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What You Need to Know about SCORM

What You Need to Know about SCORM

If you use computerized training materials of any kind, you need to understand what SCORM is and what it can do for you. This article will tell you what you need to know.

What Is SCORM Compliant?

“Sharable Content Object Reference Model,” or SCORM serves as a Reference Model – meaning SCORM compiles and references the plethora of existing standards and directs developers how to properly use them together.

The SCORM website provides a great way to think about it. When buying a new DVD, you don’t worry if it will work with your brand of DVD player. Whether you have a SONY or Panasonic, you know it will play just the same. This is because DVDs are produced using a set of standards. Without this set of standards, studios would need to release DVDs formatted for each specific player – which would be a waste of both time and money. That is how online learning used to be before SCORM was created.

The SCORM standard allows all e-learning content and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to work with each other – just like the DVD standard assures your movie will play on your brand of player. As long as your LMS is SCORM compliant, it can play any SCORM conformant content, and any SCORM conformant content can play in any SCORM compliant LMS.

How Do Course Developers Use SCORM?

Here’s a simple explanation. They create a training course in a program like Storyline or Adobe Captivate and when they are done, they publish the entire course as a SCORM file type. They can then upload that file to a company’s Learning Management System (LMS) and take it live for trainees to use.

What Do We Mean by “Create a Course?”

Programs like Storyline and Adobe Captivate create courses that can include text, audio, video, quizzes, interactive games  and other media. Once the course has been created, the designer then publishes it as a SCORM and uploads it to the company’s LMS.

What Does the Word SCORM Mean?

SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model.” It is a file format that was created in 1999 when the U.S. Department of Defense saw a need for a standardized format for computerized learning materials. One year later, the Department of Defense launched its first version of SCORM, SCORM 1.0. In the years since, more versions have been released.

Why Has SCORM Become the Standard Format for Training Courses? 

The biggest reason is that a number of powerful software products (including Storyline and Adobe Captivate) have come along that allow course developers to create robust training programs that are compatible across all Learning Management Systems.

This Story Illustrates the Need for SCORM

Here’s an analogy. Let’s say that instead of creating a training course, you are trying to create a video that you will show at your grandmother’s 80th birthday party. The good news is, you have a lot of materials that you can use in the video. The problem is, they are in different formats. In Word, you have written an emotional biography of your grandmother that you want to use. You also have photographs on paper, JPEGs on your computer, old home movies that are on reel-to-reel film, old videos on your computer, old audio files that are on cassettes, and several shoe boxes full of other stuff.

There are programs and websites where you can merge and combine media types, and they are a lot like programs that allow you to create SCORM files from different objects and elements.

A Quick Case Study

Tortal Training has developed and updated training programs for hundreds of clients. This client’s story illustrates the importance of SCORM.

“We need to create a new training program,” that client told us, “but by the way, we don’t want to toss our old training materials, we want to make them part of our new training.”

That kind of request is not unusual. Our Tortal training development team handles projects like that every day. But for this client, the following things needed to happen . . .

  • An old printed employee handbook needed to be input and updated.
  • Three old Flash-based videos about the company needed to be updated to current video formats.
  • Older on-paper quizzes and tests needed to be input and converted to run interactively on computers and mobile devices.
  • All training content had to integrate with the company’s Tortal Learning Management System (LMS) so that all employees’ training use could be tracked.

We reached all those goals and created a fully customized training program that incorporated the company’s logo, colors and other branding elements. How? We custom-created a new course for the client and uploaded it as a SCORM to the company’s LMS.

The result, like that video that a man created for his grandmother’s birthday, turned out to be a thing of beauty that performed perfectly.

The Importance of Compliance

Somewhat analogous to the issue of software compatibility between different computer operating systems, SCORM works to anticipate changing technologies and industry changes. This means that any LMS advertised as SCORM compliant will play any content that is also SCORM compliant. This lowers both current and future costs of managing and updating e-learning properties.

Even if you develop primarily in-house and proprietary training materials and e-learning modules, SCORM compliance is an important consideration for a number of reasons. At the top of this list is cost savings in development projects. SCORM has rapidly become the guidelines by which virtually all programs develop e-learning software. They work hard to ensure such products will work seamlessly with other software and LMSs.

As many in-house systems are now incorporating externally produced content and modules for various purposes, the issue of SCORM compliance becomes a central concern for all training departments.

Also, if you bring in training experts to help with your online learning, it is key that they are SCORM compliant. Since one of the biggest benefits of SCORM is that it makes content portable, your company will easily be able to use the training content on another system without any hassle. That is why using a SCORM training company is ideal.

Keeping Up with a Changing Environment

In addition to upfront savings and compatibility, SCORM compliance is essential to maintaining future usability of developed product and software. For example, the success of the initial launch of SCORM has driven the development of the next generation of the model. While there are currently three versions of SCORM, the industry is preparing for the latest incarnation of this approach. Named Tin Can API (Application Programming Interface), this new product from ADL will incorporate many new technologies and standards to enhance the capabilities of existing and new e-learning products.

Tin Can API represents a major advance in the field of e-learning, and the new product addresses the advances in hosted LMSs and Learning Record Stores. For directors of training, these and many other enhancements make access to existing and new content much easier and manageable.

Business and SCORM

While all e-learning environments benefit from ensuring full SCORM compliance, the concept has special significance to businesses on two fronts. First, all producers of e-learning content and products find virtually all major clients expect such interoperability in their training products and projects. As the de facto industry compliance, most RFPs (Request for Proposals) and RFQs (Request for Quotations) specify SCORM compliance as a minimal requirement. This means clients who purchase and use learning products from multiple vendors expect full and seamless integration.

The second point of importance, as noted above, is maximizing your investment in all e-learning and training intellectual properties. Internal users will be exposed to other SCORM compliant systems and the learning curve is greatly reduced with such interoperability.

As e-learning, LMS and other online training tools becomes more popular, SCORM compliant systems are essential for companies. From the cost benefits to the collaborative options to integration possibilities, SCORM helps streamline and enhance your company’s online training. 

Turn to Tortal for Training that Works 

Want to learn more about developing training that works today and that you can expand and continue to use in the years ahead? Then it is time to speak with a Tortal Training expert. Call (704) 323-8953 today.