Practicing Instructional Design with xAPI: Veterinary Technician Certification

By Laura Bunte (Consultant Services Lead, Stratagem)

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Expanding Learner Experiences

The face of today’s corporate training is changing; Instructional designers are now, more than ever before, required to design real-world learning activities and more meaningful interactions for a mobile workforce. 

Evidence shows that learners can and will choose to use their mobile devices, tablets, and ‘phablets’ to access content due to convenience and their pervasive, ubiquitous presence. In this 70-20-10 world, instructional designers are now able to create more informal and peer-peer interactions, previously residing outside of a learning management system, to track learner’s success. We have reached this milestone by implementing all or some elements of the Experience API (xAPI).

My Experience

I recently had the opportunity to help design a learning program that was ultimately implemented using xAPI with Trek by Cognitive Advisors. This work put my usual instructional design considerations to a test: now that we could ‘see’ and track learner-to-learner or coach-to-learner interactions, how could I design relevant and deep learning activities differently?

The learners were striving for a Veterinary Technician Certificate. There were plenty of program choices for them to consider. This, however, was to be different: The intent was to create a robust curriculum where the learner would use their mobile devices and tablets to perform many skills under the ‘virtual’ eye of a coach or mentor. In some cases, colleagues helped them submit evidence of their success in performing a new skill, such as muzzling a dog, or inserting an IV catheter.

The Path

After identifying the critical tasks and skills the learners were expected to perform and practice under the direction of a coach, we asked “What are the success criteria for the course?”  Are the criteria demonstrable? Observable? What activity proves that the learner can complete a series of tasks or solve a problem?

This review led our team to identify:

  • Adjustments to existing classroom, online, and/or practical on-the-job learning activities
  • Additional and new learning activities and criteria for Badge achievement
  • A new sequence of learning, integrated with real-job tasks
  • Evidence required for the on-the-job learning, and the methods for capturing and evaluating these ‘artifacts’
  • A coaching/mentoring process, including support for coaches/mentors
  • Templates to help preparing content 

Next, we created learning paths to support the learner’s ability to:

  • Launch learning through any device, including a mobile phone,
  • Send and receive messages, questions, and feedback to other learners on the same path,
  • Create an online portfolio of accomplishments or learning artifacts,
  • Submit evidence to verify successful completion of performance objectives,
  • Receive evaluative comments and feedback from coach, and to ultimately,
  • Earn badges and certificates to show their progress through courses

Put a Plan Together

In preparation for the design, we created a template for the activity elements to be used as evidence of successful task completion.

The template we eventually used included the following elements described in the table below.

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We worked with our client and subject-matter-experts to refine the design of the curriculum and prepare the practical activities for implementation. We created storyboards, adding the activity elements and success criteria.

The technical teams also assessed and specified the customization requirements for the content and identified tools required to integrate with the existing LMS and new LRS technology.

To complete this task, it was necessary to determine:

  • The connection points and data transfer specifications
  • Reporting and analytics requirements
  • Technical requirements for customization and integration to other performance management systems, social sites, HRIS, and other business metrics database

Once the technical analysis was complete, we moved on to the curriculum and learning activity development. We collaborated again to customize the LRS and integrate it with the client’s existing LMS. After implementing select activities (pilot testing), we reviewed the results in both the LRS and LMS and eventually deployed the learning path to all learners.

The Results

Although the results are anecdotal at this time, the client is pleased with the revised course and is expanding this approach to other certification programs. Learners reported increased satisfaction and add that their learning, collaboration, and interaction with coaches and peers increased dramatically. With the Experience API (xAPI) we were able to provide realistic, job-related activities, instruction, and practice in a safe, virtual/simulated environment. Learners were able to clearly demonstrate success, resulting in achievements previously only available during the face-to-face instruction. Consider experimenting with your design creativity by designing xAPI-enabled learning programs – you just might find improved learning and results.


LAURA BUNTE (Consultant Services Lead, Stratagem)

laura bunteLaura Bunte is the Lead Learning Consultant for Stratagem, Inc. an IT and Learning Staffing and Consulting Company with headquarters in Mequon. In this role, Laura is responsible for business development and project management for Stratagem’s Learning Services division. Laura has more than 20 years of consulting and management experience as a practitioner, manager, and learning leader with many Fortune 500 national and global companies. She is familiar with training content from a variety of industries, including professional consulting, learning services, telecommunications, electronics, medical, medical devices, pharmaceutical, and utilities. Laura earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and MS. Ed. in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University, with a major in Instructional Design. Currently, Laura is part of an ADL CoP (Community of Practice) and is responsible for Documentation .

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