What Is SCORM?

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If you’re interested in e-learning, you’ve probably heard of or seen the acronym SCORM.

To my eyes, it looks like it should be the name of a Star Trek enemy—kind of like the Borg Collective. But nope, it’s a set of rules, standards, and specifications for making e-learning modules and learning management systems (LMSs) work together.

Read on if you’re curious for more information.

What Does SCORM Do?

SCORM ensures that e-learning courses can be imported into, assigned, played, completed, and tracked from a learning management system (LMS). That’s assuming that both the e-learning course and the LMS are SCORM-compliant.

Can You Explain the SCORM/LMS Relationship in One Sentence?

SCORM makes e-learning courses and learning management systems play nice together.

Can You Give Me An Analogy that Explains How SCORM Works?

When you buy a music CD—assuming you still buy those—you can put it into any CD player and it will play. It doesn’t matter who made the CD, and it doesn’t matter who made the CD player. That’s what SCORM does too—it lets you play a SCORM-compliant e-learning course in a SCORM-compliant LMS.

Or it’s like software for viewing digital images that can only work with certain kinds of images (BMP, JPG, PNG, etc.)

Or it’s like software for viewing digital video files that can only work with certain kinds of video files–like WMP.

Or, if you’re old enough for this one, it’s like the old VHS and BETA video tape thing–most players could play only one type, but not both.

Happily, some LMSs can play more than one of the common formats (SCORM but also AICC and xAPI), but they DO have to be designed to play one or more specific format.

What Would Life Without SCORM Be Like?

How about this—think of videos games you buy for video game players such as Wii, X-Box, and Play Station. If you buy a game for the Wii, you can’t play it on your X-Box.

Life without SCORM would be kind of like that. 🙁

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Are There Several Versions of SCORM?

Yes. SCORM 1.2 was the first commonly used version, and most learning management systems use and support it today. There’s also a more recent version called SCORM 2004.

SCORM—So What Does That Stand For?

Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

Catchy, huh?

If I Create My Own e-Learning Courses, Do I Have to Know How to Code Them in SCORM?

Nope. Standard e-learning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate and Articulate Studio & Storyline do it for you. Just push the Publish button and they’ll ask you for the intended format.

Who Created It?

The Advanced Distributive Learning (ADL) Initiative, on behalf of the United States Secretary of Defense.

Where Can I Learn More about SCORM?

Try here and here.

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What Is AICC?

It’s an earlier alternative to SCORM. You can read more about it here.

What’s the Tin Can API/xAPI/Experience API?

It’s something that’s often referred to as the “next generation SCORM,” and it’s also sometimes called the Experience API. Read more about it here. Also, this is a very good guide, though it’s gated (you’ll have to give name/email, etc.).

Feel free to download the LMS Evaluation Checklist below if this is something you’re looking into these days.

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Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation Checklist

Here’s a handy checklist to use as you evaluate different LMSs to find the right one for your company.

Download Free Guide

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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 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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