SCORM is a set of eLearning specifications developed to help standardize online learning.
It was created over two decades ago to facilitate efficient communication between learning content and learning management systems.
SCORM allows LMS platforms like Learnworlds and some online course systems to read, run, and report on the content in the course. Today, it’s commonly used to ensure the successful distribution of online courses.
In fact, recent statistics show that SCORM is used by over 62% of course owners as an easy means for monitoring learner progress so creators can deliver on the objectives they set out to achieve with their online learning program.
As you can see, SCORM is extremely important for anyone looking to create or purchase online courses, which is why you must understand what it is, why it’s important, and what it means to be SCORM compliant.
We’ll also look at the pros and cons of this eLearning technical standard so you can make a clear determination of whether or not you will benefit from using it.
What is SCORM?
SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model. It’s a collection of standards and specifications designed for web-based educational technology.
SCORM files define communications between the host system and client-side content, which is typically supported by an LMS (learning management system).
Let’s break down the definition to better understand what this learning standard is all about.
- Sharable means SCORM is about developing educational content that can be shared on multiple systems. Lessons in a course are known as objects, and SCORM defines how SCOs (Sharable Content Objects) can be created and how they can be used again and again across various learning systems and contexts.
- Reference Model refers to the fact that SCORM is not an actual “standard” but a framework that simply emphasizes the compatibility and interoperability of eLearning systems.
When your course is shareable, it provides you with tons more freedom. For instance, you’ll be able to freely use it within any system or move it from one system to another without having to change any aspect of it.
If you want to share your course with others, you can do this easily and they can use it on their own systems.
How SCORM Works
Three SCORM components work together to deliver eLearning courses using an LMS. They are as follows:
- Content Packaging: The learning materials for a course are placed into a SCORM package containing all the information an LMS needs to import and launch content. This file answers questions like “What is the name of this content?” and “Which document should be launched?”
- Run-Time Communication: This SCORM component is responsible for data exchange between the eLearning content and the learning management system. It deals with delivery and tracking (more on that below).
- Sequencing: This aspect of developing online courses relates to how learners navigate through the material. For instance, it directs where a user goes after performing a certain action, such as hitting “next” and specifies the activities to be completed prior to moving to the next step.
Why is SCORM Important for Online Learning?
When courses first became available online, there were a lot of different courses to choose from, and just as many places from which to access the content.
However, course providers couldn’t share courses online. Since each of them was made differently. In other words, early online courses didn’t have a way to “communicate” with each other as modern eLearning courses do.
This is what led to the creation of SCORM.
In 2000, a US government program known as Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) came up with SCORM as a way to create a standard for online learning.
The program is simply a set of basic assumptions that allow learning management systems and online courses to communicate more effectively. Over the years, this technical standard for online learning has continued to grow in popularity.
The survey results in the image below indicate why SCORM is so popular, with the top reasons being its compatibility with top LMS platforms.
Benefits of the SCORM Format
You now understand what SCORM is and how it works. Let’s take a look at the benefits it provides.
- Compatibility: The majority of learning management systems recognize a SCORM course.
- Saving Progress: Students can go through the course step-by-step and save their progress as they go, rather than having to go through the entire course at once. The platform will automatically resume from where they left off, a feature that is also convenient in cases where the system fails.
- Feedback: When using the SCORM format, you have the ability to assess learner progress. When a user completes the online course, the system shows the number of points scored or displays the status “Course completed”.
- Modularity: Training materials within a SCORM course are made up of modules or standalone units, each of which can be used in any other course inside the learning management system.
- Clear Course Structure: With SCORM, you have the ability to create a clear structure for your online course and set rules that govern how learners move between the content sections. For instance, learners may have to study the lesson first, then watch a related video, after which they will then be able to proceed to the final test.
What is SCORM Compliance?
SCORM is the best and most popular standard for developing online learning content. For the most part, if you want to create or purchase an online course, it has to be SCORM-compliant.
SCORM compliance is the practice of adhering to industry standards. It involves following a framework to ensure that communication between learning management systems and eLearning content becomes possible.
Without SCORM compliance, an online course might be unusable to learners.
For example, rather than having different media like text, audio, video, images, quizzes, etc. on a single page, learners may be forced to open and view each of these media on different pages which makes for a very inconvenient learning experience.
To ensure that learners don’t have to waste time maneuvering content and rather focus on consuming and retaining what they need to learn, all online courses must be SCORM-compliant.
What is Tracked in a SCORM Course?
Data Run-Time Exchange (also known as Run-Time communication, or data exchange) is an element that determines how content interacts with or “talks to” an LMS while content is being played.
This SCORM aspect is described as delivery and tracking and involves two processes whereby the content first has to find the learning management system and once it locates the LMS, the content can then communicate with the platform through a set of ‘get’ and ‘set’ calls and a related vocabulary designed to give instructions to the eLearning platform on which elements to track.
SCORM tracks course-specific data. It makes it possible to trace and track the results of each learner in a learning management system.
You’ll be able to gather everything corresponding to the learners, including:
- Bookmarking: This allows learners to continue the online course from exactly where they left it when they logged out.
- Completion Status: This progress measure shows how far learners have gone toward completion of the course, e.g. 50% completed.
- Satisfaction Status: This is a measure of how satisfied users are with the course content so far.
- Score: Once learners reach the end of the lesson or course and complete the assessment, the scores will be stored in the LMS by the relevant defining variable.
There are a lot of other variables you can use, including “Pass or Fail”, “Pages Viewed”, “Time Spent on Assessment”, etc.
By tracking these and other elements, you’ll be able to improve the performance of your online course and help learners get the information they need. This ensures that both the course owner and the learners will benefit.
SCORM Pros and Cons
Although SCORM is the most popular set of technical standards for online learning software products, it does come with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, some of which we look at below.
- SCORM is Easy to Use: Creating SCORM content for online courses is relatively easy. The majority of SCORM authoring tools are user-friendly and you don’t have to be a programming whiz to create a SCORM-compliant eLearning course.
- SCORM is Widely Supported: When creating content for your online course, you’re unlikely to find a course vendor or authoring tool that doesn’t support SCORM. Also, virtually all LMS vendors support SCORM, making it easy to migrate online courses from old systems to new ones.
- SCORM Lets You Dictate Learner Pace: The sequencing component of this eLearning standard lets you set rules for the length of time learners have to stay on certain sections before they can move on, and even how much time they must spend in the course overall.
This helps you control the content flow and keep track of minimum hour requirements (although it’s not a guarantee that learners won’t simply wait until the required time runs out).
- Dated Software: It’s been over a decade since SCORM’s last update, which means that the software is in dire need of an upgrade.
- No Offline Learning Support: SCORM doesn’t support offline learning and courses won’t work without a web browser and internet connection. This means that learners won’t be able to access courses offline and they’ll be dropped immediately if the internet connection is lost.
- Limited Metrics to Track: SCORM has a limited number of learning metrics that you can track. There are basics like “course completion”, “time spent on course”, “assessment scores”, etc. But, you can’t monitor content engagement in real-time – a factor that is critical to building more effective courses. Whether they are hosted on your own site with a platform like Learndash, or you host them using online course software.
Do You Need to Use SCORM?
I hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about SCORM.
There’s no denying that it’s a great option for anyone who wants a technical standard that will allow them to get up and running as quickly as possible.
But, it’s also important to note that this software has some limitations, such as the ones outlined above.
So while this may be a competent solution that dominates the eLearning market, the technology is still quite dated and may hinder your efforts for creating engaging and interactive courses in the future.
You must consider the pros and cons carefully before making a decision on whether or not SCORM is the right solution for your business.