Exploring eLearning Standards for the WordPress LMS Industry with Andy Whitaker at Rustici Software

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In this LMScast episode, Andy Whitaker explore the landscape of eLearning standards, focusing on SCORM, AICC, and XAPI for WordPress LMS.

Andy Whitaker from Rustici Software. Andy also gives a historical overview of Rustici Software, highlighting its SCORM origins and later extensions to accommodate other standards, such as XAPI. One of the key factors in Rustacy Software’s rise to prominence as the primary resource for SCORM-related information was the deliberate purchase of the SCORM.com domain.

Image of Andy Whitaker at Rustici Software

Andy advises seeing WordPress as a single platform that can natively create and handle many content kinds, including standards-based content like SCORM and CMI 5. This perspective changes when the conversation turns to WordPress.

He emphasizes the continued importance of SCORM in the current e-learning environment and calls on platforms WordPress included to take into account future-oriented standards like XAPI and CMI 5 for more adaptability.

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Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress State of the end. I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

All right. Welcome Andy Whitaker from Rustaci software. So I’m Chris from LifterLMS, which is a learning management system for WordPress. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you’re an expert in e learning standards and helping with implementation of that. But just to frame in where I’m coming from. As you likely know, WordPress has a huge open source contributor component to it.

And one of the ways. Myself at LifterLMS and actually many of my competitors with other LMS solutions in WordPress. We’re working together to create a with the goal of creating an e learning standard to make our tools more interoperable, like at a foundation level, but on the broader picture.

WordPress is huge, 43 percent of the internet. But the e learning industry is also huge and there’s there’s different worlds there. And WordPress could be playing a bigger role. In the e-learning industry. And one of the ways we wanna do that is to make it possible for other e-learning solutions to integrate in for people to actually leverage the power of WordPress. And so on through developing a, common core standard that we can work with so in, instead of necessarily creating one from scratch, there’s been a lot of activity already in this area.

Yeah. So that’s why, that’s what I want to talk to you about. Can you just frame in. For us Rustici software and its relationship to the standards, like a little bit of the history in your world.

Andy Whitaker: Absolutely. Yeah. So we started back in 2002. Mike Rustici and his partner, Tim Martin started the company.

They had some history in working with the SCORM standard in the very early days actually building a player for the software company that they used to work for. And then Mike primarily looked at that work and said, this was really hard. I don’t know that anyone else will want to do this. Maybe we can go start a company that sells a SCORM player.

Essentially, we would productize the SCORM standard from a player perspective. Then license it to, Any system that wants to support importing, launching, and tracking of SCORM, essentially. And so that’s what became Rustici Software. 20, however many years ago, 20, 21 years ago, something like that. Let’s see, from there they bought, which was an amazing move, SCORM.

com domain. Okay, it was available. They decided to purchase it. And candidly, that’s 1 of the best ways we’ve built our business over the last 20 plus years. Because for a long time, it was scorn as the de facto standard. And people that wanted to understand the standard or how to build their own player would Google SCORM. They would hit us and we would tell them that they could do it and give them some information about how to do it.

But then many people went and read the 2000 page SCORM spec and said, nah, I’m out. I’m just going to license what you guys have. So that was a big part of how we built, the business over time. That particular sort of integrated player product. Has evolved in incorporating at the time later versions of scorn as well as other standards like. And more recently. I’ll say recently in quotes because for X API, or what was called the 10 can API back then.

Which is now 11 years old, almost 10 or 11 years old that was added as well. To our solution. So that really built the business for us. We licensed that product to a bunch of learning systems around the world so that they don’t have to implement their own standards, essentially.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. And I’ll tell the joke though. You’ve probably heard it is the LMS industry has a lot of TLAs, three letter anacronyms or whatever. For people looking at the different standards. There’s SCORM, there’s XAPI, there’s CMI, 5, LTI, AICC. What’s the difference? If you were talking to somebody at a cocktail party and you had a couple minutes to explain it.

Andy Whitaker: Yeah, man, that would be a boring cocktail party, but I’m willing to give it a shot. So the way that I talk about it most of those. SCORM and AICC specifically tend to be mostly about content plus system interoperability. So the beauty of the SCORM standard from the very beginning was that you could create what we would call a SCORM conformant course.

And that SCORM Conformant course could then be compatible with any system that also supports scorm. And usually that’s gonna be a learning management system, but not always. AICC is actually a precursor to scorm. A lot of people don’t realize that AICC is in fact, older than scorm. And parts of the AICC specification got adopted by SCORM as well.

