SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense. The purpose of SCORM is to provide a set of rules and guidelines to produce training content and deliver online learning using learning management systems consistently across both public and private sectors.
SCORM 1.2 is the second revision of the SCORM standard after 1.0 and 1.1, and the first version of SCORM to be widely adopted by industry.
The evolution of E-Learning
E-Learning has been evolving for roughly 20 years, almost as long as the World Wide Web! One of the big problems that faced e-learning pioneers came about because one set of companies were developing the Learning Management Systems (software than delivered learning content and tracked learners progress and scores) and another set of companies were developing the actual content. The problem that arose was how to get the content and the LMSs to be able to talk to each other. What was needed was a common way of communicating – an e-learning standard.
The History of E-Learning STANDARDS
The first widely accepted standard was AICC which was used way before e-learning was a thing – back in the days of Computer Based Training in the 1980s. AICC stands for the Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee, and this committee developed a standard referred to as AICC, whose full name is AICC HACP. The HACP part stands for HTTP-based AICC/CMI Protocol. Yes, these folks were very fond of acronyms! The AICC HACP protocol was released formally in 1998 and is still used and supported by many LMSs and E-Learning authoring tools.
SCORM came into being in the year 2000 when Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) created a reference model for e-learning, the Sharable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM as it is more widely known. The actual task was kicked off when the American Department of Defense (DoD) was instructed by Executive Order to develop common e-learning standards for both the private and federal sectors.
Version 1.0 and 1.1 of SCORM were incomplete and even ADL no longer provides references and resources for them on their website. It was only with further development, research and industry innovation that we came to version 1.2 of SCORM – which is currently the most widely used e-learning standard in the world.
SCORM 1.2 – Why did it work?
The simplest answer is because people used it. Which leads to the question – why was it so widely adopted?
SCORM 1.2 was the first standard that provided a logical and well structured solution with both a “Content Aggregation Model” (how the learning should be packaged) and “Run-Time Environment” (how the learning should be run).
It introduced the concept of packages of content, and the use of metadata to describe the structure of the package in a way that could be interpreted by a Learning Management System in order to deliver the content to learners and track their progress.
SCORM 1.2 also had one distinction that is very important when a standard is aiming to be adopted across industry: it is simple. Content is organised into Shareable Content Objects or SCOs as they are generally referred to in the industry. Each SCO has a set of XML and XSD files containing metadata that tells the LMS how it is structured. The most important of these is the XML file, imsmaifest.xml, which you can think of as the ID for the SCO. I will cover the imsmanifest in another post, as it is a world unto itself.
The business benefit of adopting SCORM for content developers was that it meant that one item of learning could be distributed (or sold, or licensed) to a large number of different organisations using different LMSs, as long as the LMS supported SCORM 1.2 standard.
For LMS developers the business benefit was that they could develop their Learning Management System to support all SCORM calls and values, and be sure that they would (generally) be able to support content from any provider who built SCORM 1.2 SCOs.
By separating the actual content pages from the LMS to content communication, SCORM 1.2 is able to support any type of content from the most simple one page of text, right up to complex multi part content with exams and other interactivity.