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SCORM explained to teachers


Site: Tenegen
Course: TC05 - Sharing Open Learning Objects
Book: SCORM explained to teachers
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Date: Monday, 4 March 2024, 11:28 PM


SCORM - Sharable Content Object Reference Model - is a collection of standards and specifications adapted from multiple sources to provide a comprehensive suite of e-learning capabilities that enable interoperability, accessibility and reusability of Web-based learning content

Specifically, SCORM defines technical rules to:

  • create interoperable, accessible and reusable learning contents;
  • create searchable content or content repositories
  • control how online learning content and Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

SCORM has been developed by the ADL Initiative, etsablished by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1997.

ADL logo

The ADL Initiative created an international community to collaboratively develop a cost-effective distributed learning model that is consistent across national and organizational borders. To achieve this goal, ADL worked with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-based Training) Committee (AICC), the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc., and the Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring & Distribution Networks for Europe (ARIADNE). These organizations develop guidelines and specifications that make learning software accessible, interoperable, durable, and reusable. Whenever possible ADL adopts, clarifies, harmonizes, synchronizes, and applies the documentation that these standards organizations develop. ADL promotes the application of standards with reference implementations and tools to assess compliance to the requirements. (Source: Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative)

Creative Commons License

SCORM explained to teachers by Giovanni Fulantelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione-Non commerciale-Condividi allo stesso modo 2.5 Italia License.

Why is SCORM relevant for teachers?

Essential elements for an elearning course include:

  • people (teachers, tutors, learners, etc.)
  • a pedagogical model for the organization and management of the course;
  • digital content (Learning Objects);
  • a software platform to deliver the course, also called Learning Management System or Virtual Learning Environment (e.g. Moodle);

SCORM addresses the last two elements. Specifically, if we don’t use a standard to produce Learning Objects (like SCORM), we risk that:

  • LOs are produced in a proprietary format (not compliant to a standard) and can be only used with those LMSs that can "launch" and exchange data with LOs developed in that specific format;
  • LOs produced in a specific LMS cannot be used in a different one; for example, it's not easy to export learning content produced in Moodle to Docebo (another LMS);
  • It is almost impossible to create searchable content or content repositories
  • Reusability of Learning Objects is strongly limited by their proprietary format.

On the contrary, by adopting SCORM:

  • an LMS can launch LOs produced by different software and exchange data with them;
  • different LMSs can launch the same LO and exchange data with it;

Referring back to the initial question on this page, we think that whoever is involved in the production of content for elearning programs should be aware of the potential offered by the adoption of standards like SCORM, including the possibility to track learner progress, to search for Learning Objects on the Net, to develop reusable and interoperable LOs, …

What should teachers know about SCORM?

SCORM is a set of technical standards for e-learning software products. Teachers should really be users of the SCORM, and not expert in it (unless for personal or professional purposes, of course!).

This means that teachers should learn how to use software products that allow them to author learning contents in a simple way; all the technical steps necessary to save the content in the form of SCORM-compliant Learning Object should be done automatically by the software in a transparent way. eXelearning and Reload are two examples of these software products.

Nevertheless, some basic concepts of the SCORM should ideally be learned as well, since these software products refer to the SCORM terminology for some operations. Assets, SCO, Content Aggregation, Packaging and Manifest are terms which are normally used in the SCORM world.

The aim of this book is therefore to provide the elementary concepts necessary to understand the basic SCORM terminology.

What is the main benefit of adopting SCORM?

There are numerous benefits to adopting SCORM, and all are related to ADL’s functional requirements for SCORM.

  1. Accessibility:The ability to locate and access instructional components from multiple locations and deliver them to other locations. For example, a content author can search the ADL Registry and identify relevant content that has already been developed by another organization and deploy that content on any LMS that complies with the same version of SCORM to learners anywhere in the world.
  2. Interoperability: The ability to take instructional components developed in one system and use them in another system. For example, content packaged for delivery in one SCORM-compliant LMS could be loaded into another LMS that complies with the same version of SCORM for delivery to learners.
  3. Durability: The ability to withstand technology evolution and/or changes without costly redesign, reconfiguration, or recoding. For example, upgrading to a new computer operating system should have no impact on the delivery of content to learners.
  4. Reusability: The flexibility to incorporate instructional components in multiple applications and contexts. For example, e-learning content designed for one organization can be redeployed, rearranged, repurposed, or rewritten by other organizations that have similar learning needs.

(Source: Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative)

Accessibility, Interoperability, Durability and Reusability are also known as the “-ilities” of SCORM.

