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New to eLearning? Learn about SCORM

christinamcmahon profile image Christina ・Updated on ・3 min read

When I was contacted by an eLearning company about a role that involved integrating their learning management system, or LMS, with clients' LMSs using SCORM and SSO, I had to look these terms up but I was intrigued. Once I had a basic understanding I realized just how interesting the role sounded and was that much more excited to pursue it and to learn more. During my research I was especially interested in SCORM and decided I wanted to share my newfound knowledge here since writing these articles always helps me solidify my learning and I love sharing with this community however I can. Read on if you are curious about the eLearning industry, an industry that I believe is increasingly vital especially considering the current climate with COVID-19. I will specifically discuss SCORM, the most commonly used content standard in eLearning.

The Basics: LMS and SCORM

First of all I think it's important to get some vocabulary out of the way...

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application that is responsible for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses. If, like me, you've ever used Moodle, it is the most popular SCORM compliant LMS.

LMS components

SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model and is a set of technical standards for web-based educational software products. SCORM basically tells programmers how to write their code so that it can integrate easily with other eLearning software. The SCORM standard makes sure that all eLearning content and LMSs can work with each other, just like the DVD standard makes sure that all DVDs will play in all DVD players. While it doesn't determine anything about the instructional design of eLearning content, it does govern how online learning content and LMSs communicate with each other.

"Sharable Content Object Reference Model" is a mouthful and I find it easier to understand if we break it down into its two main parts: Sharable Content Object and Reference Model.

  • Sharable Content Object describes the reusable elements of the SCORM package.
  • Reference Model refers to the standard that SCORM sets.

How Does It Work?

When creating an eLearning course with an authoring tool that is SCORM compliant the output is a zip folder which is uploaded to the LMS. The LMS handles everything from there (so long as it’s SCORM compliant too). When the course is published, the user can launch it in a browser and the LMS collects data to track and report results of their performance.

Zip Folder and SCORM illustrationimage from ispringsolutions.com

SCORM utilizes JavaScript to facilitate communication between the client side content and the run-time environment. When a user takes a SCORM course, data is being tracked and sent back to the LMS. Some examples include:

  • lesson_location (where the user left off)
  • suspend_data (bookmark with the specific information)
  • lesson_status (pass, fail, complete, incomplete)
  • session_time and total_time
  • score_raw (score the user got)
  • mastery_score (passing score)
  • interactions (individual answers to exam questions, time spent etc.)

Why Use SCORM?

Now that we understand what SCORM is, let's look at why it's so important in the eLearning industry:

  • It's great for consumers since learning content can be used on any compliant LMS meaning the user doesn't have to be trapped into using a poorly performing LMS.
  • Since SCORM is so widely used and is considered the gold standard at this point, there is a huge array of reliable, interoperable LMSs to choose from that are SCORM compliant.
  • Overall cost of delivering training has been reduced due to SCORM since the standard has been set with proven quality.
  • The data being tracked, as mentioned in the last section, creates a better user experience since they are able to easily bookmark, track scores, etc.

Conclusion

If you are interested in the eLearning industry and the technology behind the scenes of it, it's worth your while to learn about SCORM and its relation to LMSs. Personally, this industry speaks to me on many levels. I think high quality eLearning has become increasingly essential in education, especially right now. It also means greater accessibility to education for people who might not otherwise have the means.

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