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Table of Contents

    Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to creating e-learning content. The last thing you want is to create different content for different platforms. Not only is that time-consuming and inefficient, but keeping track of content is even harder.

    Now, what if we were to tell you that there’s a simple way to share and reuse digital content across different learning platforms? It’s called SCORM, and it could make your life a whole lot easier.

    Our guide walks you through what SCORM is and how your organization can save a shed load of time and effort by becoming SCORM compliant.

    So, read on to find out:

    • What SCORM is 
    • What it means for an LMS to be SCORM compliant 
    • The benefits
    • How to become SCORM compliant

    Buckle up; you’re about to become a SCORM sage.


    What is SCORM?

    SCORM, an acronym for Shareable Content Object Reference Model, is a set of technical standards for e-learning applications, such as LMSs.

    SCORM provides a framework for creating and packaging e-learning content that’s usable across different learning management systems. It ensures that content is easily deliverable, trackable, and reusable by specifying certain standards for programmers to follow.

    It’s important to keep in mind that SCORM has nothing to do with learning experience design or pedagogy. Instead, it’s purely a technical set of standards that make it easier for various e-learning software to work together. 

    Why is this important?

    Well, imagine if you purchased an LMS from one vendor and then a piece of e-learning content, such as a sales training course, from another. 

    Wouldn’t you want your course to upload and play seamlessly from your LMS?

    SCORM compliance is what makes that possible. Without it, there’d be absolute confusion in the market.

    In other words, knowing  which content works with which LMS would be hard. 

    Sounds good, right? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover who created SCORM.


    Who created SCORM?

    ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), a US Department of Defense (DoD) organization, created SCORM following an executive order from President Bill Clinton that tasked the DoD to develop a common set of standards for learning platforms. 

    The release date of the first version of SCORM was 2000. Since then, there have been four more SCORM versions. 

    We’ll cover these different versions in-depth later in this guide. 

    Now, onto the next section, where we’ll explain exactly what a SCORM package is. 


    What is a SCORM package?

    A SCORM package (also SCORM or SCORM module) is a ZIP archive that contains a collection of shareable content objects (SCOs). These SCOs can include multimedia elements like video, audio, text, and images, as well as quizzes and e-learning interactions.

    The term for this is a Package Interchange File (PIF), which contains everything an LMS needs to deliver a SCORM-compliant course correctly. 

    Here’s what a proper PIF contains:

    • XML manifest file—this describes the package and its contents. It’s essential to put some mandatory data into it, such as a unique identifier: minimal metadata, which includes a SCORM version, resource definitions that tell an LMS all the files necessary to launch any of the resources, and the organization of learning activities. 
    • Resource files—the files (such as images, videos, and audio) that make up the course and its learning activities. 
    • Schema and definition files (XSD/DTD)—refer back to the XML manifest.

    It used to be that only programmers could create these PIFs. They needed to manually make the HTML pages that make up the online learning course, then write the code to connect that to an LMS. 

    Now, thanks to e-learning authoring tools, it’s quick and simple to convert digital training content to a SCORM package.

    Then, you can easily upload SCORM training content to the LMS, provided each part is SCORM compliant. 

    Next up: What’s a SCORM-compliant LMS?

    What is a SCORM-compliant LMS?

    A SCORM-compliant LMS is any learning system that can import, launch, and track e-learning content built following the SCORM standard. 

    That means any SCORM file, such as an online training course, will work with it. 

    It’s all about interoperability. A SCORM-compliant LMS means you can seamlessly deliver e-learning content from different providers from the same platform, and track the data.

    SCORM-compliant LMSs must support the SCORM API (Application Programming Interface), facilitating communication between the content and the LMS. It must also be able to import SCORM packages.

    In short, SCORM-compliant LMSs, such as Docebo, offer a standardized and consistent way to manage and deliver e-learning content, ensuring it can be easily shared and reused across different systems.

    Stay tuned for a rundown of the benefits of SCORM.


    What are the benefits of SCORM?

    So, we know that SCORM is a set of technical specifications to use with e-learning applications. But why is this important?

