SCORM: The Ultimate Guide for Non-Technical People

Introduction to SCORM - what it is, and why you should take it seriously

What is SCORM, and why should you know about it if you work with e-learning?

SCORM stands for "Sharable Content Object Reference Model" and is a standard that ensures content works together with different Learning Management Systems (LMS). With SCORM, you can create content once and use it across different platforms, saving time and resources. If you are completely new to SCORM, we recommend starting by reading our article SCORM for dummies and busy people.

How do you create SCORM packages?

The easiest way is to acquire an SCORM authoring tool such as Articulate Storyline or Articulate Rise. With an authoring tool, you can publish or save as SCORM, just as you can save a PowerPoint file as a PDF.

Once you have saved your e-learning course in SCORM format, it must be uploaded to the LMS to be accessible to learners.

We recommend reading our article on SCORM authoring tools to get an overview of the different options and what each can offer.

Can you create SCORM packages without an authoring tool?

Yes, but it requires some technical knowledge and can be time-consuming and is generally not something we recommend.

How do you convert PowerPoint or videos to SCORM?

Many e-learning developers want to convert existing PowerPoint presentations or videos to SCORM-compatible content. There are various tools available to help you do this, including Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate.

Converting PowerPoint presentations to SCORM content can be a relatively simple process, as many authoring tools include features that allow you to convert PowerPoint files directly into SCORM-compatible content. Converting videos to SCORM-compatible content, however, may require more technical knowledge and video editing tools.

What values can SCORM store?

SCORM sends data from e-learning content to the LMS and can store various values, including the user's answers to questions, time spent on the content, and whether they have completed the entire e-learning content, for example, by passing a test. You can find a complete list of what is sent between content and LMS, called a SCORM runtime reference, here.

What versions of SCORM are there and which one should I choose?

SCORM comes in two different versions: SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 (also known as SCORM 1.3). SCORM 2004 also has some sub-editions like 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition, but for most people, it won't make any real difference whether you choose one version or another.

If your LMS supports SCORM 2004, you might as well choose it, as it has some improvements compared to SCORM 1.2. But if your LMS only supports SCORM 1.2, you should, of course, use that version and not worry about it.

What is the file type of a SCORM file?

A SCORM package is a ZIP file that contains all the files necessary to run e-learning content.

How can you tell if a ZIP file is a SCORM package?

To see if a ZIP file is a SCORM package, you must open the ZIP file and look for a file named "imsmanifest.xml" in the root folder. This is a mandatory file in a SCORM package that describes the structure and content of the e-learning content. When it comes to the file type of a SCORM file, it is typically a .zip file, but it can vary depending on how the file is packaged and saved. However, you can always open the SCORM package by unpacking the ZIP file and opening the imsmanifest.xml file in a text editor to get an understanding of the content.

How can you see which SCORM messages are being sent?

To see which SCORM messages are being sent, you can use a tool called SCORM Debug Logs. This tool generates a log file with all the SCORM messages sent between the content and the LMS. The log can help you identify any issues or errors that occur during the execution of your e-learning content.

How can you view and debug SCORM messages, for example, in SCORM Cloud?

SCORM Cloud is a popular tool used to run and test SCORM-compatible content. It also includes a range of tools that can help you view and debug SCORM messages. One of these tools is Debug Logs, as previously mentioned. In addition to Debug Logs, SCORM Cloud also has a tool called SCORM Dispatch, which allows you to send test messages to your content and see how it responds to these messages. All in all, SCORM Cloud is a valuable tool for testing and debugging your SCORM-compatible content. SCORM Cloud requires you to create a free account.

What other e-learning standards are there, and how do they differ from SCORM?

In addition to SCORM, there are other e-learning standards, including AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) and Tin Can API (also known as Experience API or xAPI).

AICC was developed before SCORM and is an older standard that we have not encountered in our 20 years in the industry.

xAPI, formerly called Tin Can API, is the newest standard and was developed to overcome some of the limitations of SCORM. xAPI focuses on tracking activities and experiences that lie outside the traditional e-learning course. It enables tracking learning in more complex environments, such as on-the-job or in real life. In practice, xAPI is not supported by many LMSs, and the new features in xAPI that were supposed to distinguish it from SCORM are not really being utilized. Even if xAPI is used, there is typically the same kind of data stored as with SCORM.

Unlike SCORM and AICC, Tin Can API is not tied to a specific technology and can be used across different platforms and applications. Tin Can API can also track multiple types of learning, including blended learning and gamification.

There are also other standards, such as Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), Common Cartridge, and Learning Content Development System (LCDS). In practice, everyone uses SCORM in the e-learning world, and it is hard to see that changing in the near future.

SCORM is an old standard. Should I be concerned about the future?

No, if you choose a SCORM authoring tool like Articulate Storyline, you can save the same course in all the most common formats.

What is Tin Can API (xAPI), and how does it work compared to SCORM?

Tin Can API (also known as Experience API or xAPI) is a newer standard for e-learning content that differs from SCORM in several ways. While SCORM primarily focuses on tracking specific actions within an e-learning module, such as answering questions or browsing pages, Tin Can API allows tracking more nuanced interactions, such as participation in a simulation or performing an action outside of the e-learning module itself.

Tin Can API does this by allowing the sending of "experience data" from a user action in an application to a "Learning Record Store" (LRS), which acts as a central database for storing and analyzing this data. In this way, the user's activities can be tracked and analyzed across different applications and systems.

While SCORM is primarily designed to work within an LMS, Tin Can API can be used across a wide range of applications and systems, such as mobile applications and gamification platforms, virtual reality experiences, and social learning environments.

It's important to note that SCORM is still the most widely used standard for e-learning, and many LMSs only support SCORM. However, with Tin Can API, new opportunities have opened up for tracking and analyzing user activities across various platforms and systems. Tin Can API is an exciting development, but its adoption and application are still in progress.

Which e-learning standard should you choose?

When deciding on an e-learning standard, consider the following factors:

  1. Compatibility: Ensure that the standard you choose is compatible with your existing LMS or the LMS you plan to use. SCORM is the most widely supported standard, but you should verify which version your LMS supports (SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004).

  2. Functionality: Assess the specific features you need for your e-learning content. If you require advanced tracking capabilities or want to incorporate gamification, blended learning, or real-life experiences, Tin Can API might be a better fit for your needs.

  3. Future-proofing: While SCORM remains the dominant standard, new standards like Tin Can API are emerging with more advanced features. Choosing a SCORM authoring tool that supports multiple standards, like Articulate Storyline or Articulate Rise, can help future-proof your e-learning content.

  4. Ease of use: Consider the ease of creating and managing e-learning content using the chosen standard. Some authoring tools may have better support and features for specific standards, which can influence your decision.

In summary, SCORM remains the most widely used and supported e-learning standard. However, as new technologies and learning methods emerge, newer standards like Tin Can API are gaining traction. When choosing an e-learning standard, consider the compatibility, functionality, future-proofing, and ease of use to ensure you select the best option for your specific needs.

Do you have questions? Get in touch with us.

Do you need help developing SCORM e-learning, want to learn how to create e-learning yourself, or are you looking for an LMS that won't break the bank?

We typically develop SCORM e-learning using tools like Articulate Storyline and Articulate Rise, but we can also create custom SCORM solutions and expand the possibilities of what you can achieve with SCORM.

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