Whenever I hear the short-hand of today’s topic, I am immediately transported to a Marvel movie. SCORM: Agents of Shield. The Shareable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM for short, isn’t going to save the city from burning to the ground at the hands of the evil Dr. Ed, but it does have a massive range of uses in the eLearning world. Let’s take a little closer look at how it rocks the EdTech world by ensuring software can communicate! 

What exactly is SCORM? 

Step into my time machine. We are in the 1990s, and it is the heyday of eLearning as we know it today. If you’re an online learning designer, you will create it for a specific system only. The course won’t run on any other system, and if the organization you designed for decides to change learning management software (LMS), they lose all of their courses, data, and the thousands of dollars spent on creation. Talk about unideal! 

The new millennium rolls around, and the US Department of Defense (told you it feels like something out of a Marvel movie) develops SCORM as a technical specification for eLearning courses to comply with. As long as the learning content is SCORM conform, it will work with conformant LMS systems. The most comparable example is the DVD format. In the early days of movie releases, there were other formats to contend with, but people realized pretty quickly that it’s much easier to have DVD players that can play whatever movie there is as long as it is in the DVD format. It doesn’t matter whether your DVD player has a SONY logo or a Toshiba one. It will play your copy of Sex and the City! If you’re feeling a little lost, in this example, SCORM is the DVD, and LMS is the DVD player. 

SCORM: Still Relevant Today

There’s a new boom in edTech has been kickstarted by the 2020 pandemic. That means a whole lot of people are jumping onto the bandwagon, creating eLearnings using web-based course builders without doing the in-depth research beyond, “Is this easy to use?” Those of us who have been in this industry for a little while are waiting for the inevitable problems to arise. 

Problems like:

  • web-based course builders can’t do much more than create introductory courses
  • if you want to move elsewhere because of the first point, you’re stuck with the limiting course creator; you’d have to recreate all that content for a different platform
  • if a different organization wants to license some of those courses, they will want to upload them into their LMS

Thankfully, SCORM was created to solve those problems, and it can solve those both in the 2000s and the 2020s. To this day, most LMS is SCORM-compliant. Additionally, it is open standard software, which means if the authoring software of your choice isn’t SCORM-supported, you can crack your knuckles and get coding. 

Pssst, You Don’t Need to Understand SCORM

Yes, you’re here to understand SCORM better, but let me tell you a little secret: if you have a strong LMS, you shouldn’t need to spend too much time thinking about it. You should be able to create some kick-butt eLearning, click export in your format of choice and upload it into your LMS. No need to fight with the behind the scene complexities. Enough is going on to author learnings that are engaging, approachable, and user-friendly. 

SCORM Benefits

What can SCORM Track?

SCORM is a bit of a wizard when it comes to tracking important data. Compatible courses can easily track:

  • Where in the lesson has a learner left off?
  • Has the learner passed, failed, completed, or left the lesson incomplete? 
  • How long did the learning session take? How about the total time spent on each unit?
  • What score did the learner get?
  • What is the passing score?
  • What were the individual answers to questions?

Do I need to use SCORM?

As always, I am biased, but yes, if you want:

  • courses that can be used on a variety of different platforms
  • more interactive experiences for learners across the board
  • making switching LMS easy peasy

Is SCORM the same as xAPI?

No, it isn’t. xAPI is often hailed as the new SCORM, the future of edTech, and the meaning of life in the form of software. xAPI can track learning no matter whether it is happening within a formal eLearning unit. This does not, however, make SCORM obsolete. SCORM is still the standard when you want to roll out eLearning via LMS.

You will likely need both for a complete roll-out and overviews of your organization’s learning and development. 

Negatives of SCORM

1. Cannot track learning outside of a formalized setting

See above in regards to xAPI. 

2. The cheap and cheerful online authoring tools frequently do not support SCORM. 

My grandmother used to say that those who buy cheap buy twice. Those wise words may be worth considering here, 

3. It’s not the most user friendly due to how old it is. 


I’m sorry that I didn’t just introduce you to your new favorite superhero, but hopefully, SCORM can help you problem-solve some common issues found in eLearning authorship. 

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