The term SCORM is often heard and misunderstood by buyers of e-learning and learning technologies, as are many of the other terms thrown around by an industry all too keen to create complexity.
SCORM content (+ AICC and PENS)
An explanation of some of the technical terms used in e-learning to help the buyer gain a greater understanding of how e-learning and the LMS all work together.

The term SCORM is often heard and misunderstood by buyers of e-learning and learning technologies, as are many of the other terms thrown around by an industry all too keen to create complexity.

SCORM, AICC, PENS and the up and coming terms “Tin Can” are all standards to ensure interoperability between e-learning courses and Learning Management Systems (LMS).
SCORM is by far the most common term heard and is often used as shorthand for e-learning content.

So what is SCORM…well it means Shareable Content Object Reference Model and is defined by ADL as “a collection and harmonisation of specifications and standards that defines the interrelationship of content objects, data models and protocols such that objects are sharable across systems that conform to the same model”

Let’s look at what these wonderful terms mean:

This definition means e-learning content and Learning Management Systems will work together by the harmonisation of specifications and standards to put it simply; delivering interoperability and reusability and data tracking.

We should all be grateful to ADL for combining and aligning a series of differing and potentially competing standards into one workable e-learning standard that has saved huge amount s of money for the learning and training industry. In fact SCORM is an amalgamation of standards including AICC and IMS.  

No doubt it helps that ADL was an agent of the Pentagon and the White House and this reflects how important the military has been in developing the e-learning industry.

So what do these key terms mean:     

Interoperability: is therefore a key benefit when looking to procure an LMS and e-learning content or e-learning content creation tools.

At its simplest, if the LMS and e-learning courses are warranted as SCORM compliant and SCORM conformant respectively you are assured that the materials will work on any LMS.
Reusability: the SCO (sharable content object) is a unit of learning content often called a (reusable learning object) with the designed in ability to communicate with the LMS and not be used just once but be used many times.

Reusability of e-learning materials is an obvious benefit, as once developed the content can be delivered many times over, and it delivers a consistent message. Learners can return to the course time and time again, unlike in traditional training environments.

However, SCORM also attempted to support the reusability of learning objects in differing courses and contexts and here it was perhaps less successful as a standard.

This challenge put greater requirements on learning designers to create self- contained learning objects, each possibly with their own quiz or test. If you a procuring off the shelf content be aware. If you are designing (or having designed and built) e-learning content, this aspect requires considerable thought if you really require each course to be a fully reusable learning object.   

Data Tracking: By using SCORM organisations can see and report how a learner is progressing with a course and how well they have performed in any tests designed in as part of the course. SCORM is well enough evolved to allow e-learning to be designed with branching and pre-tests to allow learners to be directed to what they need to know.  

It is in data tracking that the SCORM standard has been the most successful, though its limitations are now becoming apparent, and we are now seeing the emergence of new ADL created standards…..Tin Can.

The “Tin Can” terminology emerged as short hand from the ADL funded consultancy project to listen to the industry for the next generation e-learning standard (2 tin cans and piece of string being the metaphor in question).

Tin Can has now emerged as a new standard called the experience API (xAPI) designed to capture all manner of learning activities beyond the limits of SCORM and the LMS.
 The strength and weakness of this new standard is its elegant simplicity in being able to record learning statements from all manner of technologies….e-books, mobile phones, tablets, games that have the simple API allowing the learner to state what they have learnt……yes but how do we know that is the outstanding question….you may have read the book, or played the game….so what!

Turning the So What reaction into the So That action and providing the Micro Credential Evidence of learning is the outstanding challenge.

So, SCORM and the LMS will not go away any time soon. The e-learning world will change, but as yet the progress of xAPI is steady as the issues of such an open and all-encompassing standard are digested by the e-learning industry and learning and development teams.
With probably 60 to 70% of e-learning today still used for compliance and CPD, SCORM works and works well. Organisations and their lawyers will still want to know that their staff has been trained on the required piece of regulation and are in compliance with the law. SCORM does that.

The xAPI and the required Learning Record Store (LRS) will very likely emerge initially as an adjunct to the LMS, not as a replacement in the immediate future, more a phased switch over; an evolution not a revolution.      

A note on PENS, The Package Exchange Notification System is a means of enhancing the use of SCORM for administrators. Many LMS have evolved to include SCORM and have proved cumbersome to use in the uploading or transferring of e-learning courses.
We anticipate with next generation LMS such as a Kentico powered LMS leveraging the power of CRM technologies will prove more effective than the narrow world of standards, old or new.  

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