What is SCORM?

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW SCORM is probably the single most important part of learning management system hosted e-Learning and yet nobody really knows what it is. This blog is aimed to help you understand what SCORM is and what the future holds for SCORM.

It would be wrong of me to say that people ask me what SCORM is every day; in fact, I don’t think anybody ever asks me what SCORM is. People usually say SCORM at me with a puzzled look on their face, sometimes they just want to know if they are saying it right, but others actually want to know what it is. So I thought a blog would be a good place to start.

So, what is SCORM?

Let’s start with the easy bit- SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that really helps anybody.

To translate, SCORM is a collection of standards and specifications that records “e-learning data” usually using a server side script like PHP and a database. The data can include test results, elapsed time, successful interactions and more. This data is usually sent to your Learning Management System (LMS) where you can review it in nicely organised tables.

The most commonly tracked SCORM criteria are completion and test results. The reason for this is you want to know who completed the course and how well they scored, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The great thing about SCORM is it can give you detailed breakdowns of your e-Learning course. This includes what buttons people are pressing, exactly which questions they are getting wrong and pretty much anything that is inside your SCORM package. From these breakdowns you can analyse your course and determine which sections are working well. This means when the time comes to update your course you know which sections need the most attention.

Why make your E-learning SCORM compliant?

SCORM is the industry standard. Making a SCORM compliant e-Learning system means you can run the system on any SCORM compliant LMS. The analogy used on the SCORM website is that of DVD standards. Personally I think this isn’t a great analogy, this is because I got burned when I pre-ordered some DVDs from America, only to find out that I couldn’t watch it on my DVD player at home… but that story is not for here.

The analogy I prefer to use is a USB. If you think about it, whatever device you are using, in whichever country you can always use a USB port. This is because USB ports are ‘Universal’ across all devices. SCORM is the same, creating a SCORM compliant course is like plugging in a dew USB device to your PC. Any SCORM compliant LMS should pick up the required information from your course. This means your content will work on any LMS from any country, unlike my DVD box set.

This plug-and-play functionality that SCORM brings to the e-Learning party means that content can be delivered quickly and painlessly. It can be as simple as uploading a .ZIP file to your LMS (in theory). This means that your course can be up and running within hours of creation with test results automatically being saved against a learners ID for you.

Versions and rivals

At the moment SCORM 1.2 is the most widely used version of the standard, it was first released in 2001. Although SCORM 2004 (editions 1-4) does exist their uptake has been slow and most LMS still use SCORM 1.2. The main reason for SCORM 2004 slow uptake is that they moved away from the simple premise, although it does solve some of the SCORM 1.2 shortcomings re-metadata and it has a much more robust testing suite.  The testing suite improvements is why we tend to use SCORM 2004 at Armada.

There is another…

That’s right the SCORM is not the only standard out there, actually there are a few but I’m going to take a look at the headline act: Tin Can API. This is considered the “next gen” SCORM and it enables lots of fun things that SCORM can’t manage, these include:

  • Native e-Learning Mobile Apps
  • Cross Platform transitions
  • Gamification of e-Learning
  • Team based e-Learning


Hopefully this blog has given you a better idea of what SCORM is and why it is so important. Although Tin Can is quite possibly the future we shouldn’t jump on the Tin Can API boat quite yet. Tin Can will have its time, but we are not quite there yet. For now creating SCORM compliant e-Learning remains the best option for guaranteed success.


What is SCORM?
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