Similar in concept content but also, content tracking. So automated tracking built into these types of standards based packages. XAPI specifically starts to venture away from the traditional packaged content launched from a learning system. At least that’s the. That was the objective of, creating the experience API was to introduce a standard that could be more broadly supported outside of a traditional learning environment.

If you’re an organization that had a bunch of different systems. Where training or learning or other activities were taking place. We, as a learning industry, didn’t have. A standard way to track those. Non packaged non launched types of activities. Think about just going to a website and watching a video, for example.

And so that was where there was this moment of divergence away from packaging standards into something more like X API, which had more. Ideally broad application in lots of different types of technology to track things. All of that, though, then brings us back to see my 5. Which is the official packaging profile for e learning content that’s tracked using the Experience API.

All of that to say, the industry still feels that packaged content launched from a learning system is still valuable. And the group around the XAPI specification came together and said. With actually pulling some things again from AICC that we still needed this concept of import a package into a learning system, launch it and track it.

And that’s what kind of came about to lead to the CMI 5 specification. Again, this is the worst cocktail party conversation ever. And if I was talking to somebody, I would hope that they would just probably turn away and walk off because it’s not exciting or interesting in any way.

Chris Badgett: It’s the world of standards that we live in I’m excited and I would enjoy that cocktail party. So let me, let’s just brainstorm a little bit around like the WordPress story. So one of the challenges we have is. WordPress another three letter, an acronym here is a CMS content management system. In the early days people started putting, sometimes putting a paywall up and then having member content.

And then it evolved into more structured data and reporting and courses and things like that. So the, with the LMS industry in WordPress. And then so there’s this kind of idea that it’s maybe even a LCMS, a learning content management system. And. But there’s these other industries, like you mentioned, the e learning authoring tools that create this package content.

So like in WordPress, there are plugins and things that allow you to load a SCORM package. Either on a page or in a lesson on a course. A lot of the LMS have WordPress LMS have taken a, like a native approach in terms of, or an all in one, like you can create the learning content. People can experience it on your website, the reporting and the record store is on the website.

There are XAPI integration tools out there like grass blade that help build that bridge. But. So it’s like these worlds are colliding. You have WordPress learning management systems, external learning management systems, a separate LRS or learning record store. What would your advice be into how like WordPress could be a.

A better player in the the ecosystem to be more interoperable given all those variables, right?

Andy Whitaker: I see initially just gut reaction to that is that. I, would look at WordPress as a singular platform. Not unlike a learning management system that you might go procure from one of the large providers of some white canvas or exactly something like that, where.

A lot of our customers who are learning system providers. LMS providers, LXP providers, different applications like that, end up doing taking the approach to content of some of the content that we help you deliver through our platform is going to be natively authored within our own internal content management system capabilities.

They might have the ability to upload a video or add have a WYSIWYG editor, like. WordPress, where they can just type in text on a page and those types of things. And the standards side of the industry really functions as just another content type that those systems support. So a SCORM package, or a CMI 5 or Tin Can package. To the learning system is not that dissimilar from a video file or an MP3 file or maybe even a PDF file.

It’s another content type that their system imports or supports the importing of. The launching of the rendering of in the browser. And then the benefit to the platform that’s leveraging the standards based content is that platform doesn’t really have to implement any kind of proprietary tracking because the standards help us with that, right?

If they. If the system has the ability to launch a SCORM file the data is going to be generated by the SCORM file and shared with the launching system, or a CMI 5 package. The CMI 5 package is going to have XAPI being generated as the learner interacts with it. That is going to need to then authenticate against a learning record store of some kind. Because that would be a requirement of CMI 5 and, Tin Can, but that’s broadly how I would see it.

It’s just giving folks an opportunity to build perhaps a custom LMS experience within the structure or framework of WordPress. But also extending that flexibility to the types of content that the system would support ultimately. I still think it would be. A bit short sighted for any platform of any kind that wants to be able to exist in the e learning space and specifically like the corporate and government side of e learning to not consider supporting the SCORM standard, even to this day, because it is so ubiquitous.

It has such deep roots in the industry. Lots of organizations have existing libraries of squirm conformant courseware that they might want to bring into a system. Then also looking to the future. It would also be advantageous probably to the platform itself and to any users that are going to leverage that platform to look to the future towards something like XAPI.

