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AICC vs SCORM: Understanding the key differences

Sanju Kumari
25 Apr 2024
19 min read
AICC vs SCORM: Understanding the key differences

Do you know how eLearning courses interact with their LMSs? Thanks to some established technical standards or guidelines, which have contributed tremendously to the development of the eLearning world.  

AICC, SCORM, and xAPI are some of the most commonly used technical standards in e-learning. They define how e-learning courses interact with LMSs to facilitate course tracking. Let’s understand these standards in detail, see how they facilitate communication between eLearning content and an LMS, and learn some key differences between them. Let's get started. 

What is AICC?

AICC stands for "Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee". It was developed in the early 1990s primarily for the aerospace industry. AICC is an organization that develops guidelines for the development of training programs in the aviation industry. However, its principles and standards have since become fundamental in the broader field of eLearning.

The AICC standard defines how online learning content and Learning Management Systems (LMS) should communicate with each other. 

What are the various components of AICC?

The AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) standard consists of several components that govern:

  • The structure of courses and
  • The exchange of data between:
  • eLearning content and
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Let us study its two key components:

Component I: Course Structure

AICC-compliant courses typically have a hierarchical structure, which consists of:

  • Lessons
  • Topics, and Subtopics

This structure organizes the content in a logical sequence and makes it easier for learners to understand the course. Courses include navigation controls such as:

  • Menus
  • Buttons, and
  • Links

These navigation controls help facilitate learner interaction and movement between different sections of the course.

Furthermore,

  • AICC specifies how course content should be packaged for delivery. This commonly includes guidelines for organizing:
  • Multimedia elements
  • Assessments, and
  • Other learning resources within the course structure.
  • AICC-compliant courses often include:
  • Assessments
  • Quizzes, or
  • Tests
  • These help in evaluating learner comprehension and progress.
  • AICC standard defines:
  • How these assessment components should be structured? and
  • How can they be integrated into the course?

Component II: Data Exchange

AICC defines a communication protocol, which:

  • Allows eLearning content to communicate with the LMS
  • Guides how data (such as learner progress, assessment results, and completion status) should be transmitted between:
  • The content and
  • The LMS.

AICC also specifies a data model. It defines the structure and format of data exchanged between the content and the LMS. This often includes standardized data elements and fields for 

  • Tracking learner activity
  • Storing assessment results, and
  • Recording other relevant information

Lastly, the standard outlines methods for transferring data between the content and the LMS, such as:

  • HTTP communication or
  • Other network protocols

These methods ensure secure and reliable data exchange between the two systems.

What is the primary feature of AICC?

At its core, AICC serves as an interoperability standard. In the context of eLearning, interoperability means:

  • The ability of educational content (such as online courses, modules, or assessments) to work seamlessly with different Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Content developed using the AICC standard can be deployed and managed across various LMS platforms without compatibility issues.

Let’s understand this concept of interoperability better using a hypothetical example:

Say you're an organization that develops eLearning courses for employee training. You've created a series of online courses using a specific authoring tool, which follows the AICC standard for packaging and communication.

Now, your organization wants to deploy these courses across different departments. Each of these departments uses a different Learning Management System (LMS) to manage and deliver training.

  • Department A uses LMS X
  • Department B uses LMS Y, and
  • Department C uses LMS Z

Thanks to the interoperability provided by the AICC standard, you can seamlessly deploy your eLearning courses across all three LMS platforms without encountering compatibility issues. 

