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What Is SCORM, How Does It Work & Why Should You Use It?

What is SCORM

Imagine a situation where you need to create an eLearning program or search for a suitable learning management system (LMS) tool to achieve your training objectives.

You encounter the term “SCORM” and start thinking, “What is SCORM? Why is it important? What does it have to do with online learning?”

First up, don’t worry! You are not alone. Many like you may still be unaware of SCORM or don’t know the meaning of SCORM and what it can do for eLearning.

When it comes to online learning, “SCORM” and “SCORM compliance” are important concepts to understand.

In this post, you’ll get a complete overview of SCORM – what it is, how it works, why you should use it, and a look at SCORM LMSs.

Continue reading to find out.

What Is SCORM?

What Is SCORM

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To start with, let’s define SCORM.

For those of you wondering what the meaning of SCORM is or what SCORM stands for, it’s an acronym for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model”. It’s a set of technical standards developed for supporting eLearning tools, ensuring they play well with each other.

This is significant because top companies use 37 different software tools on an average to run their day-to-day business operations, according to the enterprise software discovery platform Siftery.

It would be difficult without a means to communicate between these tools. It would be akin to a group of people working together towards a common goal but not talking to each other at all. 

SCORM ensures interoperability between such online learning software and saves users from the pain of disconnected systems.

This model determines how eLearning content and a learning management system communicate.

Basically, SCORM covers two things: content packaging and effective data exchange.

While content packaging primarily focuses on delivering a content piece, data exchange or runtime communication specifically deals with how the content ‘communicates’ with an LMS.

SCORM’s vocabulary decides the quality of the interactive experiences communicated to an LMS.

In a nutshell, SCORM is a standard responsible for ensuring that the instructional content links with and appears appropriately within the LMS software when both are SCORM-compliant. 

For this reason, if an LMS vendor claims its software is SCORM-compliant, it means that the LMS supports integration with other SCORM-compliant content-authoring tools used for creating courses.

Watch: What Is SCORM  & How Does SCORM Work?

How Does SCORM Work?

SCORM governs two things: content packaging and runtime data exchange.

Let’s elaborate on it.

Content packaging, also known as the content aggregation model, is how you deliver a piece of content. For this, SCORM uses a file called “imsmanifest”, which contains all the information an LMS requires to import and launch content.

This file also contains XML, which determines the structure of a course from the perspective of learners and a physical file system. It answers questions such as, “What is the name of this content?” and “Which document should be launched?”

On the other hand, runtime data exchange or communication specifies how the content ”talks” to the LMS. It’s made up of two components:

  • First, the content has to “discover” the LMS. Once it finds the LMS, it can then communicate a series of messages, such as “request the learner’s name” and “inform the LMS that the learner scored 85% on this test.”
  • Based on this vocabulary, SCORM communicates rich interactive experiences to an LMS.

How Does SCORM Work

Watch: SCORM in 60 Seconds

What Does SCORM Track?

The benefits you get out of SCORM depend on the version of the SCORM you use. Based on that, it can track a number of activities. Some of the top ones are:

  • Course sequencing
  • Lesson location (where a learner is in a course)
  • Interactions with questions
  • Course completion (lesson status)
  • Suspend data (data on how a learner answered a specific question)
  • Scores
  • Time spent (session time)
  • Pass/fail

What Does SCORM Track

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Watch: How to Analyze Training Course & Quiz Results

Should I Use SCORM?

For many people who are new to the technology, to SCORM or not to SCORM is a big question. 

So, should they go ahead and adopt SCORM? 

Preferably yes.

SCORM is the de facto standard for software interoperability. It can help you in your online learning programs. SCORM compliance can make eLearning seamless. 

You should use it if you want to:

  • use courses that work on multiple platforms
  • offer more interactive experiences to your learners
  • track user data related to courses and tests
  • simplify how you migrate content from one LMS to another

Benefits of Using SCORM

There are many benefits of SCORM API. Anyone engaged in online training or eLearning can benefit from them.

