggles to work with mobile learning and new technologies. Today’s learning world involves desktops, tablets, phones, simulators and more, each running their own operating system. The interoperability of Tin Can is completely different from SCORM because Tin Can is system agnostic. It doesn’t matter what the system, Tin Can simply records an activity statement and sends it to an LRS.

4. On the Job Learning, and other informal learning

Finally, the fundamental shift in how Tin Can records learning opens up a new possibility of recording on the job and informal training. SCORM reports if a learner takes an online course assigned by a LMS , limiting the system to formal Web based training, whereas Tin Can records any type of activity statement. Attending a lecture, writing a grant proposal, reading a business book, and any other learning action can be added to the learning record store producing a complete picture of learning; formal, on the job, and from peers.

Tin Can is more than SCORM’s update, it is a paradigm shift in learning management unlocking the possibility to harness data. Instead of trying to make decisions based upon only a couple data points, Tin Can empowers well informed decision making, and that, is why Tin Can is so much more than a new SCORM.

Robert Velasquez

Robert Velasquez

About the author: Marketing Coordinator for the US, Robert focuses on exploring and creating impactful material. He has a passion for researching and sharing L&D topics, with a particular interest in learning strategy, mobile technology and anything innovative that changes the way we think about learning.


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