    Here are the primary benefits of being SCORM compliant:

    • Accessibility: SCORM content is easy to access across different systems.
    • Reusability: Thanks to reusable content packing, you can combine existing SCOs to create new e-learning courses and modules.
    • Adaptability: SCORM compliance makes adapting courses to individual learners easy because course designers can mix and match different SCOs at will. 
    • Interoperability: You can purchase e-learning content from many different vendors. If all the vendors are SCORM-compliant, their courses will work with whatever SCORM-compliant LMS you use. 
    • Affordability: Since SCORM content is reusable, this reduces the costs associated with creating, managing, and updating e-learning content.
    • Durability: Historically, SCORM has used established, mainstream, and future-proof technologies that ensure the long-term viability and compatibility of the SCORM content.


    Next up, we’ll answer the million-dollar question—how exactly do you become SCORM compliant?


    How can you become SCORM compliant?

    SCORM compliance means that learning software or content is interoperable. So, when you have a compliant online course, it’ll work in any SCORM-compliant LMS. 

    How do I make SCORM content, you might be asking?

    There are several standards you need to meet to become SCORM compliant, including the following: 

    • The content should be in a ZIP file
    • You need to describe the content in an XML file (Imsmanifest.xml)
    • The content must use Javascript
    • The content must be in various media formats (this can also include font types)
    • The content must use XML rules for SCORM sequencing

    Arguably the most challenging part of SCORM compliance is the last point. Luckily, you won’t be dealing with this if you use a SCORM-compliant LMS. 

    The LMS vendor will take care of SCORM sequencing. All you need to do is to use a compliant authoring tool. 

    You simply create your training content in the authoring tool, download it as a SCORM file, and upload it to your LMS. Opting for an authoring tool that integrates with your LMS will further streamline this process.

    For example, Docebo integrates with the content authoring tool Elucidat. This makes it quick and easy to update live courses without affecting training data and ensures an optimal learner experience.

    If you’re using off-the-shelf content, make sure you purchase SCORM-compliant courses. Then, simply import them to your LMS and press play.

    Up next, we tell you what SCORM tracks and how you can benefit from it. 


    What information can SCORM track?

    We don’t need to tell you how valuable data is when it comes to employee training. From identifying skills gaps to calculating training ROI, the more information you can gather, the better. 

    SCORM plays a big part in this, allowing your LMS to collect deep insights into employee performance and training impact. Here’s the information SCORM can track:

    • The course’s final score: lets you know the final grade achieved by your learners
    • The course’s status: so you can monitor how many pieces of e-learning content are in active use
    • Test results: you can see the results of each test a learner has taken as a part of a course
    • Which pages students view: great for determining if there are pieces of content that learners are missing
    • How long they view those pages: makes it easy to track how engaging a specific learning object is 
    • Module and objective score: easily track if learners are achieving the learning objectives of a learning experience
    • Learning progress: tracking learner progress is one of the most important metrics because it shows who has completed the training and who hasn’t. This is key for compliance training.
    • Specific answers given by the students: you can see the specific answers individual learners gave in quizzes and use this information to identify knowledge gaps
    • How much time students spend on the course: this is a useful metric for engagement and course effectiveness

    Up next, we’ll discuss the different versions of the SCORM standard. 


    What are the different SCORM versions?

    Since its introduction in 2000, the SCORM standard has undergone several iterations. Three of them are typically in active use today. 

    Here’s what they are: 

    • SCORM 1.1: This is the oldest version of SCORM that still sees some use today but typically only in legacy software.
    • SCORM 1.2: The first truly good version of SCORM that saw vendors make significant savings from increased interoperability.
    • SCORM 2004: The most recent version that implemented sequencing to recombine individual SCOs at will. 

    SCORM 1.2 is still considered the industry standard workhorse, despite lacking sequencing. Most cutting-edge LMSs that are SCORM 2004 compliant typically use the latest SCORM 2004 4th edition specification. 

    Up next, we go over several e-learning industry standards that compete with SCORM.


    SCORM alternatives—other standards

    SCORM is not the only industry standard for e-learning applications, even though it’s the most widely used. 

    Tin Can (or xAPI) is the newest evolution of SCORM, but there are other standards, such as AICC, that are not administered by the ADL. 

    Here, we’ll go into what makes each unique. 


    xAPI (Tin Can)

    The Experience API (Application Programming Interface) is the newest e-learning industry standard that can collect data about a wide range of experiences—online and offline. 