Some of the top ones worth mentioning here are:

  • Content creation and deployment become much easier with SCORM
  • It ensures improved flexibility in selecting and switching tools
  • SCORM’s standard coding protocol facilitates seamless interaction between online content and LMSs
  • You can tailor instructor-based content to the needs of every user without spending money, time, and expensive resources on re-coding
  • SCORM supports a sophisticated delivery mechanism enabling you to reach out to more learners at one time
  • It integrates online learning content with LMSs easily. A simple analogy is a USB port that you use whenever you need to plug in a device to your computer
  • SCORM is the standard specification that all hardware systems are compatible with. This lets companies build products that can exist in an ecosystem
  • SCORM makes it possible for course authoring tools and LMSs to sync and work in close collaboration with each other
  • SCORM is durable and it can withstand technology disruptions without necessarily requiring costly re-design, re-configuration, or re-coding

SCORM Versions

SCORM is available in three versions:

  • SCORM 1.1
  • SCORM 1.2
  • SCORM 2004 (formerly known as 1.3)

Among these variants of SCORM, SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 are the most commonly used.

SCORM 2004 is the latest version and it provides new and improved capabilities, including better reporting and sequencing.

The downside of this version is that only a handful of LMS platforms support it due to its inherent complexity. Unlike this, SCORM 1.2 is the most widely used standard due to its ease of use and simplicity.

To know which SCORM version you should use, first read your LMS compatibility guide and understand your course requirements.

Here’s a brief timeline of the birth and evolution of SCORM over the years:

Evolution of SCORM

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What Is a SCORM-Compliant LMS?

What Is a SCORM-Compliant LMS

A SCORM-compliant LMS or SCORM LMS is a learning management system that conforms to the standards of SCORM.

LMS SCORM compliance brings several benefits to the table.

You can upload a SCORM-compliant course to the LMS and easily import content from any other LMS with SCORM capability. It will work perfectly within that system, letting users access your content.

When you have a SCORM-compatible or SCORM-compliant LMS in place, you’ll be better informed when your course takers have completed the training and the areas where they need to improve.

In-depth information like this becomes relevant when creating content and delivering an engaging learning experience.

Check out these key attributes of a SCORM learning management system to understand it better:

  • Content development requires less time and resources
  • You can easily import SCORM-compliant courses from other SCORM LMSs
  • It supports different authoring tools since the best tools for creating courses are compatible with SCORM
  • You can reuse old eLearning content, upload external content, or transfer courses to a new LMS within minutes
  • You can install a SCORM file on your web portal without installing an LMS and let the unregistered users access content
  • It becomes easy to monetize SCORM courses online. An LMS with SCORM authoring tools and e-commerce support makes your course distribution easy

Checklist for Choosing the Best SCORM-Compliant LMS

After learning a few things about SCORM learning management systems, you must be interested in adopting a SCORM-compliant LMS to meet your online learning needs. And why not? Achieving a seamless teaching and learning experience is everyone’s goal.

To help you land the best SCORM-compliant LMS, here are some points you should keep in mind.

  • Is the LMS Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) certified?

This is to confirm that the LMS meets the requirements of applicable SCORM standards.

  • How long has the LMS been integrated with SCORM?

The longer it is, the more depth and maturity in functions and fewer chances of problems.

  • Which SCORM versions does the LMS support?

An LMS may support all editions of SCORM but works best with a particular edition. For example, the LMS may perform best with SCORM 2004, 4th edition, even though it supports all the previous versions.

  • Are there tools for content version control?

An LMS that supports process automation, reporting & auditing, and integration with a content management system (CMS) is advisable. Such solutions let you centralize content management, simplify updates, and ensure ongoing compliance.

  • Is there any limit to the size of uploaded courses?

Different LMS systems put different upper limits on the files uploaded to their systems. While some support 100-200 MB, some others go up to 1 GB. The size can vary depending on the file type and subscription plan. If possible, it’s better to opt for an LMS that supports large file upload capacity.

  • What data privacy and security systems does the LMS use?

Incidents of hacking, phishing, and data theft are common in the online world. So, knowing what mechanism and security plan the LMS supports is important to deal with such issues. For example, the LMS should support data encryption, IP blocker, data backup, and domain-based registration.

These are some of the specific questions you must ask before choosing a SCORM LMS. Apart from this, you should pose a few general questions related to core LMS features, customer support, and pricing to get the full benefits of SCORM.

Watch: How to Choose the Best SaaS LMS Software

How to Create a SCORM Course

If you’re new to SCORM, you may have additional questions like: What is a SCORM file and how to create a SCORM file?

A SCORM file is a type of file that has been packaged according to the requirements of SCORM standards. You can deploy such files across all SCORM-compliant LMSs.

Let’s now look at some of the best practices for creating SCORM courses.

  • Use an Authoring Tool & SCORM LMS

According to SCORM developer Rustici Software LLC, the best way to create SCORM courses is to use an authoring tool. If you plan to use your courses in an LMS, make sure that the LMS supports SCORM so that the content is compatible with the LMS.

