Why SCORM Matters for Online Course Creators

If you’re a content creator and exploring the idea of building eLearning courses as a product offering, it’s likely you’ve come across the acronym SCORM. Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from learning and development professionals revolve around SCORM. What is it? Why does it matter? Do my courses need to be SCORM compliant? 

In this article we set out to answer those questions. Admittedly, SCORM is a technical topic (with a lot to unpack) – here we aim to break down the basics and explore why SCORM matters for course creators.  


The Market for SCORM Content? 


Before we dive into the specifics of SCORM, it’s important to take a step back and think about how you’ll distribute and sell your courses. In other words, what is the business case for building SCORM compliant courses? Whether you plan to distribute courses from your own course management platform or sell your courses directly to customers (to manage in their own platforms), you’ll need to anticipate how and where your online courses will ultimately be hosted. While there are a multitude of platforms and approaches to consider, most content creators choose to distribute their courses in either an online Course Marketplace or a Learning Management System (LMS).  

  1. Course Marketplace – Many of the course marketplace platforms feature basic functionality that enables you to create course pages within their systems and import video clips and other content elements like images and articles. While this method can be a fairly quick way to begin selling your content (with a relatively low barrier to entry), these systems typically don’t do much in the way of interactivity, tracking/reporting, and the courses are typically non-transferable to other systems.  
  2. Learning Management System (LMS) – For course creators that want to maintain more control of over their courseware, gather learner interaction data, or distribute courses with a higher degree of interoperability; than you will want to consider developing courses to be compatible with Learning Management Systems (LMS). LMS platforms are ubiquitous in the professional learning and development space and operate on a universal set of technical standards – SCORM. 


This is where SCORM comes into play. SCORM is the technical backbone of modern eLearning, ensuring that digital learning materials are created, packaged, and delivered in a standardized way. It is the set of technical standards that enable your courses to “talk” to an LMS, and for the LMS to talk back. 

If you plan to sell eLearning courses for an audience utilizing an LMS, adhering to SCORM standards is not just a recommendation; it’s an expectation. Even if you initially plan to launch course content on an eLearning Marketplace, it’s often advantageous to consider SCORM for future growth. Expanding the avenues for distributing your product significantly enhances your sales potential. Exclusive course content that is confined to a single platform can only reach a limited audience. SCORM fosters a thriving ecosystem of interconnected eLearning products. Becoming part of this ecosystem can substantially broaden your market reach. Furthermore, if your goal is to sell online courses to businesses or governmental organizations, a substantial portion of them rely on Learning Management Systems designed to handle and track SCORM-compliant content. 

Now that we’ve covered the market for SCORM courses, let’s take a closer look at what it is and what makes it appealing. 


What is SCORM? 


The acronym SCORM, short for Sharable Content Object Reference Model, holds a preeminent status as the most widely acknowledged collection of technical standards within the eLearning domain. SCORM serves as the governing framework that regulates the interaction between online learning content and Learning Management Systems (LMS), ensuring a seamless connection. 

SCORM encompasses three primary components that work in combination to facilitate the delivery of eLearning courses via an LMS: 

  • Content Packaging: This element involves the bundling of all learning materials for a given course into a Sharable Content Object (SCO). SCOs are individual units of eLearning content, such as a module, quiz, or video. These SCOs can be packaged together to create a complete eLearning course. These packages contain all the essential information required by an LMS for the importation and launching of content. 
  • Run-time Communication: This component is responsible for the exchange of data between an LMS and the learning content. It manages the aspects of content delivery and tracking, wherein the content “locates” the LMS and subsequently engages in communication through “get” and “set” calls.  
  • Sequencing: This facet pertains to the navigation of a learner through the course. It establishes guidelines for user progression based on actions taken, such as clicking the next button, and delineates which activities must be completed before advancing to the next stage. 


What are the benefits of SCORM?  


If you are a content creator with the goal of selling your eLearning courses, it’s not hard to imagine the appeal of SCORM. Undoubtedly, the SCORM standard has reached widespread adoption, particularly in the professional learning sphere.    

The widespread use of SCORM can largely be attributed to three primary advantages: 

  • Interoperability: SCORM ensures that eLearning content created using one authoring tool can be used with different LMS platforms, reducing compatibility issues. Developing SCORM-compliant eLearning allows you to greatly increase your market reach, as opposed to eLearning that’s access is limited to a dedicated platform. 
  • Reusable and Flexible: SCORM encourages the creation of modular content (SCOs), making it easy to reuse and update course elements as your business/courses evolve. The modular format also enables more sophisticated workflows and functionality within the LMS environment – for example, module groupings to form larger courses or conditional learning paths that require learners to “pass” courses to advance.  
  • Tracking and Reporting: SCORM provides robust tracking capabilities, allowing administrators to monitor learner progress, completion rates, and quiz scores. This is often a critical component for organizations that may purchasing your courses. 


The Future of SCORM 


While SCORM remains a staple in the eLearning world, it’s important to acknowledge that the landscape is evolving. Newer standards like xAPI (Tin Can API) and cmi5 are gaining interest because of their ability for more flexible tracking and reporting, beyond traditional SCORM capabilities. Luckily for course creators, many of the same industry tools for building SCORM compatible content (as well as the LMS platforms themselves), are evolving to offer options for these newer technical standards. With that being said, SCORM remains crucial for providing the standardized framework for creating, packaging, and delivering digital learning content. Whether you’re a content creator, LMS administrator, or a learner – SCORM is the driving force behind eLearning interoperability and collaboration across industry wide tools and systems. 

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