Answering Yes With An Offline And Mobile SCORM Solution

Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter

Have you ever tried to make your SCORM courses work as mobile learning?


Uh-huh, and how’d that go for you?


There’s still a rumor going around that SCORM doesn’t work at all on mobile devices. Like the often debunked myth of learning styles, it’s simply not true. All that’s needed for SCORM to work is an internet connection and a browser with JavaScript enabled. Still, sometimes people like to say mobile is impossible so they don’t have to deal with the resulting issues.


Because there are issues. Perhaps they are best expressed with a bit of sarcasm?


If you’ve not yet experienced the joy that is testing online courses on various mobile browsers/platforms, or the even greater delight of supporting courses launched on these devices without full end-to-end testing, I’m sure you can only imagine the kind of happiness it brings. And no doubt your organization has some sort of policy or at least informal directive to make all learning work on our now ubiquitous mobile devices, so the thrill is coming soon to a course near you!


Thank you. Ahem.


Since iOS and Android first came on the scene a decade ago, many Instructional Designers like myself have done our best to quietly sidestep and postpone this complication to our workflow. We want to be able to make cool stuff, hit publish, and have it just work whatever browser & platform are involved. Our job ends at the LMS, right? There’s an argument to be made that it should, but the daily reality begs to differ.


Harsh realities include:

  1. Depending on your specific LMS, mobile devices might not open our courses at all. Remember that SCORM is rather loose as a standard, and even the most modern version of it predates the existence of smartphones by a few years.
  2. Connections on mobile devices simply aren’t as reliable as on more stationary computers. A momentary hiccup of “offline” and the learner experience may not be recoverable. A constant internet connection is assumed and thus generally required for SCORM stability.
  3. Depending on the design & delivery of the content within the course, mobile users may not be able to see or interact with it. For instance, some screen captures and popups are just too small to be seen on a phone. Or for another example, take Flash…please!

I’ve spent countless long days into the wee hours testing and debugging courses across desktop PC, Chromebook, and iPad. The best way I’d found was to have each of these devices open to the same content at once, logged in as a different user on each device, and work in parallel across them as fast as possible, toggling the internet on and off and then logging issues and suggested remedies on a fourth device. Some problems are fixable, some aren’t.


My world would have been SO much better had the Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter existed then. It’s hard to imagine not using it today.


Rather than trying to test across mobile web browsers & platforms, and wrestling with the cascade of errors when constant connectivity can’t be maintained, you can now roll your own app and use this new tool to manage the delivery.

What is Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter?

The Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter is similar to JCA Solutions Simple SCORM LMS Adapter (SSLA) in that it serves as a middle layer between your LMS and end-user. This opens up new possibilities for more robust answers to the age-old problems with SCORM. Both basically collect all the SCORM 1.2 and 2004 interaction data and then feed it to your LMS in a more palatable form. The Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter provides a much-needed way of doing this with your iOS & Android mobile apps.


To say you have a basic mobile delivery solution, you’ll need your LMS to get access to the bare minimum of the Learner’s course data: score, completion status, and how much time they spent. To say you have a true solution, you’d have this info not just at the course level, but down to the lesson and question detail level, with bookmarking so Learners can leave a course and return to where they left off.


With the Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter, all of this is absolutely possible. When deployed as part of your own in-house mobile app, no matter how poorly your LMS works (or doesn’t) on mobile, it works now. So our “mobile-friendly” problem #1 above is swiftly solved.


Then there’s the more pesky problem #2, connectivity outages. The Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter solves this by enabling SCORM to work offline.


Offline SCORM? Yes, it can be done. Once the authentication is granted to download a SCORM package from the LMS, the course can be downloaded and unzipped onto a phone or other mobile device. Then when the Learner launches the course from that device, the course plays for them locally whether they’re online or not.  Because all Learner data stays on their own iOS/Android device, it doesn’t matter if they have reliable internet connectivity. The data just quietly and securely stays there until your app triggers it to sync back to the LMS.


What’s going on behind the scenes is that the Mobile SCORM Adapter acts like any offline-enabled app. It provides a mobile web server and a local data cache for storing user data. This is handled via an iOS-specific library, and an Android-specific one, so you can decide to deploy on either platform, or both. As someone who has developed apps in the past, I can say that whenever we can manage to avoid diving into the code and maintaining independent libraries like this, it’s a beautiful thing!


While the Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter is fairly miraculous, it can’t solve all our problems. When we have a bad design, then only a good design can fix it. If our course has interactions that a small screen can’t render well, or a multi-touch surface won’t quite do what a mouse does, or the course has been published with Flash, some redesigning and republishing is inevitable. Someone still has to test for the learner experience or it’s your Learners themselves who will do the testing, which is always less preferred. What the Simple SCORM Mobile Adapter does is eliminate the most technical, boring, and persistently annoying and debilitating SCORM questions. That way developer efforts can zero in on problem #3: building a design that works well for all.


If you’re interested in such a solution or are just curious to explore the nuts & bolts of how it all works, reach out to the fine folks at JCA Solutions. They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, and happy to help you understand and implement such things at your organization. Every purchase comes with complimentary support, so you won’t be left on your own and not knowing what to do next. They’ll help you connect the dots and make sure your team and your learners are well taken care of.


Finally, we can give an unequivocal “yes” to delivering eLearning courses on mobile devices! Here’s to looking better in front of management and our learners who never understood why this has been so hard to do. Thanks to JCA Solutions, putting SCORM on a mobile device that sometimes falls offline isn’t so hard at all.


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