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What is SCORM? The Ultimate Guide

Sanju Kumari
30 Apr 2024
17 min read
What is SCORM? The Ultimate Guide

In modern education and training, seamless collaboration between eLearning content and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) plays a crucial role. Do you know how this happens?

This interaction usually happens through defined communication methods and data models that SCORM provides. Let’s understand SCORM in detail, see how it facilitates eLearning, and learn about its successor, xAPI. 

What do you mean by SCORM?

SCORM stands for "Sharable Content Object Reference Model." It's a set of technical standards for eLearning software products. These standards are defined by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, a U.S. government program that promotes the development of eLearning standards.

In the eLearning space, SCORM provides:

In simple words, SCORM:

  • Tells programmers how to write code so that eLearning content can "play well" with other eLearning software.
  • Ensures interoperability. This feature allows eLearning content to be shared across different LMSs.
  • Defines how online learning content and LMSs communicate with each other

With AICC, SCORM, and xAPI being the most commonly used technical standards in e-learning, it is important to look at the key components as these standards define how your e-learning courses interact with the learning management system for seamless course tracking.

What are some key components of SCORM?

Let’s have a look at some major components of SCORM that form the backbone of SCORM-compliant eLearning content:

I) SCORM Cloud

  • The SCORM Cloud is a web-based service provided by Rustici Software.
  • This software is designed for:
  • Testing
  • Hosting, and
  • Delivering SCORM content
  • It allows developers to:
  • Upload SCORM packages and
  • Test their compatibility with different LMS

In one of its key benefits, the SCORM Cloud provides a testing environment. Using it, developers can verify that their SCORM-compliant content works as expected before deploying it to their own LMS or sharing it with others. Additionally, the SCORM Cloud offers reporting and analytics features. These features allow users to track learner progress and performance data associated with SCORM content.

II) SCORM File/Files

  • A SCORM file refers to the actual eLearning content
  • This content can include various multimedia elements, such as:
  • Text
  • Images
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Quizzes, and
  • Interactive simulations.

SCORM files are structured according to the guidelines outlined in the SCORM specification. This kind of structuring ensures interoperability and compatibility with different LMS platforms.

III) SCORM Package

  • A SCORM package is a standardized format
  • It is used for packaging and distributing SCORM-compliant eLearning content. 
  • The packaging process involves organizing the SCORM content files into a specific directory structure
  • Once packaged, the SCORM content can be imported into an LMS for delivery to learners. 

Which eLearning tools support SCORM standards?

Several eLearning authoring tools support SCORM standards, such as:

  • Calibr
  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate Storyline
  • Lectora
  • MadCap Flare

These tools generate SCORM-compliant files. These files can be packaged and delivered through an LMS.

Why should you use SCORM-compliant tools and content?

By using SCORM-compliant authoring tools, you can create eLearning content that can be easily shared and used across different LMSs. Let’s see some key benefits:

  • Interoperability
  • SCORM content can be used on any SCORM-compliant LMS without modification.
  • Portability
  • SCORM packages can be easily moved between different platforms.
  • Consistency
  • SCORM ensures a standardized learning experience across different LMSs.
  • Tracking
  • SCORM allows the LMS to track and report on:
  • Learner progress
  • Learner performance
  • Cost reduction
  • SCORM's interoperability reduces the need to develop custom content for each LMS.

Does SCORM address instructional design and pedagogical concerns?

No, SCORM is purely a technical standard. It does not address:

This standard is primarily focused on the technical aspects of delivering eLearning content rather than the educational principles or strategies embedded within that content. Let’s understand better:

SCORM does not define instructional design

Instructional design refers to the process of creating effective and engaging learning experiences. It involves:

  • Determining learning objectives
  • Designing content and learner activities
  • Selecting appropriate instructional strategies

SCORM does not tell:

or

  • What pedagogical approaches should be used? 

The answers to these questions are dependent upon the sole discretion of instructional designers( For further insights into instructional design, explore this valuable resource) and educators. It is up to them to determine how to best present the content within the parameters set by SCORM.

SCORM does not address pedagogical concerns

Pedagogy refers to the theory and practice of teaching. It often includes:

  • Learning theories
  • Teaching methods
  • Assessment strategies
  • Learner engagement

SCORM does not address these pedagogical concerns. It does not prescribe:

What do you mean by SCORM Compliance?

