What is the plan for DISC, xAPI, and ADL?

Towards the end of last year, our big announcement was the formation of the not-for-profit Consortium formed to handle the governance and address the evolution of xAPI with/for ADL. xAPI, being open-source and licensed as Apache 2.0, doesn’t require ADL’s permission for us to do this. That’s a feature, not a bug — we licensed xAPI in this way so that it couldn’t be trapped in US DoD the way SCORM was. All the same, ADL’s done an amazing job stewarding xAPI through its R&D roots to now and to whatever degree we can work in concert with ADL (and US DoD, by extension) it’s to our collective benefit to do so. Which is why we haven’t done a whole lot in terms of visible activity since the beginning of the year. We’ve worked out the details of what we’re going to take on with ADL so the connections between DISC and ADL can be very explicit, very concrete and very visible. ADL’s announcement about our collaboration can be found here.  Here’s a look at what we have planned over the next four years.

DISC’s Year-One Priority Outcomes

To ensure the interoperability of software and hardware that purports to be xAPI-conformant, DISC is revitalizing the xAPI Conformance working group and conducting a research effort to facilitate definition of the requirements for xAPI conformance. Concurrently, DISC will work with a stakeholder group to define requirements for software and hardware certification of xAPI conformance, and to make recommendations to ADL for a program that would confer certification on software and hardware with Learning Record Store (LRS) functionality.

DISC will develop and deploy a publicly available index of such certified LRS products for use by stakeholder involved in acquisitions.

The thing is, that focusing on LRSs is just the start. To make implementations of xAPI interoperable, we can’t limit the responsibility on LRSs. We also can’t focus solely on content for a lot of reasons. One lesson from the work done to test conformance and to certify content leveraging the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) was that certifying work products, such as content, offered diminished return on the investment in capacity needed to efficiently certify such work products. After about two years of research and requirements gathering, we’ve determined that a program to certify professionals who create learning experiences leveraging xAPI, with practice-based evaluation of their work products, is an idea worth championing so DISC will work with a stakeholder group to define requirements for a such a professional, Learning Record Provider certification program. We’ll explore the requirements for the contents of a body of knowledge, the competencies needed professionally and the evaluation criteria. This will inform the requirements for a program that confers certification on professionals who demonstrate competence in creating learning record providers that work interoperably with xAPI-conformant LRSs.

And, just to make sure we’re all on the same page — this is all within year one, going into June(ish) 2017. Aggressive goals? Megan and I would say we’re assertive, but no less so than any other goal we’ve put out there (and met). We predict there are going to be some serious reasons why we need to get LRS certification ready for early 2017, in terms of catalysts that will drive market adoption of xAPI. The time is now, friends.

DISC’s Year 2-4 Activities

In our first year, DISC will establish a baseline for data interoperability of the xAPI specification itself. To strengthen that for the long-term, DISC is going to vet the impact of supporting JSON-LD on existing implementations of xAPI, and, should stakeholders choose to support JSON-LD, DISC will take on responsibilities to update any hardware, software and/or professional certification materials, processes, procedures and evaluation criteria to support that evolution. That seems really geeky, but it’s important that before we go bigger on professional certifications and larger services, we figure out what, if anything, we’re to do with JSON-LD as an industry. Three years ago, it wasn’t big enough for us to rally support to address it (argue about that all you want — it wasn’t). Now it clearly is, so we’re going to address it.

To strengthen data interoperability and to reinforce appropriate cybersecurity and information assurance practices in applications of xAPI within US DoD and other verticals, DISC intends to identify a profile of xAPI as an exemplar for US DoD and FedRamp such that it serves as a model for other xAPI stakeholder groups to use in extending the xAPI specification to work with various laws and policies with which xAPI may interact. In other words – FedRamp describes what US government needs in terms of security. Other nations — other organizations — may have more or different needs. So, by doing this, DISC would produce best-practice recommendations with the intent of providing advice for data privacy considerations around xAPI and how personal data ownership may be defined to inform cybersecurity and information assurance goals considering situation-appropriate operational, business and technical perspectives.


These are just the highlights. Megan and I had some incredible help organizing our scope and putting the mandate into actionable outcomes thanks to our friend and Project Czar extraordinaire, Wendy Wickham, as well as our Board of Directors.

Referencing our previous post, DISC activity is just the first topic we had to update you on. Next, we’ll talk to what we’ve been seeing drive xAPI’s adoption recently.



One response to “What is the plan for DISC, xAPI, and ADL?”

  1. Excellent news and progress!