When is an LRS not an LRS?
What is (and what isn’t) an LRS?
A Learning Record Store (LRS) is the core of any e-learning environment and a required component of an xAPI ecosystem. It is the central store for your learning data and interacts with every other tool in your environment to receive, store, and return xAPI statements. The LRS collects data from a range of sources known as activity providers, including educational courses, actions completed in mobile applications, learning websites, and informal learning experiences. Using integrated reporting tools, LRSs offer the ability to create incredibly in-depth e-learning analytics using the large quantity of learning data they record and store.
If you are looking to start using an LRS or thinking of migrating from an existing LRS, you will already be aware that there are many options available. Prices and features vary dramatically. An LRS may be a stand-alone application or part of a bigger system with an LMS. However, to be an LRS, it must conform to the xAPI specification and support all of the resources defined within it. Some tools may meet the requirements for one or more resources, however, according to the specification: “Such a system is not considered to be an LRS or ‘partial LRS’; it is simply not an LRS.”
Such a system is not considered to be an LRS or ‘partial LRS’; it is simply not an LRS.ADL xAPI Specification, Part Three, 2.0 Resources.
Why is xAPI conformance so important?
To be able to share and analyse learning experiences across a range of platforms and technologies, there needs to be a well-defined structure that different learning systems follow. ADL‘s xAPI specification aims to facilitate that, providing rules which determine how learning experiences are defined, formatted, and exchanged. These rules allow for the development of independent interoperable tools and systems which can make use of the learning experience information. This easy integration of different learning applications enables organisations to create a complete system specific to their needs; it offers flexibility in the choice of reporting tools, user management, content providers and social networking.
In addition to enabling the different e-learning applications to work well together, xAPI conformance prevents vendor lock-in. When an organisation starts using a system to store data, they should not need to worry about how they will use that data in the future or which tools they’ll integrate. They definitely shouldn’t have to worry about if they can get their data out of that system and migrate to another. Unfortunately, when an application has its own unique specification or does not fully conform to a standard, organisations can become locked in; using or migrating to another system can be difficult, costly or impossible. Even if a system has excellent features now, it cannot be guaranteed to keep up with the quick advances and trends in technology or to meet future requirements. An organisation needs to know its data are always accessible; with a conformant LRS, organisations can remain flexible, adapt to change, and switch to another system anytime.
How to choose an LRS?
If the flexibility and simple integration offered by an LRS is important to you, the LRS you choose must be xAPI conformant. Although many systems and LRSs are considered xAPI adopters, using xAPI in their products or services, not all LRSs conform to the specification and will likely not integrate easily with other learning tools.
Fortunately, ensuring that the LRS you choose is conformant has been made incredibly simple thanks to ADL’s LRS test suite. The test suite covers over 1300 strict criteria and is used by LRS providers to check their product follows the xAPI specification, guaranteeing interoperability across e-learning systems. Those that pass the LRS Test Suite are listed on ADL’s directory of Conformant LRSs. Anyone looking for an LRS can use this list to find a product they can trust to seamlessly integrate with other e-learning tools.
The LRS Test Suite contains more than a thousand individual tests of LRS functionality. These tests cover every aspect of the xAPI Specification to guarantee interoperability.ADL test suite website
xAPI conformance is incredibly important to Launch Learning. As well as passing the tests to become certified, we have integrated the ADL tests into our build process to ensure we never release a version of Launch LRS that does not conform.
In summary, a system which claims to be an LRS is only an LRS if it passes all of ADL’s conformance tests. You should not use one that doesn’t conform.