    Its main purpose is to solve many of the issues that have made SCORM obsolete for new applications and new ways people learn using technology. 

    xAPI supports mobile learning, team learning, cross-domain functionality, simulations, and games, which are much easier to accomplish with xAPI than with SCORM. 

    It records activities through noun-verb-object statements (“I did this”). and sends them through a Learning Record Store (LRS).

    LRSs can be part of an LMS or exist on their own. As such, xAPI is a good choice for those whose training needs require activities outside of an LMS. 

    The major downside of Tin Can e-learning is adoption. While some 200 organizations (including the US Department of Defense) have adopted it, it still isn’t nearly as widespread as SCORM 1.2. 


    AICC (Aviation Industry CBT)

    Second only to SCORM 1.2 in adoption and spread, the AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) standard had its beginnings in the late 1980s. 

    In February 1998, the AICC released its HACP set of standards for online learning. It was one of the first standards of this kind, and some SCORM elements, like its run-time environment, are based on AICC.

    They are still widely used today and offer several advantages over SCORM. 

    HACP is HTTP-based, so it doesn’t have the cross-domain scripting problem inherent to SCORM. This means that by using AICC HACP, it’s possible to serve online learning content from one web domain to an LMS on another. 

    AICC also has better security compared to SCORM, but it can track fewer metrics.



    cmi5 (Computer Managed Instruction) is a set of standards aiming to bridge the gap between xAPI (TIn Can) and LMSs. 

    Essentially, think of it as xAPI plus LMS. 

    It focuses on being extensible, robust, and adaptable to modern technologies. In addition, it supports the Content as a Service Model, meaning e-learning content can reside outside of an LMS.

    cmi5 includes all the xAPI benefits while maintaining SCORM structures that learning experience designers know and love. As such, it’s a great option for those who want the massively expanded tracking options while also using an LMS. 

    This way, you can track learners’ progress from things such as simulations, and virtual and augmented reality, while still having the LMS manage the whole experience. 

    Next up, we discuss the pros and cons of using SCORM.


    Should you use SCORM?

    Thanks to its many benefits, SCORM is by far the most widespread e-learning industry standard.

    But are there times that you shouldn’t use SCORM? A few, yes. 

    Here, we’ll go over the pros and cons of SCORM to give you an idea if SCORM compliance is right for your online learning needs.


    Pros of using SCORM

    • Plug and Play: You can create the online training course once and then distribute it anywhere it’s needed.
    • Plenty of Choices: Because SCORM is so widely adopted, there is a range of authoring tools and LMSs available for you to choose from. 
    • Ease of Content Creation: SCORM-compliant e-learning tools let users create content without worrying about technical issues.
    • Good Tracking Capabilities: While xAPI can track more, SCORM can still track enough metrics to make it valuable in measuring learners’ progress and engagement. 
    • Saves Time and Money: SCORM brings down the cost of integrating new courses by up to 80% while saving time.
    • Error-free Content Delivery: You can be sure that a SCORM-compliant LMS will deliver any compliant course without any errors.


     Cons of using SCORM

    • SCORM is Old: The newest version is from 2004, which is ancient in terms of technology. Mobile learning on phones and tablets is an area of weakness for SCORM. 
    • Newer Standards Exist: Standards like xAPI and cmi5 offer much more functionality than SCORM. As a result, those planning to include many cutting-edge learning activities may skip SCORM altogether and just use the newer standards. 
      • Problems with HTML5: Video implementation in SCORM had Adobe Flash in mind during its development and works less well when replaced with the new HTML5 video standard. As such, this can make video content buggy on Apple iOS devices. 
      • Expensive Authoring Tools: Licenses for SCORM-compliant authoring tools can be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies. 
    • Learning Curve: Despite not being as difficult to use as when it originally came out, there’s still a learning curve to SCORM-compliant authoring tools, possibly requiring course creators to get training first.


    Key takeaways

    SCORM is the de-facto industry standard, enabling organizations to deliver consistently high-quality employee learning experiences. By becoming SCORM-compliant, you have the peace of mind that your staff training programs are efficient, reliable, and easily trackable.

    That’s why following instructional design best practices and choosing the right authoring tool and LMS is important. Opting for a SCORM-compliant LMS, such as Docebo, will take the headache out of creating, managing, and delivering effective e-learning training.

    Explore our glossary to get more info on a wealth of e-learning subjects.