What is SCORM?

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SCORM refers to Sharable Content Object Reference Model, a technical standard for writing e-learning content. It gives guidelines to programmers on how to write codes for e-learning products so that it can play well with other software. It is the de facto industry standard which allows organizations using e-learning as a training method to reuse content without rewriting expensive custom interfaces. Basically, SCORM determines how online content and Learning Management Systems (LMS) “talk” to each other. Let’s understand it part by part.


SCORM stands for

Sharable – Web based training content that is created using SCORM standards is sharable and interoperable with other SCORM compliant LMSs or e-learning content.

Content Object–e-learning material created using SCORM is in the form of small chunks or “content objects” that are sharable and often reusable.

Reference Model – As stated earlier, it is a reference model or guide which programmers refer to while writing codes for e-learning software.

To truly appreciate the importance of SCORM, let us go back a decade. Before SCORM, content creation and integration was an immensely expensive affair. This is because e-learning content/software created for a particular LMS was usable on that very LMS only. Moreover, LMSs could not interact with each other. Here’s an analogy:

PlayStation 3 games cannot be run on a Microsoft Xbox 360 and vice versa, because game developers write codes differently for different gaming platforms and environments. Of course, this hugely increases the costs and limits the opportunities for gamers to have access to all kinds of games.

In the context of e-learning, SCORM eliminates such a situation and makes content widely usable.

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Achieving 4 key goals with SCORM

Advanced Distributed Learning, better known as ADL – the United States based research group which produced these standards aimed to achieve 4 key goals:

  1. Interoperability –The ability of software to be created in one location with a particular set of tools and be used on a different platform in a different location with a different set of tools.
  2. Reusability – The ability of courseware to “play” on any content delivery system so that sharable content objects can be used to create multiple iterations of the same course to either cater to multiple audiences or for multiple delivery methods such as performance support.
  3. Accessibility – The ability to make SCORM courses portable and accessible at different locations without complex reconfiguration.
  4. Durability – The ability of content to survive technological changes without expensive recoding, redesign or reconfiguration. Less volatile content objects enjoy more durability and therefore reduce overall maintenance costs.

Why should you care?

For businesses that use some or the other form of e-learning, SCORM is an excellent investment because it is not only more cost effective, but also because it allows for faster course development. The following business benefits are notable –

  1. Reusability of content eliminates the need to re-do many e-learning modules while catering to multiple audiences in different contexts, significantly reducing the course development time.
  2. Easy integration and sharing across platforms protects infrastructure investments and lowers the cost of content ownership in present and future SCORM compliant systems.
  3. Conforming to SCORM minimizes cost in many ways. On one hand, it does not require any additional proprietary tools (it simply uses the same tools that your development team uses for web content), and on the other hand, content maintenance costs are reduced.
  4. With ‘sequencing’ which was introduced in 2004, course developers can assign a sequence to learning objects, and permit learners to bookmark their progress and thus have more control of their learning.
  5. Rich and detailed tracking and reporting of information about learner experiences is possible because SCORM data is granular, i.e. in the form of discrete learning objects.
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