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SCORM for Newbies

I get these questions a lot from people who are just getting into elearning – What is SCORM? What is the advantage of having SCORM compliance? What are the challenges I can face? Should I be hands-on with SCORM?

So here is some help.

What is SCORM?

SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is a standard defined by ADL which defines how elearning courses and LMS should talk to each other. Let me try to explain this with help of a hypothetical scenario –

  • Let’s say there are 3 entities GOD, a Man, and a Dog
  • Man and Dog wish to be friends and want to stay together – but there is a problem – they don’t understand each other
  • Man & Dog become very sad. GOD, being what HE is, can’t see this and works out a solution. HE lays down some rules for Man & Dog and commands –
    • Dog – If you want food, wag your tail and Man will give you food
    • Man – If you are feeling lonely make a sad face and Dog will give you all its love
    • and so on …
  • After this both Man & Dog become happy because now not only can they interact and live with each other, but also with other Men & Dog they get to meet!

Now understanding SCORM becomes very simple if we replace our above entities as follows–
GOD = ADL
Man = LMS
Dog = Course
Commands = SCORM

ADL has laid down rules on how course and LMS are to talk to each other for various things, e.g. how should course tell LMS how many marks a learner scored in assessment, or how should course tell LMS how much time learner has spent reading it, or how should LMS tell course where it was stopped last etc.

What are the advantages of SCORM?

Well, if there is no standard then LMS and Course won’t know how to talk to each other and each one of them would have to devise its own way of doing it. It can work if you have to talk to only one LMS or one course – but it will be impossible to communicate if LMS has to talk to courses from different vendors, or if a course has to run on different LMS’s.

Thus, some of the advantages of SCORM are –

  • SCORM compliant Courses and LMS can talk to each other seamlessly
  • As a customer, you have the flexibility to buy and host courses from any vendor, or if you are having problems with LMS, you can replace it with another SCORM compliant LMS without having to make any modifications in the courses
  • As a course builder, you can follow set guidelines and be assured that your courses will run with all SCORM compliant LMS’s

What are the challenges I can face?

The problem arises when different service providers interpret ADL guidelines differently or do not completely implement them. It’s just like GOD lays down the rules, but different men and dogs interpret them differently and start fighting with each other that other’s interpretation is wrong.

Thankfully, ADL has provided a set of tools to check whether both LMS & courses are “truly” SCORM compliant or not. So as a customer, if you ever find yourself in situation where LMS & content providers are claiming their products to be SCORM compliant and still not working together, then you can ask them to provide test report generated via ADL tools.

However, do not worry. You would generally not face this problem with established LMS’s or content authoring tools.

Should I be hands-on with SCORM?

Depends.

If you are a content developer planning to use standard tools like Articulate, Toolbook etc. then you don’t need to know about SCORM guidelines as these tools can publish courses in SCORM compliant format without any inputs from your side.

If you are however developing content using HTML or Flash then you would certainly need to know about SCORM function calls and how to code the same in your courses.

If you are a customer using SCORM compliant LMS and courses then you should understand how to upload SCORM compliant courses onto the LMS, whether your LMS provides any settings regarding SCORM courses (such as, will course window auto-resize or you can set window size, can you switch on/off LMS generated navigation bar etc) or not etc.

I hope this was of some help. Please do feel free to contact us if you have any queries related to SCORM compliance for LMS or your courseware.

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