And in this context, specifically, CMI5 because that is the, really the official packaging standard for XAPI tracked content. And what we’re talking about, at least from my perspective. In the WordPress platform and other learning system platforms, is this ability to import a prepackaged bit of content, to launch that content. Then to be able to receive the data back from that content.

And in the XAPI world, we as an organization and more broadly as an industry are trying to push people towards CMI 5 over what used to be called a tin can package or a little XAPI package. And there’s reasons for that I can get into if folks are interested, but that would be my some of my assertions, I think, about where a platform like WordPress should consider going.

Chris Badgett: Can you explain a little more? Cause there’s this idea or, chatter that like SCORM is old, but you’re saying like, slow down, like it’s a big, it’s not going away.

Andy Whitaker: It’s not going away. We, as an organization have been supporting SCORM inside of other systems for over 20 years and every year we think.

Okay, this is the year where we’re going to be asked by fewer and fewer people to help them support the SCORM standard within their platform. And every year we are wrong every year the same amount of interest is coming into us around supporting the SCORM standard or the, interest in supporting it or the need to support it.

Because again, keep in mind the people that we’re helping the customers of ours are the platform providers that corporations tend to be using higher ed institutions use. Government agencies and departments use, and it’s their customers, the platform providers, customers that are coming to them saying, we want to move to your learning system.

But we have this legacy library of scorn content that might be around might have been around for a decade, but it’s still valuable content to them that they need to introduce into their learning ecosystem. And 1 of the things that we. It’s an ongoing thing within rest to see software is that it seems like everybody thinks every year that they can build a new, better LMS or LXP or whatever you want to call these systems these days.

And a lot of them will try to go down the path of not supporting standards because they want to be maybe a bit more innovative and things like that, which is perfectly fine. But eventually, most of these platforms get to an organization that they want to have as a customer. And score is going to be a box on the RFP that they need to be able to check.

And it just doesn’t feel like it’s going away anytime soon. The last thing I’ll add to that is just forward thinking or forward looking. With the introduction of CMI 5, for us, and I think within the community of people that are talking and caring about standards, CMI 5 is potentially the most logical replacement for SCORM at some point in the future.

But it is past the horizon, as far as I can tell, of when that would be a wholesale replacement of the SCORM standard, because it has such deep roots. So many organizations have invested so much in their SCORM conformant content or their SCORM conformant learning systems. Very difficult thing to uproot for sure.

Could you

Chris Badgett: describe like the ideal SCORM compatibility in WordPress? For example the way I would think about it as a WordPress LMS provider is I could launch a SCORM package on a, lesson post in my course on my, WordPress site, or is it like it’s a whole course on its own? It could be both.

And then also what’s, what would be required to not just launch it, but to actually capture the reporting data and feed it into the, reporting engine on the WordPress site. Yeah.

Andy Whitaker: So perhaps initially as a platform, WordPress might consider taking the approach that a platform like Moodle has taken, which is.

Moodle off the shelf, to my knowledge, and I think this is still true, only supports the SCORM 1. 2 standard. SCORM 1. 2 is not technically the oldest, but in for any other way to say it, is the oldest version of SCORM. It is the most ubiquitous version of SCORM. The majority of content that conforms to SCORM is SCORM 1.

2. And if a platform was going to support the SCORM standard, And only one version because there are four in fact versions of SCORM. Okay. I think the, best initial approach would be to support that version of SCORM the 1. 2 version. From there, it becomes a, community approach to perhaps advancing support to 2004 editions of scorn if the community demand is there, perhaps, and it, but it may never get there in the scorn space.

How you then incorporate. Scorn conformant content you have to think about what a scorn packages. A SCORM package is a little self contained online course experience. It may be a five minute course, It may be a two hour course. It may have one SCO inside of it, a content or a shareable content object.

Or it may have multiple SCOs inside of it. As a platform, there’s not a great way to really understand what’s inside of the SCORM file that you’re importing and launching, ultimately. So I think, for me, that goes back to this idea of it being a content type that’s supported. And the user of the platform, the administrator of the platform, is usually going to have greater insights into how their SCORM courses are structured.

And from there would probably want a system that’s somewhat flexible, that would allow them Organize their scorn conformant courses in whatever way makes the most sense based on how their courses are structured from us from a course perspective, the little package that the scorn package is essentially a lot of times what.

You’ll find in learning systems is that they’ll have some broader concept of. They call it all sorts of different things, a curriculum, a learning journey, a learning path whatever that might be. And that learning journey or path within the platform, could have a blend of different types of content.