Let’s see how it happens:

  • Packaging Content

  • Your eLearning courses are packaged according to the AICC standard.
  • This type of packaging ensures that they are structured and organized in a consistent format.
  • This format can be understood by any AICC-compliant LMS.
  • Communication Protocol
  • The AICC standard defines a communication protocol that allows your courses to interact with the LMS. 
  • This protocol ensures that data can be:
  • Accurately tracked and
  • Recorded by the LMS
  • There are no interruptions caused by any specific kind of platform being used.
  • Deployment Across LMS Platforms
  • You upload your AICC-compliant eLearning courses to each department's respective LMS (X, Y, and Z). 
  • Since all three LMS platforms support the AICC standard, they can recognize and interpret the packaged content correctly.
  • Consistent User Experience

  • Employees across all departments can access the same eLearning courses through their respective LMS platforms
  • They can browse the courses, complete assessments, and track their progress just as they would in any other eLearning environment.
  • Centralized Tracking and Management
  • As learners interact with the courses, their progress and performance data are:
  • Captured by the LMS and
  • Stored centrally
  • This allows administrators to:
  • Monitor learner activity
  • Generate reports, and
  • Assess the effectiveness of the training program across all departments, regardless of the LMS used.

Which eLearning platforms support AICC?

Some examples of eLearning platforms that support AICC include:

  • Docebo
  • This platform supports AICC standards
  • It also offers modern alternatives for online learning experiences
  • Lectora
  • Lectora is compliant with both SCORM and AICC.
  • It allows users to create graded eLearning content
  • isEazy
  • This authoring tool enables the creation of dynamic and accessible eLearning courses
  • All its courses are compatible with AICC standards.

What is SCORM?

AICC was initially developed for the aerospace industry. However, it found broader application in eLearning due to its

  • Security
  • Flexibility, and
  • Robust communication protocols

But, as technology has advanced, newer standards like SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) have emerged. They offer additional features and improvements over AICC. Let’s understand what SCORM is.

SCORM is a comprehensive set of technical standards. These are designed specifically for eLearning products. Their primary purpose is to perform seamless communication and interaction between:

Let’s understand some key components and functions of SCORM

Component I: Packaging Content

SCORM dictates how eLearning content should be structured and packaged for delivery. This includes:

  • Specifying the format and
  • Organization of files containing the learning materials

Essentially, SCORM ensures that eLearning content is properly packaged. This kind of proper packaging ensures that an LMS can:

  • Easily launch the content
  • Interpret it, and
  • Track it

Component II: Run-Time Communication

SCORM defines the communication protocol between the learning content and the LMS during runtime. It guides how data is exchanged between the two entities, such as:

  • Tracking learner progress
  • Recording assessment results, and
  • Reporting back to the LMS

This robust communication mechanism leads to a seamless flow of information between the content and the LMS.

Component III: Pedagogical Neutrality

It's important to note that SCORM is agnostic to pedagogical concerns. In other words,

  • SCORM focuses purely on the technical aspects of eLearning interoperability.
  • It does not focus on prescribing:
  • Specific instructional methods or
  • Content design principles

This kind of pedagogical neutrality ensures that SCORM-compliant content can work effectively with any SCORM-compliant LMS.

Component IV: Versioning

SCORM has evolved over time. There have been multiple versions released to address evolving needs and technological advancements. Some popular examples are:

  • SCORM 1.2
  • SCORM 2004

Organizations often choose the SCORM version that:

  • Best aligns with their requirements or
  • Supports the content they need to deliver.

Component V: ADL and Rustici Software

The development and maintenance of SCORM are overseen by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative. This initiative is sponsored by the United States Department of Defense (DoD). 

Additionally, companies like Rustici Software specialize in assisting organizations in achieving SCORM compliance. These companies ensure that the eLearning products adhere to the SCORM standards.

Which eLearning platforms support SCORM?

Many eLearning platforms support SCORM. Some popular names include:

  • Calibr.ai
  • Adobe Learning Manager
  • TalentLMS
  • Docebo
  • Absorb LMS
  • eFront
  • GyrusAim
  • Academy Of Mine
  • 360Learning

AICC vs. SCORM

Both AICC and SCORM serve similar purposes. They help in standardizing e-learning content interoperability. However, they differ in their:

  • Technical specifications
  • Compatibility
  • Flexibility, and
  • Industry adoption

Let's compare AICC and SCORM across various aspects:

Packaging and Delivery

AICC

  • AICC specifies guidelines for packaging e-learning content
  • It uses a file-based approach
  • Courses are often packaged as a single file containing all necessary resources

SCORM

  • SCORM also provides standards for packaging content, but it uses a modern approach. 
  • It organizes content into smaller, reusable components known as "SCOs" (Sharable Content Objects),.
  • These SCOs can be aggregated and delivered as a course.

