What is SCORM?

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In its most basic form, SCORM is a collection of technical standards and specifications for e-learning. It stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model and was originally designed to enable interoperability between types of e-learning content on Learning Management Systems (LMS).

What is SCORM? A Simple Example

So what’s a real-world example of SCORM in use? Whether you create a course in Dominknow, Lectora, Articulate, Captivate, or some other tool, SCORM allows you to upload your course into whatever LMS you choose. You’ve probably been through the process of exporting your course into a SCORM package (a zip file) and uploading to an LMS. That zip file contains all of the necessary SCORM-conformant files that allow this package to work within any LMS.

Wait – What is Interoperability Again?

Let’s take a look at another example of the interoperability concept. I just bought a new mouse the other day and at the end of this mouse (and every other mouse) is a USB connector. It has become a “standard” for computers to support USB devices. This means that I can plug my mouse into any computer’s USB port and it should work immediately.

What is SCORM

There are no differences on whether my mouse is Logitech and I have a DELL PC, or whether I bought a Microsoft mouse and have an ASUS laptop – it all works the same. This concept is also true for SCORM when it comes to being able to upload your e-Learning content onto your LMS of choice.

Who “Invented” SCORM?

SCORM 1.1 was founded by the ADL in early 2001. The ADL is a government program and research group funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). SCORM 1.1 was not very widely adopted, and this caused the release of SCORM 1.2 in late 2001.

In 2004, the ADL released the 4th edition of SCORM. This allowed for some additional features that were missing in 1.2, but hardly anyone actually used (or uses) these features, because the standard just wasn’t implemented correctly by most. Some might say that because of this, SCORM failed. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it failed – it did a great job in the content interoperability front. What is does typically fail at though, is getting detailed learning analytics. Many people only get completion data, and some don’t even get that!

As mentioned earlier, SCORM is great for content interoperability, but not so great if you want to get analytics from your content. It’s incredible that SCORM 1.2 was introduced over a decade ago, and yet still the most widely used e-learning standard. That’s basically 100 years old in technology-dog-years.

The “Next-Generation” of SCORM

Let’s face it – SCORM has lacked on many fronts. You’re most likely using SCORM 1.2 or the 4th edition today in your e-learning content delivery. And if you are – you know the struggle of gaining learning analytics. AKA: You’re in SCORM hell.

This is why the Experience API (xAPI) was released. This specification addresses the gaps in the SCORM standard and allows for complete content, device, and system interoperability, as well as being able to gain learning analytics on almost anything. This means not only can xAPI deliver on the content interoperability front, but you can also use it to report on other systems in your organization outside of the LMS. Maybe you’d like to track learning happening within a custom portal, HR system, or sales system? That’s entirely possible with xAPI. Many of our customers are also using it to get more data from their LMS such as video analytics (seeked, paused, skipped, etc), assessment data (questions/answers, correct vs incorrect, etc), environmental data (browser used, volume level, etc), and much more. As you can see, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to xAPI.

Ready to make a simple jump to xAPI? We are excited to show you the possibilities, and how our clients are using xAPI to get learning analytics around training effectiveness, improve a variety of KPIs, and much more. Contact us today.


  1. Dennis

    Your article is a little bit misleading.
    Never heard of SCORM 4. Industry reference is 2004 or 1.4 and is primarily used for sequencing of learning modules. Unfortunately, this version is less resilient in comparison to 1.2. Today the industry is moving towards experienced API or Tin Can to support Responsive HTML5. SCORM is currently unsupported by the industry with new development similar to AICC. Shame the industry is moving backwards with clip art eLearning, but with new technologies format to support mobile and tablets. Enriched and engaging learning will suffer with the loss of Flash, CSS Dreamweaver and the lack of continued development of SCORM standards.

    • Christy Puller

      Hey Dennis – thanks for sharing your thoughts on the article as well as pointing out the oversight on the SCORM 2004 language. We are also observing that the industry is moving over to the Experience API (xAPI) to get more contextual data from their e-Learning and other systems.

  2. Jenny

    I actually thought this was a great overview. I also think it’s important to add that many people who author within their preferred authoring tools sometimes don’t even know that they are using SCORM. I think SCORM will continued to be supported but is “dying on the vine” as the xAPI brings to light more advanced capabilities.

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