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SCORM is dead – what are the alternatives to SCORM?

SCORM's limitations confine eLearning into an outdated range of capabilities and act as a barrier to development.

What is SCORM?

SCORM is a set of technical standards for hosting learning content that revolutionised digital training when it was first fully developed and adopted in 2001. It allowed content distribution across other systems that conformed with SCORM, which made creating courses that could be sold and transferred to multiple learning management systems realistic.

This is the main benefit of using a standard. SCORM has been compared to the universal language of digital learning courses, allowing them to communicate and work on different platforms that ‘speak’ it.

However, this language would be a rudimentary and restrictive one. SCORM has gone through very little development since its first widespread adoption in 2001, while the potential of eLearning has sprung up in all directions. Being tied into creating your digital training in line with SCORM places limitations on the features you can deliver for your learners, and on the scope for future development.

So, what are the alternatives to SCORM? And do you even need to conform to a standard?

Does your training even need to be compliant with a protocol?

Depending on your specific needs, it may not be necessary for your courses to be compliant with a protocol or set of standards like SCORM.

There is a common misconception that a learning course must be SCORM compliant in order to be hosted on a learning management system. When a course is built with a flexible authoring tool within an LMS, it is not necessary to make it compliant with a set of standards like SCORM or xAPI unless you want it to be quickly transferrable to other LMSs.

The learning management systems we develop allows you to build your courses within the LMS directly. This means that you don’t need to create it within a separate authoring tool, nor package it into a format like SCORM. Therefore if you don’t need to move the course out of the LMS, making it compliant with a set of standards like SCORM is unnecessary (and expensive).

Furthermore, if you move away from these outdated standards, your content can flourish with new and innovative approaches to online learning (outside of the boundaries of SCORM).

xAPI: a better SCORM alternative if you must use a standard

If you do need to work within a protocol, it is a good idea to consider the alternatives to SCORM. The recognised heir to SCORM is known as xAPI (sometimes referred to as Tin Can or Experience API). It is a set of standards which performs the same tracking and transferability functions as SCORM, but can be applied in a much more sophisticated way.

Need a SCORM or xAPI compliant Learning Management System? Contact us about your project

Flexible tracking for diverse learning experiences

xAPI’s main distinction is its ability to track and make use of a much wider range of learning data. With xAPI, learners can input their own records of learning in the ‘real world.’

For example, when Simon’s eLearning course on plant identification instructs him to find four native plant species on a countryside footpath, he can input this activity into the LMS on his phone, even without internet connection. This will then be recorded as part of his course progression.

SCORM, however, can only track online activity within the course. This will be enough for some courses, but it leaves a wealth of practical learning activities unacknowledged.

Unlike SCORM, xAPI can track learning offline and on mobile.

Because of its security restrictions, SCORM blocks cross-domain communication. This means that LMSs on different domains cannot share content or data with one another. Different parts of a wider organisation might use LMSs on different domains, but if these work on SCORM standards it will be difficult to compile a universal record of data between them.

This also means that when users access their courses on mobile, or without an internet connection, the data from this is not reported back to the LMS, and the user’s progress will therefore be underrepresented in the record.

A huge part of our activity online now takes place on mobile, but learning content on SCORM still cannot fully operate this way. Unlike SCORM, xAPI can track learning offline and on mobile.

The programming of xAPI took this issue into account and includes both enhanced security and cross-domain connectivity. It can record and communicate learning experiences from a wide range of learning environments.

xAPI keeps up where SCORM lags behind

Most SCORM compliant software still works with SCORM 1.2, which was published in 2001. Digital capabilities and expectations have since increased in every way and continue to rise exponentially. SCORM already feels outdated, and will become a greater limitation as digital learning’s potential develops in future years.

xAPI on the other hand has the flexibility to continually evolve. Although it might answer your functional needs now, investing in SCORM may not make sense long term. As the reigning alternative to SCORM, xAPI is the ‘future-proof’ option.

xAPI is also more reliable than SCORM. It is a newer standard, which means it is built to adapt better with the current software. As developers increasingly take it up and endorse it, there will be a greater support base interested in improving and maintaining the standard.

Need a SCORM or xAPI compliant Learning Management System? Contact us about your project

Not sure where to start with your own learning management system? See how we can help with Learning Management System development.

8 Comments

  1. Harry Watkins on January 10, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    We always assumed that we always needed a standard, but it turns out that we do not need one at all!! Good advice, thank you.

    • Kaine Shutler on January 11, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you Harry, glad you found it helpful 🙂

  2. Sami Buckner on January 29, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Will I need an authoring tool if we use xAPI?

    • Kaine Shutler on February 20, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      Hey Sami. Generally, yes, an authoring tool is the easiest way to create courses for any standard. You can take a look at Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline to see which one is the best fit for you.

  3. Miguel Gibbons on February 20, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    How do we create a course if we don’t use a standard? Can we export powerpoints and put them into the coruses?

    • Kaine Shutler on February 20, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      Good question Miguel. If you use a new LMS that doesn’t conform to a standard, then they’ll have authoring tools built right in. All of the learning management systems that we build have integrated authoring tools. In those cases, you wouldn’t want to export PowerPoint presentations – the LMS’ built in authoring tools will help you to present and format the information in the best possible way (which is rarely slide-based).

  4. Antonio on August 15, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    Hello, how safe are Scorm packages? If a creator of a scorm package introduces malicious code into a .js file

    And I allow you to upload this scorm package within my LMS platform, is the security of my platform and my users at risk?

    • Kaine Shutler on August 16, 2019 at 2:15 pm

      Hey Antonio. I’ve heard stories of viruses being included within a SCORM package, so it’s a legitimate concern. It’s really up to your learning management system to detect malicious code and deal with it accordingly – I imagine some systems have better anti-virus detection than others. Some systems may not have any measures in place whatsoever, relying soely on the server’s anti-virus (assuming the server is equipped with one). You may want to check your LMS’ documentation to understand how protected you are.

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