If you design or develop eLearning modules, or are interested in doing either, chances are you’ll be familiar with SCORM already and know that it’s the standard for e-Learning software, but why is it the standard, and what does SCORM really mean? Is it still relevant?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what SCORM really is, how it stacks up against its major rival (xAPI) and how to decide which e-Learning framework is for you. Let’s dive in.
What is SCORM?
SCORM is a technical framework that works ‘behind the scenes’ of your e-Learning to keep track of how your learners are progressing. There are several iterations of SCORM, with the most widely used being SCORM 1.2.
What does it stand for?
SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model; Shareable Content Objects (SCOs) refer to the assets or learning elements that can be shared and reused across several tools and platforms. The Reference Model (RM) refers the specifications or international standards component, which, provided content is made to meet these criteria, allows e-Learning to be hosted and delivered on any SCORM-compliant Learning Management System (LMS). This is the biggest benefit of SCORM and its raison d’être: compatibility. Before the inception of SCORM in the early 2000s, being able to change your chosen LMS and expecting your existing e-Learning content to run seamlessly carry over to another LMS was unheard of.
How does SCORM work?
There are three key components inherent in the functioning of SCORM:
- Content Packaging – all learning materials are put into one SCORM package in the form of a zip file (a SCORM wrapper) that provides all the info the LMS needs to import and launch content.
- Run-time Communication- this refers to the exchange of info between an LMS and the content when a SCORM package is uploaded into an LMS. Once the content is launches, the LMS and SCORM packages work together to track and capture a range of data.
- Sequencing – this specifies the sequence a course will take (is there a pre-set path or are learners able to skip-ahead in some areas?), which controls how learners are able to navigate through the course. This can be done through ‘Continue’ and/or ‘Back’ buttons and defining what activities need to be completed before learners transition to the next screen for example.
Main Benefits of SCORM:
As we’ve mentioned, SCORM allows for easier migration of learning content to a new (SCORM-compliant) LMS. So, if you’re unhappy with the performance of your existing LMS, you can simply upload the zip folders into an alternative one.
E-Learning in this format can be completed step-by-step by the learner, meaning the learner can leave the learning, return later and be able to pick up where they left off. This is also convenient if the learner’s system crashes.
SCORM captures the following data about the learning and learners:
- how many students have started, completed and passed/failed (if there is an exam component) the learning
- learners’ scores
- individual time spent
- learners’ response to questions
- session time and total time
SCORM’s Major Rival, Experience API (xAPI)
API stands for Application Programming Interface, essentially a set of rules that dictate how machines talk to each other. Like SCORM, xAPI, or ‘Tin Can’ as it’s also known, is another, newer, technical framework that structures the format of e-Learning and captures its data.
The major difference and advantage xAPI has over SCORM is the scope of data it can track.
While SCORM is limited to recording online learning, xAPI can track almost any activity and therefore create a more detailed view of learner progress, within and beyond traditional learning environments, both online and offline. For instance, xAPI is flexible enough to record a wide range of learning activities: from face-to-face training courses, team activities, webinars, podcasts, mentoring and coaching sessions to short courses and micro-credentials. The downside of xAPI is that it requires a Learning Record Store (LRS), as well as an LMS, to collect, store and retrieve data about learning experiences, achievements and more.
So, do these shiny features of xAPI usurp SCORM from the top-spot? That’s difficult to say, there is a reason that SCORM remains the most popular learning framework after all – it does its job well. For you, it matters less about which framework occupies the top-spot and more about what is right for you and the learning you want to develop. If you want flexibility and greater detail, xAPI is the framework for you. If you want to track the essential data in terms of learners’ performance via an LMS of your choosing, SCORM is for you.
At Guroo Producer, with the help of our collaborative authoring tool PRODUCER we can format your learning with SCORM or xAPI. Further to this, with our ANALYTICS platform, we ca provide you with invaluable data-driven insights about your e-Learning and the means to manage your content across multiple LMS in one place, to better understand, deliver, and enhance your e-Learning. Read all about the features of ANALYTICS here.