One important note: in the last few years, the term “accessibility” is more and more used to focus on people with disabilities and their ability to access entities. This shouldn’t be confused with the more general definition of accessibility, which is the one reported in the SCORM specifications.

Inside SCORM - Key concepts

SCORM (version 1.2) has three parts:

1. Overview

General information on the model, vision and future of the standard

2. Content Aggregation Model (CAM) - how to put learning content together so it can be moved and reused.

This is a group of specifications which define components, metadata, and how to produce content packages that can be used by an LMS and stored in a repository.

3. Run Time Environment: How content is launched and the learner's progress is tracked and reported back.

This is the set of specifications to trace the activities, in particular to activate the communication between an SCO and an LMS, to exchange data and to terminate the communication.

In the SCORM 2004 version, a fourth component has been added:

4. The Sequencing and Navigation Specification

It specifies how the learner can navigate between parts of the course (SCOs).

The most recent version of SCORM is SCORM 2004 but currently the SCORM version 1.2 from 2001 is the most widely used.

CAM - Components of a LO

The Content Aggregation Model defines a powerful model for breaking content into arbitrarily sized units of reuse. These units are called Sharable Content Objects (SCOs) and Assets.

In SCORM terminology:


An electronic representation of media, text, images, sound, web pages, assessment objects or any other pieces of data that can be delivered to a Web client

SCO (Sharable Content Object)

A SCO is a collection of one or more assets and other SCOs that
represents a logical unit of learning.

It is the smallest learning resource that can be tracked by a LMS (via javascripts functions included in SCORM). Single assets cannot be tracked by an LMS.

SCOs cannot launch another SCO as this is a proper function of the LMS .

Content Aggregation

It is an "aggregation map" of assets and SCOs that represents a learning unit (a module, a course, ...).

The definition of an SCO is deliberately vague; it can be a single web page or a web-based training module containing hundreds of pages, images and other assets. The definition of an SCO is left up to the content author. Each SCO should be universally reusable.

CAM - Metadata

Metadata describes what the content is, who owns it, what costs (if any) are associated with it, technical requirements, educational purpose, etc.

Metadata tags provide information about content to help search for and discover content over the Internet or within content repositories.

In fact, the CAM also defines how to code the tags in machine (and human) readable formats (e.g. via XML).

Content packages - Packaging

Content Packages contain a collection of learning objects, their metadata, and information about how the content is to be delivered to the user.

<pWithin the package file, there is a "manifest" that defines all of the contents and their relationship to one another (even named imsmanifest, since it conforms to the specifications defined by the IMG Global Learning Consortium).

IMS Package
Source: ADL: The SCORM Content Aggregation Model - Sharable Content Obejct Reference Model, version 1.2

Within the manifest, there is a so-called "organization" that defines the structure of the overall learning experience. The LMS uses the organization to determine what to deliver and when.

Content packages can then be imported and exported to Learning Management Systems or development tools, and they can be therefore exchanged between systems in a standardized way.

The Run Time Environment

This is the set of specifications to trace activities, in particular to activate the communication between a SCO and a LMS, to exchange data and to finish off the communication.

In this context, "communication" refers to the exchange of data between the LMS (e.g. Moodle) and the Learning Object which is accessed by a student in the LMS.

For example, whenever a learner accesses a SCORM-compliant Learning Object in Moodle, the Run Time Environment launches the SCOs in the LO, and Moodle records some events related to the learner: day and time of access, which parts of the LO the learner has accessed, time spent on each part, grades of tests in the LO, and so on. This process, which is named tracking, is possible only because the LO and the LMS exchange data.

Sequencing Specifications

The sequencing specifications allow the content author to govern how the learner is allowed to navigate between SCOs, and how progress data is rolled up to the course level.

Through these specifications, it is possible to define prerequisite constraints, create optional sections, provide question weighting, activate remediation mechanisms, etc.

Final remarks

SCORM is a model to produce LOs which are interoperable and therefore reusable. This model is becoming the de facto standard with regards to communication rules between the LO and the platform (LMS), and the packaging of LOs so that they can be transported between one repository or a platform to another.

Any teacher who wishes to develop content for elearning only needs to know what SCORM means. The platform and content tool developers should worry about conforming to SCORM. The teacher's role is restricted to pedagogy.

Many teachers have enough ICTs skills to develop their own content in the form of web pages. If this is the case, then they can easily insert into their web pages the few lines tha call the files containing the necessary javascript to make them SCORM compliant. It is also not difficult for them to use software like Reload that allows content aggregation, insertion of metadata and the production of the package.

(Source: Meta LO 3: SCORM standard, Producing & Sharing LOs (EN) course, activated in the framework of the SLOOP project)