In it and could either be linear or could be branched or do various things, but all really the scorn piece to that is, is at some point within that journey, there is a scorn package that needs to be launched. And then somehow the platform allows them to launch it with a button or a link that then takes us to what has to be in place to support the launching of the scorn.

Package and at a high level, generally speaking, it is a SCORM player, a conformance SCORM player from a specification or more technical standpoint, you would consider it to be a runtime environment. And again, for simplicity sake, it essentially is providing the SCORM package with the. API endpoints that it requires to be able to communicate the SCORM data via the SCORM API back into this SCORM runtime or SCORM player component of the platform.

It’s a JavaScript based thing. It runs in the browser nine times out of 10, it’s going to be invisible to the end user. But it is required for the content to be able to communicate and. Candidly, for the launching system to also communicate things to the course, because when you launch a scorn file within a learning platform, the 1st thing that happens.

At a high level is that the platform tells the course who the learner is and then from there, the course tells the platform what that learner did in the course. And again, at a high level, it’s usually did they complete it? Did they pass or fail it? Was there a score and how much time did they spend? Yeah, I think going circling back to the sort of Moodle idea there may be a world where.

The community around WordPress builds their own SCORM 1. 2 player that becomes a part, a plugin within the WordPress ecosystem. All of these are open specs and standards, right? So you can go, anyone can go read the specification and build the thing without ever working with someone like us who has productized these things.

So that might be an approach that the communities. Interested in

Chris Badgett: taking, do you see any unique challenges with the whole, and maybe Moodle is similar, the whole distributed nature of WordPress, like it’s not one company Canvas, LMS, right? Or Docebo or whoever. It’s like tons of websites. , right?

Like out there. Does that make it harder? It doesn’t really matter

Andy Whitaker: or, I think it’s, I think it the, where I can see that becoming a little challenging and I think and, I. I only have Moodle to use as a comparison. I think that’s. somewhat similar to what WordPress is, offering. Within that environment, and I know within WordPress anyone to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong, can build a WordPress plugin that does something interesting.

And there’s a a marketplace of sorts where you can go out and search for these things and download them and install them into your WordPress environment. And now you’ve got a new widget or. Whatever that might be that is similar, I think, in the Moodle side of things, because it is a community based open source platform where people are building, I don’t know if they call them plugins or something else, but natively within Moodle, there is a SCORM player.

That is off the shelf. If you bring that, if you download Moodle, you’re going to get the SCORM 1. 2 player in that without having to first go out to a plugin store and decide to install that part into Moodle. I don’t know if that’s the right approach for WordPress because not all WordPress platforms are.

Learning based right? You might be doing a storefront or just a informational website or something like that. But I, would hope that if there is an interest in the broader WordPress community. To lean in this direction that there’s that they can coalesce around having. Maybe one sort of official SCORM player plugin.

And everybody agrees that this is going to be the standard bearer of a SCORM player within the Moodle, or rather the WordPress ecosystem. Now, yeah, because competing SCORM players might be okay. Yeah it’s a free market, I think, in, in that space. But having a, I think a stamp of approval on something.

That is as tricky as scorn can be from a support perspective, I think, would just give wordPress administrators users, builders of websites using that platform some assurances that this is going to be. Useful to them and work and not cause a bunch of additional support and those types of things.

That’s awesome.

Chris Badgett: What about like launching a score and package through a score and player that’s like officially accepted makes sense, what would you advise for? Let’s imagine like the, these WordPress LMS websites aren’t using SCORM and there’s all these different LMS providers. How could they collectively adopt a standard?

What would it look like just native WordPress only to have a standard

Andy Whitaker: adoption like a brand new standard that doesn’t exist today.

Chris Badgett: You may be pulling off the shelf if we supported SCORM 1. 2, it sounds like that would give you everybody would have the option to launch the SCORM content effectively, but then what what are the LMS plugins need to do just in terms of interoperability themselves.

By sharing a standard, is that more CMI5 land?

Andy Whitaker: Yeah, I think I think a logical progression from SCORM 1. 2 as a sort of supported standard within WordPress might be to go ahead and move in the direction of also CMI5 support. And there on XAPI. com if I’ll plug one of our sort of web properties There’s a whole section on 5.

we did a bunch of work with the U. S. government a few years ago around building the. Kind of starter kit for 5 to help seed adoption more broadly across the industry. So there’s some good beginning pieces of 5 that we just make available through. That section of XAPI. com would be a good starting point if the WordPress community decided to maybe move in that direction.

