Your ultimate guide to using SCORM in 2019


If you’ve ever written or used content for e-learning, chances are you’ve used SCORM-compliant technologies, maybe without even knowing it. SCORM is the go-to standard specification for achieving compatibility between e-learning content and a large number of learning management systems/e-learning platforms.

This powerful technology has been around for quite a while now, but it’s still something of a mystery for many e-learning authors. Whether you’re a newcomer to e-learning authoring or a veteran just looking to brush up on your knowledge, this handy guide covers all the latest SCORM-related topics. It will give you a clearer understanding of what SCORM is, what it can do, which software it works best with and why it’s still the e-learning industry’s leading choice for content compatibility. It also introduces some exciting new technologies that are finally providing alternatives to SCORM.

What is SCORM?

Let’s start with the basics: SCORM stands for “sharable content object reference model.” As this somewhat lengthy name suggests, SCORM is a model for allowing e-learning authors to create content that can be shared across different systems. In essence, SCORM defines how learning management systems need to be constructed so that they will support hosting, displaying and tracking SCORM-compliant content.

The term “SCO,” short for “sharable content objects” is quite important when talking about SCORM. There “objects” are the actual e-learning content pieces that authors create and then publish. Most importantly, these objects are intended to be freestanding units of information that can be shared and reused across various platforms as necessary (for example, to enable content to be shared by users at multiple locations without every user having to use the exact same software).

What is the latest version of SCORM?

The latest version of SCORM is SCORM 2004. Even though it was released fifteen years ago, this software and its predecessors SCORM 1.1 and 1.2 are still highly relevant and widely used in e-learning authoring technology. Some newer technologies are on the rise (as we will discuss below), but SCORM remains the unrivaled champion when it comes to achieving compatibility and tracking learner activity using learning management systems. As we will also discuss below, some new e-learning authoring tools, like Easygenerator, now provide an alternative to SCORM, bypassing the need for learning management systems altogether.

How does SCORM work?

To make content sharable, SCORM packages it according to the so-called content aggregation model (CAM). This model determines the way the sharable content is to be displayed. Each SCORM-compliant content object includes a document called “imsmanifest” containing code that specifies the structure and physical appearance of the object. This governs the way a learning management system will open and display the content of the object, such as a chapter of a training course or a single, free-standing training module.

SCORM also stores specific user data, like how well a specific user did on an assessment, or which percentage of the course the user has already completed. This enables the LMS to display the course properly, based on this information. Importantly, it also enables instructors to track learner performance and monitor critical factors for success like learner engagement and course completion rates.

Do I need SCORM in 2019?

If your company or organization works with a learning management system, then SCORM compliance is probably very important for you. To ensure your learning content displays properly on your company’s learning platform, you need to use authoring tools that enable you to export SCORM-compliant content. Many authoring tools include this as a standard, automatic feature, so you generally don’t need to worry about a lot of technicalities just to create a sharable content object.

With modern, cloud-based e-learning authoring tools like Easygenerator, learners can now access learning content via their web browser rather than the learning management system. In that case, SCORM compliance is only an issue if you want to allow users to access the content offline or via a specific, SCORM-compliant learning platform, rather than via a web browser.

Easygenerator’s Gradebook functionality, for example, offers e-learning authors and instructors virtually all the same learner tracking benefits as SCORM. However, it is fully cloud-based and requires no LMS. This frees organizations from needing a heavy, high-maintenance LMS, and effectively reduces the need for SCORM. To see how this works, you can start a free trial of Easygenerator’s cloud-based course authoring software here.

Although innovative tools like Easygenerator provide an alternative to SCORM in many regards, it is still useful to be able to export SCORM-compliant content, considering the prevalence of SCORM within the e-learning industry.

Which software is SCORM-compliant?

There are dozens of SCORM-compliant learning management systems and e-learning authoring tools on the market. Here are lists of some of the more popular options:

Learning management systems:

  • Versal
  • Mindflash
  • PiiQ by Cornerstone
  • Saba
  • Coassemble
  • Torch LMS
  • Lessonly

and the list goes on….

In fact, it’s probably easier to list non-SCORM-compliant LMS’s. Some of the best known non-SCORM-compliant LMSs are SharePoint and Canvas LMS.

SCORM-compliant e-learning authoring tools

To author SCORM-compliant content, you can use a wide range of tools, including these popular options, which are compatible with one or more versions of SCORM:

  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate Rise
  • iSpring Suite
  • Easygenerator
  • Obsidian Black
  • Knowbly

… just to name a few.

Are there alternatives to SCORM?

The e-learning tech industry is currently evolving at a very fast pace. While SCORM has remained the unchallenged industry standard for the past 15 years, it is now facing some competition from new, modern technologies like these:

Cloud-based tools: As shown above, a cloud-based tool like Easygenerator can provide a viable SCORM alternative with many of the same advantages of SCORM. In the case of Easygenerator, it is actually also SCORM-compliant, so it gives you the best of both worlds.

xAPI: The newer specification xAPI is designed to provide even more detailed tracking capabilities than SCORM. The main advantage of xAPI over SCORM is that it can track learner activities outside of an LMS, so any activities that take place, for example, inside a performance management system, CRS or any other program can also be tracked. This provides learners and instructors with greater flexibility in terms of course design.

Another alternative to SCORM is AICC, though the market for AICC has dwindled in recent years. Like SCORM, AICC has been around for quite some time now. It is a classic learning content compatibility system developed for use in the aviation industry. AICC gained prevalence in the early days of e-learning, and while it does offer some impressive security options, it is widely seen as an outdated system. There’s not much advantage to using AICC over other standards these days.

SCORM in 2019 and beyond

E-learning professionals and learners can all look forward to greater flexibility and freedom in 2019 and beyond, with new programs like Easygenerator or new standards like xAPI. These promise to provide a more effective e-learning experience with better tracking capabilities. The IT workload is also greatly reduced by cloud-based authoring tools like Easygenerator because there’s no longer any need for a high-maintenance, expensive LMS.

With the evolution of new technologies, SCORM is starting to show its age. However, since it’s such a well-established part of e-learning infrastructure throughout the world, it’s likely to be with us for the near future. SCORM is still a very useful tool, but with modern alternatives, it can now be seen as just one part of an overall e-learning strategy rather than the only choice.

Other useful links:

Everything you need to know about 70-20-10:

7 Musts you need to know when starting with e-learning software

Everything you need to know on scaling learning within your company with user generated content