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Learning Pool LRS: A New Direction

We’re really pleased to be able to introduce the world to the new Learning Pool LRS, welcome.  If you’ve looked at Learning Pool LRS (formerly Learning Locker) before the first thing you will notice is that we’ve changed.  We haven’t lost sight of our original ideas, we’ve just changed our approach.  So here’s what we’re thinking…

Owning Your Learning Data is Dull

We’re passionate about promoting individual ownership of learning data.  This is the beta product we originally built, a way to capture and present your learning data using xAPI. The idea was, and remains, a cool one.  The problem comes in the capture of this data.  If you look at really successful personal data solutions, like Nike+, you see how much work they put in to making data capture seamless.  Hence the Fuelband.  This is a smart solution – slap it on your wrist and all the stats is done for you.

With our original Learning Pool LRS we couldn’t ever quite crack this problem.  It was fundamentally too much work to manually capture your data, or to try and re-direct an xAPI endpoint to your own Learning Pool LRS.  Most products aren’t yet built in a way that is compatible with this approach.  The payoffs of owning your learning data are long term, so putting in a lot of short term work just wasn’t compelling as an experience.  It was a bit dull.

Enter the Learning Record Store

Previously, whilst we adopted the xAPI, we weren’t conforming to the standard for a Learning Record Store.  To be honest we didn’t need to do it because we were a consumer facing product that was designed to be a step removed from an LRS.  But in our reflection on the personal data problem we came to the conclusion that the most obvious way to automate the process was to also tackle the ownership problem at the organisation level.

If we could build a platform that was good for companies to manage their learning data, it would be a lot easier to configure individual user services off the back of that.  If a company was doing the leg-work in collecting the data, all the individual would need is a pass-through on the feed.  Kinda how you might connect Twitter and WordPress together.

This would mean a turnaround in our strategy; no organisation would adopt an xAPI solution that wasn’t 100% compliant with the standard.  We would have to become an LRS.  This wasn’t a trivial decision.  Writing a fully conformant LRS is a big undertaking.  At this time I only know of two other commercially available LRS platforms; Watershed and Wax.  But after a lot of thought, Dave and I decided it was the best way forward.

Learning Locker – For Real This Time

Which brings us to today.  Dave has been plowing through the xAPI specification for the last two months, refactoring our code to bring it up to scratch.  We’ve faced a lot of tough decisions along the way.  One of those was about focus.  We couldn’t bring both the organisation and the individual parts to market at the same time.  We chose to concentrate on the organisational elements first, figuring that if we could get data collection going here first, we will have a nice base of statements to push out to individuals when the time is right.

Of course, we had previously committed to open sourcing our work.  This is an approach we wanted to keep.  As such I’m delighted to announce that Learning Pool LRS will be the first open source, enterprise ready Learning Record Store to make it to the marketplace.  In fact we’re already in place with 4 pilot organisations.

Now the really hard work starts.  Open source isn’t just about giving away code.  It’s about fostering a community that can build on our base and support growth.  That’s why we’ve set out the building blocks of a governance plan and been around the world recruiting the best and the brightest to come help us out.  Today we get to extend that invitation to everyone (I don’t mean to say you’re all the worst and dullest… that didn’t come out right… you know what I mean).

We are completely committed to making learning data work for individuals.  This means ownership as well as services.  It might take us a little longer to get there but now I’m completely confident we’ll arrive at our destination. In anticipation of us launching Learning Pool LRS please sign up to our mailing list.  We’ll use this not only to announce the launch but to keep people up to date with the project on a monthly basis.  Check out our first meetup times and if you are in the area please do come and join us.

This is going to be fun!

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