But CMI5 is specifically going to be there to support future packaged content still. And we’re not really in that space I think fully leveraging the promise of the XAPI specification itself, which could be added to lots of these different kind of learning or training plugins. That the larger WordPress community might choose to develop where as part of the plugin, there is based on whatever that plugin is helping you do within WordPress there could be the communal approach of saying you’re also going to implement.

X API natively within that plugin so that we can track whatever a user is doing within that plugin using a standard. And then tie that into really the learning record store of your choice. I don’t know and maybe there’s an argument for the WordPress community building a WordPress specific LRS that could also be.

Functioning as a plug in like a stamp of approval type of plug in for an XAPI conformant LRS within the WordPress ecosystem. On, on that side of things, it would be that could be a possibility or kind of a nice thing about the XAPI specification and, learning record stores in general is that if a little plug in supported X generating XAPI data statements As an organization, I could go adopt whatever LRS I want to adopt.

It might not have to live inside of WordPress. It could be Watershed or Yet or Veracity or Learning Pool, Learning Lockers LRS, it could be really anything. And within the plugin, you’re just adding some capabilities to configure that plugin to share the data out to some LRS that I use as an organization, for example.

So there’s probably a world where maybe there’s. Both options available. There might be some officially sponsored or, stamp of approval type XAPI LRS, that is a Moodle based or rather WordPress based plugin. But you could also share that data to some third party LRS that’s outside of WordPress. And that I think starts to get really interesting because XAPI is a pretty flexible tracking protocol.

Like you can really track any kind of activity. Using it and it’s modern. It’s a restful web service based API. So it can be leveraged even outside the context of a learning or training activity. Because all it’s really doing is tracking the activity who did what essentially from a statement structure perspective.

So perhaps that there’s reason for the larger community to consider XAPI as a broad tracking protocol that yes, has roots in learning, but has applications outside of learning as well.

Chris Badgett: Could you just go a little deeper on LMS native reporting versus LRS? And maybe an example.

Where I’m sure some of the other enterprise LMSs have their own reporting. You don’t necessarily need a separate LRS. But yeah, just unpack that a little bit.

Andy Whitaker: It’s hard to paint all LMS platforms with the same brush. Yeah, because as soon as I start talking generally about learning management systems an LMS would provide would stand up and say we’re doing it differently than that.

But I’ll generalize what I think we’ve seen with a lot of with a lot of LMS is that have. Their own reporting and perhaps even have adopted X API in some way as a specification. Historically, a lot of kind of traditional learning management systems have been built to report on compliance related activities.

And that’s a big reason why a lot of organizations still adopt learning management systems. Other organizations will look at compliance, plus just soft skills training and a bunch of other maybe corporate training initiatives, learning and development initiatives that they have. But historically, and generally, I think has have focused primarily on reporting on the things that the scorn standard was capable of tracking, which is completion pass fail scores and total time.

For the most part later versions of score. Do you have the ability to track. In a good way what’s called interactions. So the answers to questions on a quiz or an assessment, those types of things. But I think a lot of learning systems have just taken what SCORM is able to provide from a tracking perspective and provided reports around that.

Maybe extending that a little bit to the interactions side of things. Even with an LMS adopting XAPI or CMI5. Even today, I think a lot of them are still using the data that XAPI generates in that context and just fitting it into kind of the legacy reporting framework that they had that was built around the SCORM standard.

So they’re doing XAPI, but in parity. With SCORM is how we would typically say it. I’m sure there are learning systems out there that are being far more innovative than that. But maybe it’s a smaller percentage of the whole. I don’t know with XAPI that an organization who’s using learning technology.

And is interested in the additional data. Organizationally, that the experience API has the ability to generate. really that concerned about the LMS being their sort of reporting hub for all things learning. When you start to get into the XAPI space if you look back in time, And you imagine a simple learning ecosystem within an organization.

The LMS historically has been at the center of that as the system of record where everybody goes for learning and development. We’re starting to see organizations that are leaning into XAPI thinking that the LMS shifts out and becomes a data source. The hub and where learning takes place.

But the hub ends up being the LRS because it’s the thing that the LMS could connect to, to share data with that LRS. Other applications should, could share data with it as well. So I don’t know that you probably do have some LMSs that are gonna take the posture of. We want to be yes, L. R.

