SCORM: What is SCORM and why does it matter?

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

Designing eLearning content and online training courses for your staff or students?

You’ll need to make sure the content you’re creating is SCORM compliant.

eLearning professionals often work in authoring tools such as Captivate or Articulate to design their online courses. They then have the option of exporting the content to a SCORM package.

You might have already carried out this task yourself many times – but have you ever wondered why it’s so important to make your training content SCORM compliant? Many people working in the L&D industry are aware of the term, but not so familiar with the technology itself.

Taking the time to learn a little more about the SCORM model can help content creators gain more of an understanding and appreciation of its impact on the eLearning industry.

Simply put, SCORM helps your Learning Management System and content to work together. Having your content packaged into SCORM files will ensure your learning materials can be read and run on different learning platforms, reaching a wide audience of learners.

If you’re keen to learn more about how SCORM works and why you need to make your learning content SCORM compliant, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about SCORM and why it’s so important for online learning.

So, what exactly is SCORM?

First things first – what is this SCORM acronym all about? Well, SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model.

Sharable Content Object (SCO) refers to the units of online learning material the LMS delivers to learners.

In essence, these SCOs can be thought of as building blocks. An online course will be made up of different building blocks: an HTML page, image, audio file, or flash-based quiz, for example. Your LMS will then link all those smaller building blocks into a logical set of SCOs for specific instructions.

The Reference Model indicates that SCORM is a kind of standard or model, to help govern eLearning content and achieve consistency and compliance across the industry.

How long has SCORM been around?

You might be wondering how long SCORM has been used in the eLearning industry.

SCORM was first released in early 2000 and is considered to be “the most commonly used content standard in eLearning” standardising learning content between the industry’s many different developers and vendors.

Before the release of SCORM in 2000, creating course content that could run on multiple devices and systems was far more difficult – and costly! After all, there was no guarantee that the learning content you’d created would be able to be integrated and used on other Learning Management Systems or platforms.

With SCORM, trainers and content creators are able to successfully collaborate and use eLearning course content across multiple tools and systems.

How has SCORM helped the eLearning industry?

Since the arrival of SCORM, creating online learning courses is so much easier, with the SCORM model simplifying how eLearning content works with different platforms and tools.

When departments work autonomously, developing their own eLearning courses and delivering them via the LMS of their choice, it can lead to problems with content duplication and information all over the place. With SCORM, we have a set of technical standards to improve interoperability between eLearning products.

Let’s say you design eLearning content through a tool like Captivate – with SCORM, you can upload that content into a Learning Management System of your choice.

This powerful plug-and-play functionality means that eLearning content can be simply created once, and then used in many different systems and situations without modification.

How do SCORM files work?

So you now know why it’s so important to make your learning content SCORM compliant. Next step is to understand just how SCORM files work.

You’ve no doubt seen many eLearning courses and training tools advertising themselves as ‘SCORM compliant’. Basically, this means that the files have been packaged up in line with SCORM standards, ready to be uploaded into a SCORM compliant system. SCORM files look just like a zip file and will contain all of the files needed to make the eLearning content run.

This means they’ve been developed to fit SCORM’s technical specifications and should work with all compliant technologies and content.

If you get a little lost when it comes to the technical side of things, think of a DVD. Imagine if our favourite movie could only be played in certain DVD players. SCORM is the magic that makes your online course able to be played on any LMS.

 What are the benefits of being SCORM compliant?

The benefits of making your online training materials SCORM compliant extend to your learners, eLearning providers, the business, and yourself as content creator.

For content creators, you won’t be wasting your time, energy and money designing and developing training courses that can’t be used. After all, if an LMS can’t read your learning content, your online course is already doomed. As you can see, it’s vital that your eLearning materials are SCORM compliant.

SCORM also allows you to be more flexible when it comes to the eLearning platform you choose to use – you can even switch platforms later down the track. Learning content can then be easily customised without the need for costly and time-consuming re-coding.

In terms of your business, creating SCORM compliant material will help you to reach more learners, as it’s more widely accepted. You’ll also have peace of mind that technology platforms will be able to read and run your course materials, well into the future.

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