SCORM compliance is a set of technical guidelines, which guide:

  • How eLearning content should be packaged?
  • How should eLearning content communicate with the LMS?
  • How should learners navigate the eLearning content?

These guidelines ensure consistency and compatibility across different eLearning platforms. 

Let’s understand some major benefits of using SCORM-compliant content:

  • Ease of Sharing and Usage

  • When eLearning content is SCORM-compliant, it can be easily shared and used across various SCORM-compliant LMS platforms.
  • There is no need for custom development or reformatting. 
  • This portability simplifies the process of managing eLearning courses across different LMSs.
  • Tracking and Reporting

  • SCORM-compliant content supports tracking and reporting features.
  • This allows LMSs to monitor learners':
  • Progress
  • Interactions, and
  • Performance within the course
  • Standardization
  • SCORM compliance ensures the standardization of eLearning content and systems.
  • This makes it easier for organizations to adopt different eLearning solutions. 
  • Furthermore, it also establishes a common framework for content development and delivery.

Is SCORM compliance a one-size-fits-all concept?

No, there are different levels of SCORM compliance. These levels represent the extent to which an LMS supports the full set of SCORM technical specifications. By understanding these levels, organizations can wisely select eLearning content and LMSs.

Let’s have a look at the three most important levels of SCORM compliance:

  • Level I: SCORM Conformance (Basic)
  • An LMS or content may be described as "SCORM conformant" if it meets the minimum requirements set forth by SCORM standards. 
  • This means that it is capable of basic interoperability with other SCORM-compliant systems.
  • However, being SCORM conformant does not guarantee full compatibility or support for all SCORM features. 
  • It signifies a basic level of compliance with the standard.
  • Level II: SCORM Compliance
  • SCORM compliance goes beyond conformance
  • It indicates a higher level of adherence to SCORM standards.
  • An LMS or content labeled as "SCORM compliant" supports a wider range of SCORM features and functionalities. 
  • It comparatively offers more robust:
  • Tracking
  • Reporting and
  • Sequencing capabilities
  • SCORM-compliant products provide a more comprehensive implementation of SCORM specifications
  • They ensure greater interoperability and reliability.
  • Level III: SCORM Certified (advanced)
  • SCORM certification is the highest level of assurance that a product meets SCORM standards.
  • Products labeled as "SCORM certified" have undergone independent testing
  • They are verified by authorized certification bodies to ensure full compliance with SCORM technical specifications.
  • SCORM-certified products usually have a strong ability to:
  • Reliably and accurately handle SCORM content
  • Track learner progress, and
  • Communicate with other SCORM-compliant systems.

Is SCORM-compliant content reusable?

Yes, SCORM-compliant content is designed with reusability in mind. Thanks to interoperability,  SCORM compliance ensures that eLearning content can interact with different LMSs. Also, SCORM-compliant content can be imported into various SCORM-compliant LMSs without:

  • Facing compatibility issues or
  • Requiring extensive modifications

How does SCORM allow for content repurposing?

SCORM-compliant content can be easily imported into different LMSs. The courses developed in one SCORM-compliant system can be repurposed and reused in other environments. This reusability reduces duplication of effort. Let’s understand this concept better through a hypothetical example:

The scenario

  • A global company, XYZ Corporation, has offices in multiple countries
  • Each office uses different LMSs based on their specific needs
  • The company decides to develop a series of compliance training modules on workplace safety
  • XYZ Corporation engages a team of instructional designers to create training modules using a SCORM-compliant authoring tool.

Deployment in LMS A

  • The compliance training modules are initially deployed in LMS A.
  • This LMS is used by the company's headquarters and several regional offices.
  • Employees access the modules through LMS A's interface

Expansion to LMS B

  • XYZ Corporation has decided to expand its compliance training initiative to include offices in a new region.
  • These offices use LMS B, a different platform than LMS A.
  • Because the compliance training modules are SCORM-compliant, they can be easily exported from LMS A in the form of SCORM packages.
  • The SCORM packages are then imported into LMS B without any compatibility issues.
  • The modules even retain their:
  • Structure
  • Interactivity, and
  • Tracking capabilities

What is xAPI?

xAPI, which stands for Experience API. It was initially called "Tin Can," and was released on April 26th, 2013. xAPI is a specification that enables the tracking and recording of learning experiences in a wide range of contexts, both online and offline. It was developed to address some of the limitations of the SCORM standard for eLearning. Let’s have a look at the detailed comparison between the two. 

xAPI vs. SCORM

xAPI (Experience API) and SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) are both standards used in the eLearning industry. However, they have different capabilities and approaches to track and manage learning experiences. 