S. based reporting, but then go above and beyond that and start adding L. R. S. like reporting capabilities, which just has to be far more flexible and robust because of the volume of data that X. A. P. I. can help us generate while others might just say what our wheel houses. LMS reporting completions and grade books and things like that.

We are happy to share some of our X API data that we have with a 3rd party. L. R. S. and then the organization would, if they want sort of L. R. S. reporting, they could go there directly. But if they want to see organizational reporting around learning and development happening in. All the different data sources they have surrounding the LRS.

It would be usually the LRS that they’re going to to view more robust reporting. And then from there, you could pass things along to a data lake and data warehouse and those types of things as well. But yeah, so it’s just going to depend on, I think, how an is looking to potentially differentiate itself in the marketplace from a reporting perspective, how far they might take their reporting, thank you. In a sort of more robust XAPI context.

Chris Badgett: Cool. have a lot of questions. Sure. So for a LRS, like if WordPress was to develop an option for its own LRS, is that even possible as a plugin? And what I mean is we’ll let me back up and say WordPress has the same, this interesting dynamic.

You have very small sites, but it’s also being used in big applications. Yeah. So it has this like beginner and advanced user and everything in the middle. Could a LRS I guess I see an LRS more as like a SAS solution and than a distributed plugin, but maybe I’m thinking about that.


Andy Whitaker: Yeah you would definitely need it to be architected in a way to where I can plug the LRS. Into my specific instance of WordPress, not shared probably with any other deployment of WordPress. And this is going to get into sort of my. Lack of knowledge about plug in infrastructure and how that kind of all fits together because, yeah, I don’t think I don’t think it would make sense in the context of WordPress to have a singular LRS.

That all these different WordPress sites are reporting data into that seems crazy to me, actually. So I would say that, in my opinion, it would be if I have a WordPress site, I might be able to then plug in. To my environment, the LRS that WordPress has given their certification or stamp of approval on and now that is just the data repository for data.

That’s being generated by my installation of WordPress separate from. Anyone else I also think that it’s important to make sure that there’s a good understanding of, what is, what an LRS has to be per the specification and what an LRS. Is sometimes doing from a larger platform marketing perspective.

So the good example of this is in the specification, the XAPI spec itself there’s nuance to this, but ultimately the LRS is simply a repository for data. And it does it in an XAPI conformant way. It’s got all the necessary APIs and endpoints and things like that. But it is nothing more than a place to share XAPI statements with to store that data.

And then also an XAPI conformant LRS needs to be able to seamlessly share data from one LRS to another. And if it does all of those things with the nuance things taken care of as well, that is an XAPI conformant LRS, the spec doesn’t actually speak to any reporting capabilities on top of that.

So if you go out into the marketplace, if I plug our sister company, Watershed. Or even folks like learning locker and veracity and yet and a lot of these other LRS platforms that are becoming available. They might refer to themselves as an LRS, but they are much more.

Chris Badgett: Then what the spec requires of them because of the advanced reporting.

Andy Whitaker: That’s right. All of the advanced reporting, what some of these systems are referring to as learning analytics. Yeah. That goes far beyond what the XAPI spec dictates that they do as an LRS. Because it’s only concerned about receiving, storing and passing data between LRSs beyond that it’s up to the LRS provider.

To decide what bells and whistles they want to build on top of the core LRS technology. So in the WordPress world at the very beginning, you might just have that core spec conformant LRS. It’s just a place for plugins and other things to share data with, it stores that data, and then there are ways within a spec conformant LRS to get the data out.

So if you as an organization wanted to reach into the LRS, pull some data out and visualize that in some way you would have the ability to do that. Over time, I could see other WordPress plugins that are visualization. LRS, visualization plugins, and things like that, could just be added to an instance of WordPress. But on top of the sort of core LRS plugin that they might use something like that.

Chris Badgett: Very cool. Let’s unpack interoperability a little bit. Okay. So if, a like five different LMSs or X API compliant. How does one move like if somebody’s Oh, I want to switch from a to B, right? Like, how does that

Andy Whitaker: work? So, when we’re talking about XAPI specifically ignore CMI five but compare it to SCORM.

Okay. SCORM is very much about content. Interoperability content and system interoperability. Just move the package. Yeah. The package, right? We use the sort of to modernize it, we use kind of the Blu ray analogy. If you have a Blu ray disc and a Blu ray player, the Blu ray disc won’t care that the Blu ray player is Sony or Toshiba or Panasonic or whatever they both.

