Question Asked: Using TinCan API to deliver apps via Android

posted Nov 3, 2014, 12:01 PM by Bodo Hoenen   [ updated Mar 6, 2015, 8:28 PM ]
This is the question we asked: Do you have experience using xAPI to run content on an Android device, know of the pitfalls, best practice and considerations we should be aware of?

Answers we got:

  • Our company Problem Solutions contracts on ADL and our engineers developed and authored the spec. I can point you to some resources possibly unless you are looking for a consulting arrangement. There are open source libs for android dev. Designing your statements around the data you need to track is the most important part. You need to know what you expect to learn from the data and be sure you can query your LRS for those answers. How can I be of further help?
  • Hello Bodo: I like your Dev4X vision very much and am developing along a similar vision for corporate and lifelong adult learners with the intent that technology developed for the corporate sector will work its way into emerging standards for K20 globally. Incidentally, I would jump at an opportunity for space travel. xAPI (TinCan) is a solid platform for aggregating learning analytics from many sources multimedia, eBooks, apps, assessments, collaborations... Let's talk next week. Perhaps we can put together a technical workshop around your teams specific needs. 
  • The issues I've seen with TinCan on mobile are not specific to the mobile OS, but rather the browsers being used. Opera has HTML5 quirks, and so does Chrome. It's really a matter of finding out the quirks in the forums of the development tools you choose to use. Other than browser specific quirks, I pay careful attention to the project size (storage size) as I've seen many people attempt to deliver large (in 100 MB) projects to mobile devices with little storage abilities.

  • Hello Bodo, The project sounds exciting and ambitious - I like ambitious! I can offer some thoughts and experiences but would not say that this is my area of expertise, but certainly an area of great interest to me. Contacts I would recommend are the Tin Can Api development team (Rustico) who have been very supportive to me and happy to organise web conferences to guide development. One company who seems to be leading the way are Float Learning, who have developed the tappestery App which I have tested on the Android platform http://floatlearning.com/contact/

    I have a personal demo site of Watershed LRS that I can give you the password to for testing.
    https://sandbox.watershedlrs.com/app/outside.html#/signin
    After having a brief look at your project website I can offer the following tips although you may have already covered some of these basics in your research. 

    In my own testing I used the Scorm wrapper (
    http://scorm.com/scorm-solved/scorm-driver/) provided by Rustico to send simple Tin Can statements that learners had 'viewed' pages and if they made it through my sequence to the last page, the a final statement saying 'LearnerX - COMPLETED - ActivityY'. I created normal webpages in Dreamweaver and added a line of javascript in the header one dropped them into a subfolder within the ScormDriver. 

    HTML5 Browser based applications will be unpredictable, eg the Tin Can Bookmarking applet only worked on one browser on my Android devices, despite the developer's optimstic response that "it's just Javascript so should work - but I haven't tested it" 

    You seem to be focused on a Native app so you will avoid the issues of designing for multiple Browsers. You will still face multiple Operating System versions and Multiple screen sizes/ratios. Developing for an old Operating System as minimum will ensure wider usage. It would be worth surveying potential user groups about the minimum device and dimensions you will support. 

    The multiple screen size will be a big challenge when developing content. We are so used to desktop resolutions and filling up screens with text that it is quite difficult for Instructional Designers to make the conceptual switch to Mobile first design which involves a lot more screens with simple choices. It is also difficult to ensure designers understand the technical requirements responsive / fluid design. So even if you provide educators with a great template they will quickly break it when embedding fixed width content. Their is a huge investment to be made in either : 
    1) highly skilled developers who understand the mobile world - (but not much about pedagogy) - who work with provided content or 
    2) upskilling teachers to create content within technical limits - and providing sophisticated software to enable this 

    I would prefer the second option to become a reality once a suitable interface is developed. 

    At the same time I received your email I also was asked to review a new tool at
    www.brainrush.com,a site with templates for teachers to create 'Adaptive Learning Games That anyone can create, share, and play'. I will ask the developers if these games reported back to an LRS via Tin Can Api. I have been wondering if the similar H5p toolset could include Tin Can Api statements.. http://h5p.org/content-types-and-applications

    A similar excellent concept of providing teachers with tools to create content is
    www.Zondle.com. It is firmly based in research into the neuroscience of learning and has a databank of multiple choice questions - but unfortunately is Flash based for now. We could borrrow their ideas of introducing risk/chance/choice to incrementally increase confidence. 