Let’s have a look at the comparison of xAPI and SCORM on some broad parameters:

Scope

SCORM

  • SCORM is primarily focused on tracking and delivering eLearning content within a Learning Management System (LMS).
  • It provides a standardized framework for:
  • Packaging
  • Delivering, and
  • Tracking online courses.

xAPI

  • xAPI has a broader scope
  • It is designed to track learning experiences and activities beyond SCORM
  • It can capture data from various sources, including:
  • Online courses
  • Simulations
  • Mobile learning
  • Virtual reality experiences
  • Informal learning, and
  • Offline activities

Data Structure

SCORM

  • SCORM uses a hierarchical structure based on the concept of "objects" (e.g., courses, modules, quizzes) 
  • It tracks predefined interactions and events within these objects.

xAPI

  • xAPI uses a more flexible and granular data structure based on statements. 
  • These statements consist of three parts:
  • Actor
  • Verb
  • Object
  • Using them, xAPI can track a wide range of learning experiences 

Tracking Capabilities

SCORM

  • SCORM provides basic tracking capabilities
  • It focuses more on:
  • Course completions
  • Quiz scores, and
  • Progress within predefined activities
  • It is primarily suited for tracking interactions within SCORM-compliant courses.

xAPI

  • xAPI offers more advanced tracking capabilities
  • It allows for granular tracking of learner interactions and behaviors
  • It can track not only course completions and quiz scores but also specific actions, such as:
  • Clicks
  • Mouse movements
  • Time spent on activities and
  • Performance in simulations.

Interoperability

SCORM

  • SCORM promotes interoperability between eLearning content and LMSs
  • However, it is primarily limited to tracking interactions within SCORM-compliant systems.

xAPI

  • xAPI promotes interoperability between different learning systems and environments beyond traditional eLearning platforms.
  • It allows for the exchange of learning data between various applications and devices, regardless of their underlying technology or architecture.

Offline Tracking

SCORM

  • SCORM is primarily designed for online tracking
  • It has limited capabilities for tracking offline or mobile learning activities.

xAPI

  • xAPI excels in tracking offline learning activities, such as:
  • Mobile learning
  • On-the-job training, and
  • Informal learning experiences
  • It can capture data from various sources and sync it with a Learning Record Store (LRS) when an internet connection is available.

Conclusion

SCORM, or Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a collection of technical guidelines for creating and packaging e-learning solutions. It offers a communication method that allows for seamless collaboration between eLearning content and learning management systems.

While SCORM focuses on tracking and delivering eLearning content within Learning Management Systems (LMSs), its successor xAPI, has a broader scope. It enables the tracking of learning experiences across various contexts, both online and offline. The choice between them depends on the specific requirements and objectives of an organization's e-learning initiatives. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What does SCORM stand for?

SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

2. What is SCORM used for?

SCORM are technical standard used in the eLearning industry. These standards allow for integration and interaction between eLearning content and Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Further, SCORM ensures compatibility and interoperability for seamless delivery and tracking of online courses.

3. What is the difference between LMS and SCORM?

An LMS, or Learning Management System, is a software platform used to deliver and track eLearning courses. SCORM, on the other hand, is a set of technical standards that govern how eLearning content interacts with an LMS. While an LMS provides the infrastructure for hosting and delivering courses, SCORM ensures compatibility and interoperability between the content and the system.

4. What are the different levels of SCORM compliance? 

SCORM compliance has three levels: SCORM Conformance, SCORM Compliance, and SCORM Certification. 

  • SCORM Conformance indicates basic adherence to SCORM standards
  • SCORM Compliance goes beyond SCORM Conformance and signifies a better implementation
  • SCORM Certification is the highest level, indicating full SCORM compliance.

5. Which tools support SCORM?

Several eLearning authoring tools support SCORM standards, such as Calibr Craft, Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Lectora, and Moodle. 

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.