SCORM is dead – here’s what to use instead

SCORM's limitations confine eLearning into an outdated range of capabilities and act as a barrier to development.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 SCORM or another set of standards like xAPI. 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.

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.

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Furthermore, if you move away from these outdated standards, your content can flourish with new and innovative approaches to online learning (outside of the boundaries of SCORM).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

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 in a couple of years. xAPI is the more ‘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 web developers increasingly take it up and endorse it, there will be a greater support base interested in improving and maintaining the standard.

Making digital learning compliant with SCORM traditionally involves a substantial input of time, money and effort. Our LMS package can be optionally delivered with xAPI compatibility with a comparatively much lower investment.

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