Getting Started With Learning Record Stores — PLUS The Best LRS Of 2021

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Learning Record Stores
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The quickest way to define a Learning Record Store is a “Database of Learning.” It does not presupposes a database language, but it does bring a learning language, namely xAPI, which itself can de understood as the “language of experiences.”

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LRS are the heart of the tracking process of learning using the Experience API or xAPI standard. xAPI allows systems, including Moodle and compatible LMS, to develop guidance for learning content. Unlike SCORM, the (still?) de facto EdTech standard, it covers both content and performance, making it possible to compare learning outcomes.

What is an LRS? What does it do?

Learning Record Stores are a response to the need of placing xAPI-compliant data generated from elearning applications —mainly Learning Management Systems— in a central place. By “xAPI compliant,” it means . Since xAPI is platform agnostic, an LRS can be thought of independently from the LMS, which does not prevent vendor from bundling them. For learning organizations with an overarching LMS solution, it might make sense to keep LRS and LMS together. There are trade-offs between taking advantage of an independent LRS focused on capturing learning evidence and becoming a repository from several different sources; and the seeming increased security and ease of use from having a bundled LRS-LMS from a single provider. In reality, modern-featured LMS are designed to protect data ownership and comply to privacy and security, which means the concept of “LRS independence” is fairly well established along IT organizational strategies with no effect on performance, behavior tracking, or evidence-based learning considerations.

In sum, LRS can work with both open and proprietary LMS, or with no LMS at all. This opens up new ways of thinking about learning,  mainly the idea that valuable experiences can happen outside the LMS and yet provide reliable evidence on student evidence and performance.

Case in point, video games. They are often associated with a broad set of skills, from motor development and visual contrast sensitivity, to attention and memory, even as a depression-fighting measure. Connecting them to an LRS would put these claims to the test. If the evidence stands strong, then LRS are the starting point towards considering —xAPI compliant— games as active and unashamed parts of learning plans and experiences. LRS could also be helpful to provide comparative feedback about LMS or other tools and activities.

LRS: A Model Kit

A challenging aspect of setting up an LRS is the development of the xAPI layer, listing each “xAPI statement” about student behavior that an organization would like to track. xAPI lets researchers and managers develop statements as varied and detailed as they want, making it easy for a project to quickly grow in data volume and complexity, and at the risk of losing sight of the original goal. This potential toll, which appears to be the main reason for the low rates of xAPI adoption, can be avoided by starting with an existing reference, among which probably the best choice is ADL‘s. Additional definitions can be added on top, although ADL is very comprehensive. At this time, the real challenge is the limited xAPI compliance among LMS and elearning apps out there.

In any case, a best-case solution would include these key elements:

  • A set of learning interventions or activities, which may or may not be bundled partially or completely into an LMS
  • A set of goals and learning outcomes associated with them, such as Competencies and Learning Plans. Most modern featured LMS support Competency-Based Learning (CBE or CBL).
  • A layer of xAPI statements.
  • An LRS. (Keep reading for an LRS popularity ranking.) You could also build your own.
  • A Learning Analytics System, Platform, or Dashboard, specialized in drawing insights from the data stored in the LRS. Most LMS, including Moodle, offer several Analytics solutions varying on width, depth, and price. Some LRS already feature them, and there are also external Analytics tools that plug into the systems.
  • In some cases, a final link is an xAPI “bridge” that takes care of converting data into xAPI statements as well as the data transmission to the LRS.

You also need to make sure they all work with a compatible xAPI specification. The latest version is xAPI 1.0.3, last updated in 2017.

Most popular LRS in 2021 according to Ahrefs Rank

Digital marketing support data platform Ahrefs gives virtually every website on existence a position in a rank that reflects their relative popularity online, according primarily to search engines.

LRS or SystemMonthly VisitsBacklinksKeywordsAhrefs Rank1
1=ProProfs1.1M4.8M966K10,255
2+2Valamis86K30K45K178,190
3-1Learning Locker by LearningPool14K74K12K74,974
4=Watershed1,7246.2K3.8K543,849
5-1GrassBlade by Next Software Solutions27110.7K1K460,249
6+5Eurekos LMS2691.7K4.5K2,349,028
7+2Storepoints by Riptide Solutions1712.7K2572,367,934
8+1Agylia LMS1463.7K8781,134,980
9-2Yet Analytics983.8K740803,100
10+3Nifty Learning TMS234925306,096,478
11+1Veracity Learning172.2K5206,391,116
12-5Mzinga134.3>101,454,665
13-2edTotal54617010,360,590
Updated on 9/16. Sorted by traffic (Monthly Visits). Change year-to-year. Products listed are LRS alone unless ‘LMS’ or ‘TMS’ included, in which case it’s a System with LRS features. 1. A lower rank is better.

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