Use an Authoring Tool & SCORM LMS

  • Look for an Integrated LMS

Most of the authoring tools available today come integrated with LMS software. This means there’s no need to purchase a standalone solution to convert presentations to SCORM. Not only that, these tools come with great functionality, so building professional-looking courses is easy.

Look for an Integrated LMS

  • Upload Courses to an Online Learning System

These authoring tools automatically generate the code necessary for interaction with an LMS and turn all the eLearning material into SCORM packages. You just need to upload the course to your online learning system.

To learn how to upload a SCORM course to your LMS, check out this guide.

  • Keep Rustici Driver in Mind

Make sure the authoring tool you choose is based on Rustici Driver to ensure that the content supports SCORM and other standards and can be published according to SCORM standards. Examples include elearning and training tools such as ProProfs Training Maker, which fully supports courses based on Rustici Driver (formerly SCORM Driver).

Watch: How to Create an Online Course

SCORM Adoption Case Study

Who: Leon Medical Centers, Miami’s leading healthcare services provider serving Medicare patients since 1996.

Learning Need: Leon Medical Centers needed an enterprise LMS that supports SCORM standards and lets trainers create their own courses.

The healthcare services provider planned to integrate such a system into its HRIS for ease of data export.

Solution: It found these solutions in ProProfs’ SCORM and TinCan API (xAPI)-compliant LMS. It benefited from its ease of use and flexibility.

Results: The flexibility to create custom content, access to pre-built SCORM or Tin Can content, and a hub for employees to find all the training are some of the benefits Leon Medical Centers could realize from the platform.

The Future of SCORM

The creators of SCORM haven’t updated this eLearning standard in a while. But that doesn’t mean SCORM is dead. It’s still a vital part of the eLearning industry.

SCORM still serves training managers, instructors, and educators worldwide. According to Software Advice, 62% of businesses use SCORM courses for training in their LMS. It, thus, dominates the eLearning market.

It makes online courses more sustainable by enabling them to run on almost any LMS. This means you’ll still need to create SCORM-compliant content. So, it’s too early to throw SCORM out the window.

The only thing we can expect is that it evolves with time, like xAPI and cmi5, to meet the new demands of online learning.

SCORM FAQs

  • What are the pros and cons of using SCORM?

The pros of SCORM include the following: course creators can create content once and share it across multiple platforms. They can switch from one platform to another without losing any content in transit. Learning data tracking and recording capability is another strong point of this standard. The only limitation of SCORM is that it can’t track informal and social learning like online games and discussion forums.

  • What is a SCORM wrapper?

A SCORM wrapper is like a digital table of contents that simplifies how learners navigate a course.  The wrapper also enables an LMS to record learners’ interactions with content for easy reporting and compliance. Users can apply a SCORM wrapper to almost all types of training content and then upload it to an LMS.

  • What are the alternatives to SCORM?

There are two main alternatives to SCORM. One is Tin Can API (a.k.a. Experience API or xAPI). It was developed in 2013. xAPI can track learning experiences in nearly any context. This standard has recently gained some traction, but it’s not as widely used as SCORM. Another alternative is the Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee (AICC). This standard was developed in 1993 for CD-ROM training and further improved in 1998 to include web-based learning. Uploading content to an LMS via AICC takes longer than SCORM. Watch: What Is xAPI? Features and Benefits Explained

Ready for SCORM-Driven Learning?

You should be.

SCORM is now the must-have technical standard for all online learning environments. It’s already more than 20 years old, and has done an excellent job of being a pathbreaking force in the world of eLearning.

Despite gaining fast momentum, xAPI won’t be dethroning SCORM from its position as the preferred technical specification anytime soon. SCORM is still strongly embedded in the eLearning industry, and businesses and instructors will continue to depend on it despite technological advancement.

Now that you know what SCORM is, its benefits, and how to create SCORM courses using a SCORM-compliant LMS, it’s time to capitalize on this technological breakthrough and streamline how you conduct web-based training.

Adopt a SCORM learning management system and easily deliver and track SCORM courses. Such online training software systems enable you to build an eLearning ecosystem and easily import training materials from other SCORM eLearning tools.

Not only that, such platforms come integrated with a Learning Record Store (LRS), making it super easy for you to import course and learner data from these eLearning tools.

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About the author

Michael has more than 10 years of experience in the enterprise software and eLearning industry. He is passionate about online training and exhibits a deep understanding of how organizations can leverage it for success. In his free time, he enjoys power walking, zumba, and reading.