Conform to Blu ray. And so they can be interoperable with one another. And that’s similar to what SCORM and an LMS is doing together. A SCORM course and a SCORM conformant LMS are doing so much more about content interoperability. Anyone that you talk to who’s ever tried to change. From one LMS to another in a SCORM centric kind of world, we’ll know that one of the biggest challenges is moving the SCORM data from one LMS to the other, because SCORM doesn’t speak to data interoperability at all, but just the

Chris Badgett: content, you’re just moving the content, but my data is over there still,

Andy Whitaker: but yeah, and it, and it might be in a SCORM format or the LMS might’ve converted it into something else.

So there’s no data interoperability when it comes to SCORM. But that is something that is promised by the experience API is much more about data interoperability than it is about content interoperability. Again, if you ignore CMI 5 within an X API context however, there’s still challenges around data interoperability between 1 and another.

Chris Badgett: So level one is just to be able to move the content, but level two is let’s also be able to move, let’s move the data.

Andy Whitaker: And so if you have so at a general level, if I have data in one XAPI conformant LRS, and I have a, and I have a, an another a second XAPI, conformant, LRS, that I wanna move data from LRSA into LRSB, I can do that pretty seamlessly.

I can move that data over, however. If LRSB has been receiving data, let’s say, from an LMS. The identifiers for learners associated with the data in LRSB the, actor ID or just think about it, like the email addresses or the, user IDs that are associated with data in that LRS are gonna be different from, likely different from the user IDs that are in LRSA from whatever source was contributing to that system.

And so if I were to then move. Data from A to B, I might have, I might be Andy, Learner 1, 2, 3, and A. And learner four, five, six, and B, I’m still Andy in both systems, but the statements don’t understand that I am the same learner because the IDs are different. There’s some of that complexity around merging data from between LRSs is doing what some folks call actor merging so that within the, LRS that ends up being used ongoing, there’s maybe a way to say that.

User 1, 2, 3 and user 4, 5, 6 are the same person and then those statements could be merged underneath a single user profile within that learning record store. And that’s just 1 example of how interoperability even within the XAPI space can be difficult. Where the, where I think. And I haven’t been, candidly, I haven’t been as involved in current discussions about the data interoperability side as some other colleagues of mine.

But I still think it is true that there are efforts within the XAPI space to provide more communal agreement around how to track certain types of activities. In a data interoperable way. Early on, when we were introducing this idea as Rustacy software into the community, we were calling them recipes.

I think today they’re more uniformly referred to as profiles. And that is one way that XAPI and the community is trying to introduce more data interoperability. Is that you communally come together and agree upon a particular type of profile. The easiest example of that is what is called the video profile and the video profile, broadly speaking, is just a collection of statements.

that a video should generate if it’s being tracked using XAPI. And it lays out all the components of each statement. It tells you what actions in the video player would generate a statement per that profile. And so once the community agrees upon a profile, that profile can then be applied to that type of activity.

Around the world, and now. If I’m an L. R. S. and I receive statements that have that profile highlighted as part of that statement. I can then go to a registry typically is what it would be called and say, oh, yeah, I see that there’s a profile for this. Now I can understand what this activity is.

And no sort of in advance, what kind of statements I’m going to get back. From the activity that has adopted that profile, for example, so that is 1. Towards introducing a bit more data interoperability. But I think we’re far away actually, from where I’ve seen as a, as an industry in solving the data interoperability side of XAPI.

It’s still a challenge. Broadly speaking.

Chris Badgett: I think I got, th I have three more questions then I think I can Yeah. Go play on the plane. Help me understand the. External courses and, launching. So for example, if you had a WordPress LMS site and my understanding is you could in theory launch like a LinkedIn learning from your site.

Can you just walk through how that works?

Andy Whitaker: Yeah. So it, it will depend a little bit on either the standard that the content provider is using. Or perhaps the technology that content provider might be using. Generally speaking, the SCORM standard really doesn’t like the content to live on one domain while being accessed from another domain.

There’s a whole cross domain challenge with SCORM. Now there are technolog there are technical ways to get around that and solve for that problem. We have products that help organizations do that essentially is at rust to see software. But if you were just to try to do score on your own, really wants the content and the LMS to be on the same domain.

However, I mentioned a ICC earlier as a specification standard. That’s been around a long time. Actually does introduce this ability for content to be on 1 domain, but accessed from a separate domain. And that’s because if I’m not mistaken, has. A bit of a server side communication ability that SCORM doesn’t have SCORM is all communicating browser side. Which is where this cross domain conflict comes in.

