How Do You Use Tin Can with Your LMS?


Tin Can is one of the most popular content packaging methods available. This article will show you how to use it with your LMS and how it relates to SCORM..

To use Tin Can with your LMS you need to:

  • Understand Basics
    • What is Tin Can
    • The Difference Between SCORM and Tin Can
    • xAPI Features
  • Choosing A Tin Can Compliant LMS
  • Implement the xAPI Specification
  • Create Training Content Packages
  • Upload The Packages To Your LMS

Let’s jump in and understand what are the exact steps you need to take.

Understand Basics

Before using Tin Can you need to understand its features and what is the difference between xAPI and the previous version.

What Is Tin Can

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) was launched in 1999 and quickly became the standard in the eLearning industry. It was a way of bundling training content that works well with compliant LMS in a single compressed file. At first the bundling and integration was quite simple where you can only hand one result back to the LMS from a final quiz or completion level.. That is how SCORM 1.2 and then SCORM 1.3 (Tin Can) appeared on the market. 

As well as being a method of bundling your content into a single compressed file.  Tin Can is a tracking method that can be used for both online and offline learning. It can track almost any type of learning starting from reading an eBook or playing a game to submitting an assignment or taking part in blended lessons. 

It is commonly referred to using four different names:

  • Tin Can
  • ExperienceAPI (API stands for Application Programming Interface)
  • xAPI 
  • SCORM 1.3

The Difference Between SCORM and Tin Can

As mentioned before Tin Can is the name of the third version of SCORM. The difference between the two tools is related to the trackable activity. SCORM can only be used for online learning, while Tin Can is capable of tracking heaps of other activities as well. 

Another important difference is related to the complexity of the reports. xAPI delivers a far more detailed view of the students’ progress compared to SCORM. Below you will find a comparison between SCORM and Tin Can.

SCORMTIN Can (xAPI)
Track TimeYesYes
Track CompletionYesYes
Requires Internet BrowserYesNo
Maximum Reported Scores1Multiple
LMS RequiredYesNo

Compared to older versions of SCORM, Tin Can is capable of tracking the following list of activities. 

The most commonly tracked activities are:

  • Games
  • Simulations
  • Informal Learning
  • Real-World Performance
  • Offline Learning
  • Interactive Learning
  • Blended Learning
  • Team-Based Education
  • And more.

If you are currently using SCORM but you want to switch to the enhanced xAPI you do not have to worry about creating the training content again. There are plenty of tools that allow you to convert SCORM content into Tin Can content. To learn more about how to convert SCORM to xAPI I suggest taking a look at the following article:

ARTICLE: How to Convert SCORM to xAPI or CMI5 (Complete Guide) 

NOTE: If you are using an eLearning packaging software like Articulate 360 storyline or Active Presenter you can just change your output from SCORM 1.2 to SCORM 1.3 without having to convert it.

Tin Can Features

Tin Can turns your required actions into simple statements. This way it is able to track complex activities by using a list of these simple statements. Each statement contains three distinct elements. 

Tin Can (xAPI) syntax includes:

  • Noun (Who)
  • Verb (Action)
  • Object (What)

It works with a database of actions that are put in the above-mentioned syntax. For example, if one of your students completed a lesson then Tin Can will record the following statement:

NounVerbObject
Glen BrownCompletedIntro To Math

Tin Can includes multiple features such as:

  • Enhanced Ease-of-Use
  • Removal of the Internet Browser Requirement
  • Simulations and Serious Games
  • Offline Tracking Capabilities
  • Customized Sequencing
  • Authentication
  • Real-World Tracking Capabilities

Choose a Tin Can Compliant LMS

There are heaps of learning management systems that you can choose if you want to use xAPI with your training content. 

The most popular Tin Can compliant LMS are:

Each option has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s see which one is best for you.

Moodle

http://moodle.org

Moodle is one of the most popular learning management systems available worldwide. It is an open-source tool, meaning that anyone can use it to teach online without having to pay for the software.

The most popular features of Moodle are:

  • Assessment and Grading Methods
  • User Security Management
  • Live Conferencing (using BigBlueButtonBN)
  • Mobile App (both for students and teachers)
  • Payment Handling Methods
  • Open-Source Plugin Database
  • And More.

The only cost may be related to hosting the LMS. When it comes to installing Moodle LMS you have two distinct options:

  • Host it on your own domain
  • Use the cloud-stored Moodle

If you already have a hosting provider you can use it to host this learning management system. You can install it using administration page on the server. Another great method is using the self-installers available on the official website.  There is an installation guide there as well. 

