Knowing and Doing SCORM

SCORM logoIf you do e-learning, it’s highly likely you also do SCORM. For a very long time (in learning community terms) the Shareable Content Object Reference Model has been the king of how to make e-learning work. It is the most widely adopted method for launching and tracking e-learning programs. Here at JCA Solutions, we built our business off of SCORM.

You may be utilizing it right now and not really be sure exactly what it is. You just know that you were told the program needs to be packaged for SCORM.

To help you along, let’s take a look at some things you need to know about SCORM both past and present. This will give you more of an overhead view of SCORM.

Five SCORM Facts

SCORM is not a Standard

It’s actually a collection of specifications, standards, and guidelines. Many organizations contributed to what goes into it, such as

As a result, pieces of standards and specifications from these groups were used to make SCORM what it is today.

Realistically, if you had to apply a name to it then it would be more appropriate to use specifications in the plural.

SCORM is 17 Years Old

Go back to the mid-1990’s when web-delivered training was becoming popular. One of the biggest consumers was the United States Department of Defense (DoD). They became concerned about their ability to reuse courses, to be able to launch them from anywhere within the network, and reliably track results. The reason for this concern was the number of e-learning developers and Learning Management Systems that were simply doing their own thing. They were creating proprietary standards. The result was that course A may not work with LMS B and even if it worked here it may not work elsewhere.

So the DOD charged an organization called Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) with handling the establishment of a more standardized way for courses and LMS’s to communicate.

SCORM 1.0 was released in January 2000 and was primarily a beta version. The most widely implemented version of SCORM is SCORM 1.2 and was released in October of 2001. The most recent version is SCORM 2004 4th Edition.

The Web is a Must

Most noteworthy is that Web-delivered courses were at the heart of the creation of SCORM, so it makes sense that the Web would be a big part of it. In fact, without the Web, you can’t really have SCORM. The communication between an LMS on a web server and a course launched by the LMS is what makes it work. While you can launch a course without an LMS and without a web server, but you won’t get the communications and most importantly progress tracking for the learner (there are ways around this if need be. Email me for more info).

The Use of SCORM has Nothing to Do With eLearning Quality

What the collection of specifications, standards, and guidelines does is describe communication between the LMS and the course. SCORM was to create shareable content objects that are

  • Reusable
    Meaning Content A can be used in Course B or launched in LMS A as well as LMS Z
  • Accessible
    Content can be searched, discovered, and made available
  • Interoperable
    Able to work in almost any hardware system, operating system, and web browser
  • Durable
    You don’t have to make major changes to work with updates to the run-time systems

What’s NOT in the specifications anywhere is a description of what makes for sound instructional design (or any reference to a Course for that matter). It tells you nothing the best way to teach a concept. Nowhere does it even say how to create effective e-learning content. It is all about the technical side of launching and tracking e-learning.

It’s Not Dead Yet

As technologies and needs have changed, other specifications have come forward. The biggest “challenger” is xAPI, but CMI5 (not really a spec, but close enough)and Common Cartridge are finding their place as well. A lot has been said about the impending “death” of SCORM.

Due to a variety of reasons, SCORM is still the most widely adopted and supported specifications for e-learning and for tracking and reporting on learner progress. While xAPI is growing in popularity, it is still not quite prepared to knock the king down off the hill.

Need more help navigating the world of SCORM. Contact JCA Solutions today to see how we can help at

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