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Get an LRS

What is an LRS again?

The Learning Record Store (LRS) is the heart of any xAPI ecosystem — receiving, storing and returning data about learning experiences, achievements and job performance. You’ll need an LRS in order to do anything with xAPI. Every other tool which sends or retrieves learning activity data will interact with the LRS as the central store.

Read more about what an LRS is.

Buy or build?

It’s a lot of work to build your own LRS. This is because xAPI was designed to make it as easy as possible to develop products that interact with an LRS. As a result, all of the complexity of the specification has been put onto the LRS, much of which is hidden in the details of implementation.

Fortunately, there’s a whole range of commercial and open source LRSs available. There’s really no need for you to build your own. These LRSs come in lots of different flavors, so let’s explore some of the broad categories.

What type of LRS?

Learning Record Store (LRS) products can be categorized into three types. Some products might fulfil more than one role or do a little of everything.

  • Learning Analytics Platforms that pull in learning and performance data from a range of sources to be compared and analyzed to provide actionable insights.
  • OEM LRSs designed to sit behind another product such as an LMS or authoring tool to provide LRS functionality. Less fully featured than a Learning Analytics Platform, as it’s expected that the system it’s integrated in will provide those features. (OEM stands for ‘original equipment manufacturer’. In software terms, that means code that’s integrated inside another product.)
  • Testing and Development LRSs that give detailed debugging information for developers working with xAPI.

In most cases you’ll only need one of these classes of LRS, though you can connect multiple LRSs if you need to.

The table below is a comparison of these types.

Learning Analytics Platform OEM LRS Testing and Development LRS
Powerful reporting and analytics built in Yes No No
Detailed error messages and debugging information No Yes, but specific to the LRS Yes
Designed for production use Yes Yes No
Learner interface May have limited learner facing features No No
Power user (admin, analyst) interface Yes May have a limited interface Yes
Developer interface to directly explore raw LRS data No May have a limited interface Yes
Useful to organizations Yes, to provide actionable insights from training and performance data. Yes, to add LRS functionality to an existing product. If developing in-house.
Useful to activity provider vendors In later stages of development to test compatibility with reports.
Could also be used to prove the value of their product to customers.
If an LRS is required as part of the product. Yes, to test and confirm interoperability.
Useful to LMS vendors Potential to integrate a Learning Analytics Platform into the LMS Yes, to incorporate an LRS in the LMS. Yes, to test and confirm interoperability.

What should I consider when choosing an LRS?

As well as thinking about what type of LRS you need, there are some other factors you should consider when choosing an LRS:

  • Conformance – Does the LRS vendor run the conformance test suite as part of their quality processes for each release? If not, what do they do to ensure conformance?
  • Additional features – What does the LRS offer on top of the roles described above? Will those features add value?
  • User interface and experience – Is the product easy and enjoyable to use?
  • Level of expertise required – Do you need a doctorate in statistics to understand the data or does the product make it simple?
  • Support – What help will you get when you’re getting started, when you have questions, or when things go wrong?
  • Security and reliability – Is your data safe? Is that platform reliable? These are relevant questions for whomever is hosting the product, you or the vendor.
  • In-house technical expertise – What in-house technical expertise is required? Do you have it or can you get it?
  • Cost and pricing model – What are the initial and ongoing financial costs? What initial and ongoing development time is required? If the cost is based on usage, how is that usage measured and what is your usage likely to be?

Be sure to discuss these and any other questions you may have with your LRS vendor; some of the questions might require you to find an answer internally, but your LRS vendor should give you advice on them all.

What LRSs are available?

Once you’ve decided which type of LRS you think you need and put together a list of questions to ask vendors, you should look at some specific products. There are a range of LRSs and products that include LRSs listed on the adopters list.

Rustici Software LRSs

We have a range of LRS products available:

  • Engine is a locally-installed OEM LRS
  • Cloud is a cloud-based testing and development LRS as well as an OEM LRS

Cloud includes a free option with basic functionality which may be sufficient for the needs of your first xAPI project.

Follow the links above to find out more about each of our products. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, please contact us.