And so there are content providers, catalog providers. The ones that always come to mind around AICC are. I think LinkedIn learning Skillsoft, there’s probably other catalog providers that will use AICC as the shareable standard. That they use so that they can keep their content on their own domain.

But make it launchable and tracked through a separate domain. In this case, it might be a WordPress LMS. In that world if the, if a content provider is leveraging AICC to help with that distribution, that sharing. Then obviously, an LMS like LifterLMS would need to support AICC in that case. In order to be able to consume that content. Launch it, and then receive data back from LinkedIn Learning or Skillsoft or whoever’s using that standard.

CMI5 is really the next place to go, I think, when it comes to launching content from one domain inside the context of another domain. Because Ultimately the data sharing is happening via XAPI and the data’s going into the, learning record store. And so there’s no requirement in the CM I five world for the content to launch be launched from the same domain as the launching system.

So you really start to introduce this similar to AICC, this ability for this distribution capability. And for content providers it’s really important typically because. It gives them the opportunity to turn off access to their content when a customer is no longer paying for it. That’s what most of our customers are looking for. Who are content providers that are interested in sharing content with 3rd party systems is that they don’t want to give their content over to the customer in its entirety.

They want to give them access to the content so that if the customer stops paying them or doesn’t renew a license, they can always turn off access without having to go to them and saying, can you please delete your scorn packages or my scorn packages for that

Chris Badgett: type of thing? I see. Delana playing like.

From like a MVP or just to keep it simple, like what would your advice be as like a first layer for creating this standard in WordPress? It sounds like SCORM 1. 2, a solid player solution there. What else?

Andy Whitaker: I think that’s, where I would start only because it’s, just, I think has the most utility.

Yeah, within this particular space still and then from there. I think it would be early to support CMI 5, but it might not be a bad thing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to go consider as a community what it would look like to support CMI 5 as well. I just don’t think that there’s enough.

There may not be enough content in the world that’s that conforms to CMI5 to make that a a standard or a profile. If we talk about it in that way that would get wide utilization across WordPress users, essentially. So it may be early for that. Although I have people here, I can hear them in my head saying, no, they should absolutely go adopt CMI 5, cause it’s where the industry, at least we think the industry is going. I think where, it gets interesting is starting to think about XAPI as more of a standard tracking protocol for. WordPress in general if, the community looks out into this sort of tracking standard space and doesn’t see a good alternative to XAPI I think it could be, it could function as a standard way to track things.

Now, I’m I think I’m getting from you that there, in the WordPress space, there really isn’t. It’s PHP based as a platform and somebody could probably build in some proprietary JavaScript based tracking or something like that if they wanted to. But if you’re looking for a more universal approach to tracking activities. I don’t know that there’s any reason not to consider XAPI as a recommended approach to introducing tracking capabilities.

Within maybe the plugin world of, WordPress or maybe some native tracking within the platform. And again, yeah, it has roots in learning, but it is a pretty flexible tracking protocol. And could have applications outside of just traditional training activities or learning activities.

Chris Badgett: That’s super helpful, Andy.

I really appreciate your time. And this’ll be on our YouTube channel. If somebody sees this. Even outside the WordPress project, can you tell us what they could get from rustici to see, like what. If they want to, if they’re excited about what they’re hearing about what, did they go to you guys for?

Andy Whitaker: So really what I’ll tell people very simply is that if you start to venture into a space. Where standards start to matter. Or you’re just curious about e learning standards. Or you think you need to support a standard that is the moment to come to us when it comes to SCORM. And all these different standards that we’ve talked about today.

We have positioned ourselves as both a product company. We have software to sell to people but we’re also, candidly. Just a place people can go to talk about standards. Our mantra has always been, from the very beginning. Ask us anything really and mostly we mean, ask us things about standards. But we’ve had people ask us random questions about all sorts of stuff.

And those are sometimes fun, but really. Yeah, we’re just here to help people understand the standards be of service to them around those things. And a lot of times, what we find is that. Eventually, that person will have a need that 1 of our products can help solve. Our products are all centered around either helping systems adopt standards.

Or leverage standards in particular ways.

Chris Badgett: Andy, thanks so much for the interview. I really appreciate it. You’ve been a huge help. So thank you so much.

Andy Whitaker: Awesome. Thanks for the time.

Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMS cast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. And I’ve got a gift for you over at LifterLMS. Go to lifterlms. com forward slash gift.

Keep learning, keep taking action, and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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