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IEEE to Standardize xAPI v2.0 as an International Standard

October 20, 2021

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) professional standards association is on track to release the Experience Application Programming Interface (xAPI) version 2.0 as an international standard within the next six months. Recognizing xAPI as a global data standard will promote its adoption and use, allowing it to be specified in procurement contracts and acquisition language for digital learning products and services.

Originally developed as a technical specification in 2013 as an ADL Initiative project, xAPI enables data encoding, transport, and exchange across a wide variety of learning activities, experiences, and devices. Since 2017, to promote Department-wide consistency for these data solutions, DoD Instruction 1322.26 has instructed DoD organizations to use xAPI in their digital education and training technologies.

Graphic with IEEE SA letters followed by Standards Association words and underlined in blue
The IEEE Standards Association is a consensus building organization that develops and advances global technology standards, including multiple data standards that are key to DoD’s Enterprise Digital Learning Modernization.

“The IEEE standard for xAPI will be an important milestone in the lifecycle of the xAPI technology. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) facilitates the collaboration of a diverse set of stakeholders from all over the world to create, edit, review, and maintain the standard,” said Jonathan Poltrack of Veracity Technology Consultants, who also chairs the IEEE xAPI Working Group. “IEEE SA brings the rigor of a vetted and time-tested standards development process built by consensus. Using the IEEE SA standards development process, a Working Group ensures that they are creating a high-quality, consistent, and usable standard.”

The forthcoming IEEE standard—designated P92741.1—advances the current xAPI specification from v1.0.3 (released October 2016) to v2.0. Updates from the 2016 version include the following improvements:

  • Provides more efficient ways to define relationships between the “actor” of an xAPI statement and the activity.
  • Introduces “contextAgents” and “contextGroups”, which allow direct establishment of context to both individuals and teams.
  • Standardizes timestamps across all xAPI statements, based on a universal time zone (reducing the potential for clock and timing errors).
  • Forbids extra properties and allows Learning Record Stores (LRSs) to reject xAPI statements for malicious intent or poor design.
  • Provides clarity in the use of timestamps and version headers.
  • Removes parts of the specification that could become outdated soon (security/O-auth).
  • More clearly defines the roles of LRSs and Learning Record Providers.
  • Improves the structure of data for adoption by content providers, those providing a system (LRS or Learning Management System), or other data providers.

The new xAPI v2.0 standard will also be IEEE’s first open source standard, using a new process intended to expand opportunities for dynamic collaborations to accelerate the development and promulgation of technical standards. P92741.1 will be the base xAPI standard, with multiple companion standards for xAPI profiles. (Profiles are a means for capturing shared information models from sets of data.) These standards will support semantic interoperability by clearly defining different xAPI profiles and the learning modalities they encapsulate, such as use of video, interactive e-books, simulations, and other use cases.

To support the xAPI base and companion standards, multiple IEEE Working Groups have been established to focus on Profile Specification, xAPI Profile Best Practices, and Security and Cybersecurity Best Practices. The guides developed by these Working Groups will serve as living documents that can grow and evolve with advances in cybersecurity and learning technologies.

IEEE is responsible for over 1300 technical standards, including globally critical standards that allow devices to function on the Internet, and has recently approved a new standard that is a key component of DoD’s modernized digital learning ecosystem.

For more information on xAPI and its stewardship of multiple learning technology standards in support of the DoD education and training enterprise, contact the ADL Initiative.

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