SCORM Basics: What, How, and Why
Dec 19, 2023
Brace yourself for some heavy-sounding acronyms that may trigger few queasy sensations, but rest assured that it will all make sense by the end of this article. (You might even ask, “Why did nobody think of this before?”) You have probably heard of SCORM or SCORM-compliance for educational content. It has become the de facto industry standard for creating and publishing e-learning courses. SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model, and in simplest terms, is a set of technical standards for eLearning software products.
What it is not:
SCORM is not about the content, but about the technical context in which an online course runs. It is not a pedagogical or instructional design system, i.e., it is not a theory (or practice) of learning. For analogy, an .mp3 file doesn’t depend on melodies and harmonies, or an .mp4 file doesn’t account for directorial style or cinematography. They are simply digital modes of facilitating your audio or visual experience. It may seem strange now but in the early days of multimedia technology, multiple file types vied for acceptance and dominance. And that created a lot of infuriating instances of ‘file-not-compatible’ realizations. Online learning was a similar story before the arrival of SCORM. On that note, let’s hear the story of its inception.
Who created it and Why:
The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM®) was created in 2000 by the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), a United States Department of Defense (DoD) program. It was designed to address e-learning interoperability, reusability, and durability challenges. This research was driven by the challenge that enterprise organizations faced when upgrading systems or changing vendors, which often required them to abandon expensive content and start from scratch. Conversely, large content vendors often specified their own delivery environment, requiring organizations to implement different delivery modules for each content vendor. To provide organizations with the capability to reuse instructional components in multiple applications and environments regardless of the tools used to create them, the ADL Initiative led and conducted the research required to ensure that content could be separated from context and incorporated into different applications. With this, the ADL Initiative designed SCORM to leverage standard web technologies as well as emerging learning technology specifications. SCORM allowed browser-based e-learning with plug-and-play portability, reusability, and instructional sequencing of self-paced content.
(sourced from: https://adlnet.gov/past-projects/scorm/)
ADL is also responsible for xAPI (x = experience; API = Application Programming Interface), a concept you would be hearing about soon enough, if you haven’t yet. xAPI lets software applications capture and share (big) data on human performance, along with associated context information (i.e., “experience” data). Combined with learning analytics, xAPI promises to revolutionize the way education and training are conducted, managed, and measured. xAPI can be incorporated into nearly any (new or existing) learning technology, and it is agnostic about the type of learning content being delivered.
(sourced from: https://adlnet.gov/projects/xapi/)
How to SCORM:
So by now, you also understand that SCORM is simply a set of technical standards to run an online learning course on any learning management system(LMS). There have been different versions of SCORM over the years. SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 are the most common versions, and most LMSs support them. Remember that SCORM isn’t about the content, but the packaging of the content. SCORM-compliance is inbuilt in popular e-learning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline. They package your content in a format that most LMSs can process and run. This content can have a great variety of pieces: audios, videos, subtitles, questionnaires, and many more. As long as your course is SCORM-compliant, your learners will experience your content exactly the way you want.
Why to SCORM:
Because you wouldn’t want to prevent a willing and motivated learner from accessing your course just because of the choice of LMS. Being SCORM-compliant ensures your content is universally accessible and interoperable. SCORM has few additional advantages over most traditional content-dissemination methods. New technologies like xAPI now enable you to track learner performance and progress as well. With large enough data sets, it essentially helps you track the performance and popularity of your course as well. It is obviously very cost-effective because of its widespread acceptance. Design once; deploy forever (unless you decide to upgrade the content itself).
So, here we are at the end of this article. Hopefully you are convinced by now to go the SCORM way. SCORM-compliance is like a lifetime membership card for your course in the global educational arena. Understanding and implementing SCORM compliance is effectively future-proofing your educational content. Remember, the goal is not to just keep up with technology, but to leverage it to make learning more impactful and inclusive. Embrace the innovation, and let your content be a versatile, vivacious driving force for a learner’s evolution without any borders or expiry dates. Welcome to the future of education! You have been invited to build it!