LMS Basics: Can You Import eLearning Courses from One Provider Into an LMS by Another Provider

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In this installment of our ongoing LMS Basics series, we’re going to address a common question we get from customers: can you take elearning courses from one training provider (training provider ABC, let’s say) and import them into a learning management system (LMS) created by a different training provider (training provider XYZ, let’s say).

The short answer is yes, you can. There are a few additional wrinkles, though, that are worth knowing about. Read on to learn more about those.

How eLearning Courses Are Imported Into ANY LMS

It’s probably worth taking a step back and reviewing how elearning courses are imported into an LMS and how elearning courses and and an LMS work together so the learner can launch, view, and complete a course before we get too wrapped up in who made the actual elearning course and who made the LMS.

eLearning Course Standards–AICC, SCORM, and xAPI

The first thing you want to know is that elearning courses aren’t single files. Instead, they’re a collection of files zipped up in a packet or package. In common terms, they come in the form of a zipped folder.

And there’s an additional complexity on top of that. The zipped folders match different standards for elearning courses. The three most common types are AICC, SCORM, and xAPI. So you might have an eLearning course that was created to match the AICC standard, or the SCORM standard, or the xAPI standard.

AICC is an older standard and its developer is no longer supporting it. So you don’t see it around a lot these days and you can assume you’ll see it less and less in the future. Don’t hold out hope that these will come back in the way that vinyl LPs have. 🙂

SCORM is currently the most popular elearning standard. A large majority of the elearning courses created and out on the market are in the SCORM format. This is the elearning course format that you’re most likely to run into. You can learn more about this in our What Is SCORM? article.

And xAPI is a newer standard. It’s sometimes billed as “next generation SCORM,” but it’s nowhere near as common as SCORM is. That’s not to say that that there aren’t elearning developers creating xAPI courses, because there are. And that is not to say that there aren’t some companies using xAPI courses, because they are. And it doesn’t mean that xAPI might not become even more common in the future. But for now, xAPI is definitely the tail on the elearning standards dog.


eLearning Course & LMS Compatibility

Now that you understand elearning course standards (AICC, SCORM, and xAPI), let’s turn our attention to the learning management system (LMS).

The basic idea is that learning management systems are capable of “playing” elearning courses in one, two, or all three of these standards.

These days, almost every LMS out there is compatible with SCORM and so can “play” a SCORM elearning course.

It’s probably not so common for learning management systems to be compatible with AICC anymore. And again, we’re guessing this will become less common over time. Although there still are companies out there with useful elearning courses in the AICC format and you definitely can find LMSs that will support AICC for you (yes, if you’re wondering, the Convergence LMS supports AICC elearning courses).

Likewise, the number of LMSs that support xAPI is smaller than the number of LMSs that support SCORM. But there are LMSs out there that support xAPI (and/or that are equipped with something called a learning record store, or LRS, to help them manage xAPI courses), and we can assume this number will rise as well.

So your takeaway is that if you have an elearning course in one standard (AICC, SCORM, or xAPI) and your LMS is compatible with that same standard, then you should be able to import the elearning course into the LMS and everything should work just fine.

For more on learning management systems, check out our What Is an LMS? article.

How Do You Import an eLearning Course Into an LMS?

All learning management systems are different. So the process of importing an elearning course will vary from LMS to LMS.

But the basic idea is the same, and it’s not that different than the process of uploading a file into different software programs that you’re probably already familiar with.

In most cases, it’s probably as simple as clicking an IMPORT button, selecting “elearning” or something similar (because you can also probably import things like .PDFs, video files, PowerPoint presentations, and so on), selecting the appropriate elearning standard (AICC, SCORM, or xAPI) and then clicking DO IT or something similar.

Easy peasy, right?


What about Self-Created eLearning Courses Made with an eLearning Authoring Tool?

So what about elearning courses that you made yourself, in an elearning authoring tool such as Adobe Captivate or the similar products by Lectora, Articulate, and other companies?

The same rule applies. If you create the elearning course and publish it in a specific elearning standard (AICC, SCORM, or xAPI), and if your LMS supports that format, you’re going to be good to go.

The SCORM Cloud

The process of importing an elearning course into your LMS as we described above will work if you have physical (or electronic) possession of the elearning course (meaning the zipped folder in a format like SCORM).

But in some cases, you won’t have the actual zipped folder for the course. Instead, the elearning provider will give you access to the course without ever giving you a copy of the file (this is done largely for intellectual property purposes).

If the company that is providing you with the elearning course is the same as the company providing you with the LMS, there’s a good chance you’ll open the LMS and the courses you’ve licensed will be right there for you. You won’t actually have to import anything.

But if the elearning course provider isn’t the same as your LMS provider, there’s a chance you’ll use your LMS to access the elearning course through something called the SCORM Cloud. You can think of the SCORM Cloud as a “middle man” that allows this kind of access, and you’ll be happy to know that using the SCORM Cloud should cost you no additional work or money.

We won’t get into this in detail, just know it works. If you’re still curious, go check out this article on the SCORM Cloud.

Conclusion: Yes, You CAN Import an eLearning Course by One Provider into an LMS by Another Provider

So, long story short: yes, you can do this. Talk with your elearning provider and/or LMS provider for more details, but don’t let this concern hold you back.

Let us know if you’ve got any questions and, otherwise, stay tuned until our next LMS Basics article.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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