I remember the first time I heard the term SCORM in the days of university when I did the subject Learning and Instructional Design. I remember all these weird acronyms and names like AICC, CMI, SCO, XML, ECMAScript, manifest, packaging, and API. Just so happens I have to know most of that stuff for my job intimately (which I do). But most people that create e-learning content can relax and know that they don’t need to know these details. You just need to know that e-learning content sometimes needs to be exported to SCORM so that it can be used in an LMS. I decided to write this explanation for those not familiar with SCORM. There are a few different versions (1.2 and 2004) but for simplicity, this is not relevant. SCORM modules consist of three basic pieces:

1. Learning Content
2. SCORM Run-Time
3. SCORM Package

Learning Content

If you are an instructional/educational designer the only main thing you need to worry about is the Learning Content. This is what the learner sees and is normally based on a curriculum design/lesson plan with a storyboard. The content should contain all the images, audio, video, and text that learners will need to take in. Many times the learning content contains quizzes or some forms of assessment as well.

SCORM Run-Time

E-Learning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate, Lectora, or Articulate do all of this for you. But for those that are interested this is the way the e-learning module uses to communicate with the LMS. The run-time code is used to send messages to the LMS like “the course was started”, “the learner scored 80% on the quiz”, and “the learner has mastered this material”. And vice-versa, the LMS can use the run-time language to tell the e-learning module information like the learner’s name or a bookmark that tells the e-learning module where the learner stopped previously. Typically lately it is done using Javascript.

SCORM Package

If you use an authoring tool, like the ones I said before, this is often taken care of for you also. But basically the package is a compressed (zipped) folder of files. There is a magical file included in the zip called the imsmanifest.xml. This file instructs the LMS on how to use the files in the package as well as the order the files need to be, in sequence and cross references etc. Sometimes you may need to alter this file, for example, to add a referenced file like a PDF or video. But generally it is automatically created for you using the authoring program.

One of the most widely used versions of SCORM, the SCORM 1.2 specification is over 15 years old. As you all know there have been a lot of changes in internet technology over those years, as well as, many changes in how professional learning is administered and tracked. Some smart people have created this new way called Project Tin Can or xAPI.

By doing tracking and referencing in this new way, content can be on social networks, cross servers, mobile devices (and more). It can also report across domains to what they call the Learning Record Store (LRS) which is part of your LMS. Content could be a mobile phone app that learners download from the App Store/Google Play and report that “Ella earned the cooking expert badge playing Cooking Mama 2.” This obviously allows content creators and designers to make content in more modern ways to learners.

Tin Can, from what I have heard, is only meant to be a part of the next generation of SCORM, is still in its infancy but gaining a lot of interest and hopefully will be the next generation of SCORM. If it is going to be what it promises to be, and remove burdening ties to the LMS and make the tracking of learning much more flexible, I cannot wait.

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