mLearnCon 2013 ignites the hype on Tin Can... oops...Experience API

by Brandon Webb, Lead Mobile Developer

mLearnCon is the biggest event in the mobile learning industry, attracting hundreds of enterprise-learning professionals with a common understanding: mobility is the future. At this year’s mLearnCon, excitement for mobility was unmistakable in every session. Popular subjects included HTML5, UI frameworks, PhoneGap, native apps, video development, analytics, and of course the Tin Can API

Tin Can / Experience API

A year after the most anticipated announcement for the Tin Can, mLearnCon attendees returned to beautiful San Jose to learn more on the new standard. If you haven’t heard yet, Tin Can has officially been rebranded to Experience API; though, the Tin Can title seems to be sticking within the community.

Why are so many experts excited about this new API? For many, it’s a much-anticipated upgrade to the SCORM standard. The Experience API was built with mobile-content consumption in mind while giving us the ability to track practically any “experience” imaginable in both learning and non-learning environments. See the provided SCORM vs Tin Can article for a good comparison.

At no surprise, while exploring this year’s Expo, participants could find several vendors who are incorporating Experience API into their products, providing cloud based Learning Record Stores (LRS) and offerings to help customers implement Experience API.

I was particularly excited to hear success stories from several organizations using Experience API in a production environment. Case studies are invaluable for any technology in the early adoption stage. Vanderbilt University is using the Experience API to integrate several of their LMSs.

Mobile Learning Applications

“Cabernet is king” is a common phrase heard the neighboring wine valleys. Quite similar, flash-based courses use to be king of interactive learning; though the introduction of smartphones has quickly changed everything in this space. Over the last year we observed Adobe's gradual abandonment of Flash as they strategically acquired the popular cross-platform mobile framework, PhoneGap.

PhoneGap was mentioned in several of the sessions I attended this week including, Nick Floro's "Designing and Developing Learning Using HTML5" and Jeff Batt's "Building jQuery Mobile Apps in Dreamweaver". PhoneGap's popularity is not surprising as it enables developers to utilize their current HTML5 skills to develop mobile apps that can access the native functionality of the common OSs (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, etc.) It's exciting to see the learning community embrace of the new tool.

Tamar Elkeles, CLO at Qualcomm, did a fantastic job reiterating the significance of mobile applications during her keynote. After giving several examples of successful mobile learning apps used internally at Qualcomm, Tamar provided eight mobile learning opportunities in the enterprise:

New Employee Orientation Leadership Development Mandatory Training Audio/Language Training Engaged LEarning Broad Utilization Captured Audience Specific, Personal Curriculum

Video Development

A recognizable theme in this year's keynotes was the usage of video. One of my favorite #mLearnCon tweets during the conference was by @farang_utang, "Video is still a head raiser. Anytime a speaker puts a video on everyone looks up from their mobile devices." Video is medium that I think we’d all love to have more of in our learning content.

The great news is that video is becoming easier and cheaper for companies to produce. As Stephen Haskin showcased in his “Rapid Video Development for Mobile Learning” session, with the use of an affordable DSLR or even the camera on your iPhone, we can quickly create great video assets. Lisle joked in regards to creating learning content that we sometimes just have to remember that we're not trying to create the next Avatar.

Analytics / Big Data

With Experience API providing the ability to track a much larger scope of information, a common conversation-topic last week was Big Data. To avoid bogging down your LRS, it was suggested that companies put a lot of thought into the data that is stored. It is important to start thinking about the analytics that would be valuable to your company before starting to develop your app. For instance, while it’s possible to track every user login, it is not recommended if there’s no analytic value to that data.


This year’s mLearnCon was worth the trip. The positive energy of the learning community was contagious throughout the event. Everyone is excited about the new possibilities mobility presents to the industry. There were countless opportunities for sharing ideas, best practices and guidance in this growing space. I think the best advice provided this week was to start building something as quickly as possible; stop waiting for the perfect idea or design.

Links SCORM vs Tin Can: