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Elearning tips: What is SCORM?

What is SCORM?

SCORM is an elearning standard, or rather a set of instructions that is attached to elearning content.

These instructions allow you to deliver the elearning content via a Learning Management System (LMS) to learners and track their results and how they interact with the content.

Officially, SCORM stands for the Shareable Content Object Reference Model. This is a mouthful, which is why most people just call it SCORM and forget about what it’s actually short for.

Should I use SCORM to deliver my online course?

You don't have to use SCORM to deliver elearning content. Online learning content can be shared in many ways with your learners: e.g. via your organisation's website, through videos on YouTube or by copying digital learning resources to a DVD or USB device.

You should consider using SCORM, however, if you want to:

  • Upload your course to a learning management system (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle or Janison;
  • Track your learner's results or progress; and/or
  • Ensure your elearning content will work on a number of systems (e.g. if you want to change LMS vendors in the future).

How to create SCORM-compliant elearning content

Rapid authoring tools, such as Storyline or Captivate, make it very easy to publish elearning courses as a SCORM-compliant packages. This is typically done through a 'Publish' screen or command. Check the website or forums of the software you are using for specific instructions.

There are a number of different SCORM releases (e.g. SCORM 2.1, SCORM 2004) and you'll be asked to select which version you want to use when publishing your elearning course. Check with your organisation's IT staff to identify which SCORM version best suits your LMS.

SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is LMS independent, self contained and can track student results.How SCORM works

An elearning course typically contains pages or screens, and chapters, topics or modules etc. (the words used for these divisions vary between training organisations).

SCORM converts these divisions into objects, called Shareable Content Objects (or SCOs). For example, if a course is broken down into chapters, then SCORM will treat these chapters as SCOs. SCOs are then collated and packaged as a SCORM-compiant course, ready to be uploaded into the LMS.

Once it's been uploaded, the SCORM-compliant course tracks the learner's progress by sending and recieving data from the LMS. For example, when the learner logs in to the course, the course will ‘get’ data (such as the person's name) and ‘send’ data (such as their quiz score) to the LMS. 

The history of SCORM

During the 1990s the US government began developing online training across its departments. Intially each department developed their own courses and designed and developed their own systems. There was no interoperability, i.e. one department's online course would not necessarily work in another department's system.

This amounted to an enormous duplication of effort and wasted resources, which led the US government to task a research group called the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL) to set up a set of standards to improve interoperability. Thus the SCORM standard was born.

Different SCORM versions

Since its humble beginnings ADL has released a number of versions of the SCORM standard:

  • SCORM 1.1 (January 2001): The first real implementation on SCORM that was built on existing standards such as AICC and IMS. This version is no longer widely used.
  • SCORM 1.2* (October 2001): Builds on the previous version by adding metadata to tag content objects. This version is still widely used and most elearning software will support this version.
  • SCORM 2004 (January 2004): Includes new API standards and learning objectives.
  • SCORM 2004 4th edition* (March 2009): Improves interoperability and support for sequenced content. This version is widely used and most elearning software will support this version.

* These versions of SCORM are most widely used. Most elearning software will support these versions. Check with your organisation's LMS support staff to identify the SCORM version that best suits your system.

The future of SCORM

SCORM has its limitations: the largest being its constraint to tracking only course-oriented components of learning, such as quizzes, lessons or tests. How people learn, however is becoming increasingly informal, social and mobile.

That's why SCORM has developed into a new standard called xAPI or Experience API. This new standard aims to capture what learners are doing on their computers outside their formal learning environment, e.g. social media or games.