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Project Tin Can promises to recognise informal learning

September 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I have never been a fan of SCORM.It is claimed that the SCORM standard has reduced the cost of elearning through ensuring that all e-learning content and LMSs can work with each other. However, it has always seemed to me that SCORM was built around a funnel idea of learning, rendering problematic more ambitious and constructivist pedagogies. Thus I have paid little attention to what ADL – who ‘own’ the SCORM standard are up to. Wrongly it seems.

Together with Rustici Software, ADL have released Project Tin Drum, which they say is a successor to SCORM. Critically they appear to be recognising that learning takes place in different contexts and want to recognise all learning, including informal learning. The Tin Can project web site says “The Tin Can API offers up methods to integrate real-world activities with digital learning.” They also make much of the fact that learning no longer has to take place in an LMS nor even in a browser. The centre of Tin Can is an open APi, allowing the capture of learning actions:

  • People learn from interactions with other people, content, and beyond. These actions can happen anywhere and signal an event where learning could occur. All of these can be recorded with the Tin Can API.
  • When an activity needs to be recorded, the application sends secure statements in the form of “Noun, verb, object” or “I did this” to a Learning Record Store (LRS.)
  • Learning Record Stores record all of the statements made. An LRS can share these statements with other LRSs. An LRS can exist on its own, or inside an LMS.

The basis of the APi is a simple Actor, verb, object syntax. the web site provides the following examples: “Jack completed safety training.” “Christie experienced the Berlin Wall in Second Life.”  The go on to say: “These statements can be simple or complex. The actors, verbs, and objects can vary widely, and can be described with varying levels of detail. Actors/learners can also be described in various different ways.”

Sequencing is based on the activities.

Whilst much is made of the simplicity of the standard, there is a danger that it will get more complex in implementation. At the moment there is only a limited infrastructure to support Tin Can. Rustici offer a cloud implementation, including a free low volume account. There is also a book marklet and should shortly be a plug in for WordPress. That WordPress may be one of the first workable implementation speaks volumes in itself of the difference from SCORM which was designed for heavyweight Learning Management Systems.

Project Tin Can looks fascinating. I would be intere4setd in hearing what others think.

Links via Stephen Downes and

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One Response to “Project Tin Can promises to recognise informal learning”

  1. Jay Cross says:

    Love your Freudian slip, Graham. Tin Drum vs. Tin Can. The naming is absurd. Let’s pick a name for something that doesn’t work in real life! Also, the “store” sounds to me like the sort of place one would go to buy badges and credits.

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