Data Exchange Formats

AICC

  • AICC defines a specific data exchange format.
  • It states a communication protocol for transferring data between e-learning content and the LMS.

SCORM

  • SCORM specifies its own data exchange formats
  • These formats include the structure of data models and communication protocols. 
  • SCORM uses a more standardized approach to data exchange compared to AICC.

Run-Time Environment

AICC

  • AICC does not provide a detailed specification for the run-time environment
  • It primarily focuses on:
  • Data exchange and
  • Communication protocols

SCORM

  • SCORM includes specifications for the run-time environment
  • It defines how content should behave and interact with the LMS during execution. 
  • This majorly includes controlling the flow of the course by sequencing and navigation controls.

Compatibility Differences

AICC

  • AICC has been widely adopted in the aviation industry and other sectors
  • However, it still has limited compatibility with newer e-learning systems and technologies

SCORM

  • SCORM is the most widely used e-learning standard
  • It is supported by a majority of:
  • LMS platforms and
  • Authoring tools
  • It offers better compatibility with modern e-learning environments.

Flexibility and Adaptability

AICC

  • AICC offers less flexibility compared to SCORM
  • That’s because of its older design and lack of updates
  • It is less adaptable to new technologies and learning approaches.

SCORM

  • SCORM is designed to be more flexible and adaptable
  • It supports modular content and has custom data structures
  • It is based on the latest learning technologies and can accommodate a wider range of:
  • Instructional design strategies and
  • Content types

Adoption and Industry Standards

AICC

  • AICC has a long history of adoption in specific industries, particularly aviation and defense. 
  • However, its use has declined over time
  • Now, it is not as widely supported as SCORM.

SCORM

  • SCORM is the de facto standard for e-learning content interoperability
  • It has been widely adopted across various industries and sectors

What is xAPI (Experience API)?

xAPI stands for Experience API. It is an e-learning specification. Also known as Tin Can API, xAPI was developed to address the limitations of SCORM, particularly in tracking learning experiences beyond the boundaries of traditional e-learning courses.

Let’s study some key aspects of xAPI:

  • Comprehensive Data Tracking

  • xAPI enables the collection and tracking of a wide range of learning experiences, both online and offline. 
  • It allows organizations to capture data not only from traditional e-learning courses but also from various learning activities such as:
  • Simulations
  • Mobile learning
  • Virtual reality experiences
  • Social learning interactions, and
  • Real-world experiences.
  • Distributed Learning Ecosystems
  • xAPI supports distributed learning ecosystems
  • It allows data to be collected from multiple sources, such as:
  • Websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Learning games, and
  • Even physical interactions
  • All this collected data is then stored in a centralized Learning Record Store (LRS).
  • Flexible Data Model
  • xAPI employs a flexible data model based on "statements".
  • These statements describe learning activities in a structured format
  • These statements consist of three main components:
  • Actor
  • Verb, and
  • Object
  • Actors represent the learners or users
  • Verbs denote the actions performed (e.g., completed, watched, answered)
  • Objects specify the targets of the actions (e.g., courses, modules, resources).
  • Real-Time Tracking and Analysis

  • xAPI enables real-time tracking and analysis of learning activities
  • It provides organizations with immediate insights into:
  • Learner behavior
  • Preferences, and
  • Performance
  • This data can be used to personalize learning experiences and measure the effectiveness of training programs
  • Interoperability and Extensibility
  • xAPI is designed to be highly interoperable and extensible
  • These features allow for integration with a wide range of learning technologies and systems
  • It can complement existing standards like SCORM
  • Also, it can be used independently to track learning experiences