If you do not have your own website you can take advantage of the cloud based Moodle. Take into account that you will have to pay a subscription fee calculated per head of the amount of students. I recommend taking a look at the Moodle pricing page to find out what the prices are.

Blackboard

https://www.blackboard.com

Blackboard is another great learning management system you can use for your online course. This LMS requires a paid subscription. Compared to Moodle and other free LMS Blackboard provides built-in technical support.

In terms of features Blackboard contains similar functions to most of the available learning management systems. To learn more about the features included in the Blackboard Learn LMS I suggest taking a there help.

ARTICLE: Instructor Help for Blackboard Learn

The price is one of the most important factors when choosing the right LMS for your course. Blackboard does not disclose this information and the cost can be quite high due to being charged for the potential amount of students not your actual students. It costs you nothing to get a quote so ask them for one as part assessing the right LMS for you.

Canvas

https://www.instructure.com/canvas/

Canvas is a learning management system by the company Instructure. Canvas was launched in 2011. It is rather new compared to Moodle. But Canvas took some right decisions which led them to outrun the rest competitors in the LMS business.

Canvas is a subscription type service. If you want to use Canvas for your school or institution, you have to contact them. They’ll do that for you.

Canvas provides call support for their customers. So you get personalized solutions to your IT problems. Like Moodle, Canvas also has a strong community and active forums. They also host regular discussions on their features.

Canvas is intended for institutions like schools from K-12, and universities.

ARTICLE: Canvas Vs Moodle: Which is better for online teachers?

Other Tin Can compliant LMS you can use are:

Implement the xAPI Specification

When it comes to implementing the Tin Can API into your LMS you get to choose between two options:

  • Install the Specification Yourself
  • Take Advantage of a Third-Party Tool

Install The Specification Yourself

This is a little bit more complicated and only really used for custom build websites.  If you are using an LMS typically you will just use a plugin or have the xAPI already built in.  If this is you skip the technical jargon below and go to the Third Party Tool.  

But if you are wanting to install it start with installing the  xAPI Launch into your learning management system database. After this, you will need to set an LRS (Learning Record Store). This will be used to store the data Tin Can records about your content.

If you want to make your LMS compatible with even more formats you can also install cmi5. This tool is the most popular way of packaging content compatible with xAPI. It simplifies a set of processes and makes the content easier to launch.

Take Advantage Of a Third-Party Tool

If you want to install the Tun Can or xAPI into your LMS then you can use the  Rustici Engine.

You can however host your content on the SCORM Cloud and link to it from your LMS as well.  Most of the major LMS have a plugin to support this type of linking like the moodle SCORM Cloud for Moodle one.  You will upload your content to the scorm cloud and it won’t be hosted on your own LMS.

Create Training Content Packages

There are heaps of applications that allow online teachers to create, edit, and publish training content using the xAPI. Each software package comes with advantages and disadvantages. These applications are called eLearning Authoring Tools.

My recommendation is to use either Articulate Storyline 3 or Storyline 360.. Nor matter which version you use they are both capable of exporting Tin Can packages or uploading directly to your LMS.. These two applications have amazing features that allow educators to create engaging training content for their online courses. 

The most popular features of the above-mentioned authoring tools are:

  • Animations and Characters
  • Replaceable Fonts and Picture Placeholders
  • Sequence Animations (Transitions, Motion Paths, Entrance and Exit Animations)
  • Interactive Content (Triggers, Markers, Buttons)
  • Multimedia File Importing
  • And more.

To learn more about these two applications I suggest taking a look at the following article:

ARTICLE: Articulate 360 vs Storyline 3: Which Is Better For You?

Upload The Packages To Your LMS

Depending on the tool you are using to create the training packages it might include a built-in publisher for Tin Can packages (single zip file).

For example, the Articulate Storyline 3 authoring tool allows its users to publish the training directly into their LMS. This can be done by clicking on the Export button and selecting the LMS Distribution > Tin Can. The same principle applies to Storyline 360, as the the next version of Storyline 3.

If the authoring tool you are using does not allow you to publish training packages into your LMS you can try out a Tin Can uploading tool. Obviously you will have to create the Tin Can single compressed file to upload first.  Then you can upload it to your hosting to install it into your LMS.

One of the most popular applications that allow you to upload content into your LMS directly using the FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  A nice simple FTP program to use is FileZilla.  You can also log into your hosting and use the file management tool.

If all else fails just talk to your web host and they will let you know which option is best for you.  Once it is uploaded talk to your LMS provider for the best way to install your Tin Can package.

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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