cmi5 vs xapi vs scorm

CMI5 is Not Just Another Pretty Specification

As you have dove into the world of e-learning specifications, standards and models, you may have heard CMI5 being mentioned occasionally. Some may have called it a new specification or a new model.

In truth, CMI5, as it exists today, is not really any of those things. What it is primarily intended for now is to provide a set of “rules” that makes it easier for xAPI to work with a course delivered by an LMS. But it’s easy to see how all the confusion over CMI5 came about.

Doing One Better Than SCORM

The CMI5 Project was originally started by the AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee). They developed the AICC standard which preceded SCORM; in fact, SCORM has a heavy reliance on standards and specifications created by AICC.

Both AICC and SCORM had (and has) some issues and limitations that CMI5 was created to overcome. It was to have more features and be more potent than either AICC or SCORM. CMI5 was supposed to be “The SCORM Killer“.

xAPI Competition

When they were finally nearing completion in 2012, about the same time that ADL was completing xAPI. We talked about xAPI before. It was anticipated that there may be a battle of the specifications, much like the Betamax vs VHS from the 1970’s and the Blu Ray vs HD DVD of 2006-2008. Everyone saw where the two overlapped. Eventually, AICC and ADL got together and decided that since xAPI had a broader application that CMI5 would evolve to support it. A few years after that, AICC was dissolved and the CMI5 project was handed over to ADL.

What Does CMI5 Do?

The CMI5 Project from the very beginning was intended to provide five things:

1. Simplification of Data Tracking

The data models for both AICC and SCORM had a lot of optional elements that quite frankly virtually none of us have ever used. All of those options made for a very complicated data structure. CMI5 sought to pare that down to just the basic data that most of us use; like course status, scoring, time, and so forth.

2. Support for Content Defined Data

At the same time, they didn’t want us to be restricted to just that very basic data. In fact, they wanted to provide more flexibility in what data we wanted to store. Being able to store data from the content gives greater latitude to store unique information in the LMS and retrieve it later.

3. Support for Cross-Domain Content

One of the huge limitations of SCORM was that learning content had to be stored in the same domain as the LMS. While there were some ways around that discovered over time, it was generally very restrictive. CMI5 would allow for content to be stored on other domains, supporting concepts like Content As A Service (CaaS) models.

4. Browser Independent Delivery

Another intent was to rid us of the SCORM limitation of everything having to be launched through a web browser. CMI5 would provide for content to be device, operating system, and browser independent.

5. Data Sharing Between Learning Activities

A challenge for many learning developers is how do we make useful information available to multiple learners who are taking the same course; like knowledge sharing comments and notes. CMI5 proposed to do just that.

CMI5 Reinvented (Somewhat)

CMI5 LogoLooking at those five objectives if you are familiar with xAPI you may recognize that at least some of those things are covered by xAPI. So it makes sense that one of them had to give way to the other.

xAPI won out.

But that doesn’t make CMI5 obsolete. Far from it! CMI5 was instead repurposed to provide some of the things that SCORM does that xAPI doesn’t and do it more simply. In particular, CMI5 allows for interoperability between an LMS and a Learning Record Store (LRS) by providing for the following:

  • Content Launch
  • Authentication
  • Session Management
  • Reporting
  • Course Structure

Therefore what CMI5 has become is not the next SCORM per se nor is it a model. It has become what most are calling a “profile” for ways to implement xAPI into both our current e-learning communities and in communities to come. Part of the hope of CMI5 is that it will inspire others to develop different profiles. While xAPI is wide open, CMI5 sets rules for more specific application.

If you are using SCORM with your LMS now and want to make the jump to xAPI going forward, look at CMI5 as a way to make that transition.

Want to know more about CMI5 or are seeking a way to implement it? Contact JCA Solutions at or call 800-305-8159.


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