How did xAPI overcome the shortcomings of SCORM?

xAPI, or Experience API, addressed several limitations of SCORM. Let’s understand how:

xAPI Tracks Beyond E-Learning Courses

SCORM was primarily designed to track activities within traditional e-learning courses accessed through Learning Management Systems (LMS). However, xAPI expands tracking capabilities beyond these boundaries. It allows organizations to capture data from a wide range of learning experiences, such as:

  • Simulations
  • Mobile learning
  • Virtual reality
  • Social learning interactions, and
  • Real-world experiences

xAPI has a Flexible Data Model

While SCORM uses a fixed data model based on completion status and scores, xAPI employs a flexible data model based on "statements." This flexibility allows organizations to capture a wide range of learning interactions and events, such as:

  • Watching a video
  • Completing a task, or
  • Attending a workshop

xAPI has Wider Interoperability and Extensibility

SCORM has limited interoperability with non-SCORM-compliant systems. However, xAPI is designed to be highly interoperable and extensible. It can:

  • Complement existing standards like SCORM or
  • Be used independently to track learning experiences

Conclusion

Both AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) and SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) offer standards for e-learning content interoperability. AICC was developed in the 1990s for the aviation industry. Gradually, it became fundamental and was adopted in the broader field of eLearning. However, due to its several shortcomings, a newer and better technology started gaining prominence known as SCORM. 

AICC emphasizes hierarchical course structures and specific data exchange formats. It ensures compatibility and communication between content and Learning Management Systems (LMS). 

SCORM, on the other hand, offers modular packaging, detailed run-time communication protocols, and pedagogical neutrality.

Further technological advancements led to the development of xAPI, or Experience API. It is again a better and improved protocol representing a significant advancement over SCORM. xAPI enables comprehensive tracking of learning experiences beyond traditional courses. It has a flexible data model and wider interoperability. 

In essence, while AICC and SCORM remain relevant in certain contexts, xAPI offers a more modern and inclusive approach to tracking learning experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the difference between AICC and SCORM eLearning standards?

AICC and SCORM are both eLearning standards. They allow eLearning courses and LMSs to communicate with each other. One primary difference between them is that SCORM uses JavaScript to communicate with the LMS, whereas AICC uses HTTP messages to communicate with the LMS. Furthermore, SCORM is more widely used and easier to use, while AICC provides better data security and is more secure. However, it must be noted that AICC is an outdated standard and is losing support from authoring tools.

2. How is xAPI better than SCORM?

xAPI is better than SCORM in several ways. It can track a wider variety of learning experiences, both online and offline and across different platforms. Further, xAPI is designed to capture, collect, and track a wide range of advanced learning experiences compared to traditional LMS export formats. These features make it more comprehensive than SCORM.

3. Which LMS platforms support xAPI?

Popular LMS platforms that support xAPI are:

  • Litmos
  • Tappestry
  • MapDeck
  • MediaTechnics
  • OnPoint Digital
  • Agylia
  • CYPHER LEARNING, and many more.

4. How to Check if My LMS Platform Supports xAPI?

To check if your LMS platform supports xAPI, you can follow these steps:

  • Check if the LMS platform has a feature or option to upload and launch xAPI courses.
  • Look for a Learning Record Store (LRS) in the LMS platform
  • It is necessary to receive and store xAPI statements issued by xAPI content.
  • Check if the LMS platform supports cmi5, which is the preferred way to package and launch xAPI content
  • Look for integration options with third-party software like Rustici Engine or SCORM Cloud.
Sanju Kumari

Sanju has a wealth of experience and expertise in instructional design, bringing innovative ideas and a fresh perspective to e-learning content development. She is passionate about merging technology and creativity for dynamic e-learning. Her passion for creating engaging and effective learning experiences aligns perfectly with Calibr's commitment to excellence. She also enjoys writing about e-learning trends in the corporate world.