    I read about the Global Prize and was very keen to be involved. If there is something I could contribute to the team on an ongoing basis please let me know. My interests are a cross-section of education/technology/diversity. I lived in Tanzania for a time and have two children to a man from Tanzania. My heart is still there and having volunteered in a few schools and have seen their thirst to be connected to the global community through technology. I saw the potential of smart phones over the next generation and have been doing my part to research and explore that potential. 

    The two areas I can offer strong expertise is Moodle LMS and gamification. This example of car racing is a good summary of how gamification can tie together a sequence of activities:
    http://www.gameffective.com/gamification-basics/using-gamification-narratives-in-learning-nuanced-view-work/ I did a quick Google and found these references, which you probably already are aware of: 
    https://www.tappestryapp.com/products
    http://www.adlnet.gov/tla/android-deployment/
    http://scorm.com/scorm-solved/scorm-engine/mobileoffline-scorm/
    https://github.com/RusticiSoftware/TinCanAndroid-Offline
    http://tincanapi.com/lifeway-brightcove-tech-overview/
    https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/Mobile_Moodle_FAQ

    And ... A person I would recommend is Andrew Downes. He was (is) involved with the original TinCan design team and has a focus on educational contexts. I wish I would have found his website first. He has good summaries of implementation possibilities and links for developers. I really like the idea of using TinCan API with open badges . 

    http://tincanapi.co.uk/content.htm?sectionNumber=three&contentDataURL=learning-designers/opportunities-for-learning-design.htm


  • Hi Bodo! Thanks for the inquiry. Yes, I've used Tin Can to deliver training solutions on Android. The learning management system that I develop and enhance is supplying several activities and gathering information through the Tin Can API using Javascript in the browser. We have prototyped an iOS application as well. On Android, we've relied on our generic Javascript solutions that generate and consume JSON in Tin Can formats. I advise that you join the xAPI Google Groups and ask your specific questions there. The groups are regularly read and the participants are largely the designers and initial implementers of the xAPI. You may be able to start an Android-specific discussion on the xAPI-Design group, https://groups.google.com/a/adlnet.gov/forum/#!forum/xapi-design. There's also an xAPI-specification group that works more on solidifying and enhancing the standards. 

  • Sorry for the late response - still spinning back up to speed after a conference week in Vegas. Your enterprise sounds interesting. If you don't mind, I'd like to share this email with my boss, as he may be of more assistance. I personally do not have experience using xAPI to run content on Android, but this summer I ran an xAPI Bootcamp (http://www.adlnet.gov/resources-available-from-june-2014-xapi-workshop-bootcamp-in-orlando/); one of the presentations involved Android App development (warning: .zip file download line): http://www.adlnet.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Android_App_Development-2014-06-24.zip
  • I really like what you are doing with Dev4X and would be more than happy to talk through my understanding of Tin Can and how this could work in this context + what the issues might be. While I don't have any direct commercial experience on this I think I can help in principle, having done a fair amount of research into the subject. 

    Some quick pointers are that 
    - you'll need an LRS (to state the obvious) - if you haven't got a solution for that, there is a good, viable open source product at: http://learninglocker.net/ - if it's of interest, I can connect you to people there. 
    - the majority issue you will have is on the side of the content - i.e. it needs to work for mobile devices etc. There is a great open source project for this, too, which I am currently the chair of. It's at: https://community.adaptlearning.org/ 
    - finally, the key issue for the tracking to work is user identification (and potentially authentication), this connects onto where you deliver the content from (i.e. the website) - if there are logins to that then that's a good starting point - if not, that will need to be worked in somehow. One possibility is to create a 'login with facebook' option but I'm not sure if that's appropriate for marginalised children - might be worth talking through as you'll likely have to solve this problem somehow.

  • Thanks for getting in touch. It sounds like you're looking for a general introduction to Tin Can in which case tincanapi.com is a great place to start. Tin Can can absolutely be used from an android device, in fact it can be used from any device that can connect to the internet. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email them to info@tincanapi.com . This will then come through to me or one of the other Tin Can experts at tincanapi.com.

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