The growth of online programs has increased the need for a system that can manage the access of students, instructors, managers, and other stakeholders. This system is commonly known as learning management system, or LMS. No online program could work without one, they have become essential since they can do more than provide secured access.

SCORM or Shareable Content Object Reference Model is an object reference model, in other words, is a set of instructions that allow some of the content or some segments of an object to be shareable with other objects such as an LMS. In many cases the shareable objects are courses developed using authoring software such as Articulate Storyline, Captivate, or Lectora, among others.

What else does an LMS does?

An LMS has tools that allow instructors develop a complete course that can last many months or even years. In no particular order, most LMS systems contain the following tools:

  • Quizzing
  • Module builder
  • Assignments
  • Discussions or chat system
  • Video conferencing
  • Gradebook
  • File system

These are not minimum requirements, some LMS systems would lack one of the above tools, others may have a system with several tools not mentioned in this list.

What is the connection between LMS and SCORM?

All the previously mentioned systems in the LMS are integrated and work together inside this environment. In many cases a module, package, or external quiz was developed using a different system such as an authoring tool. Examples of these are Storyline, Captivate, Lectora, among others. All these authoring systems have a publishing option called SCORM, this makes the published material compatible with the LMS.

Before SCORM no standard existed for the development of elearning materials. The US Government, through its military branch, decided to create a series of standards with the purpose of ending the chaotic development of educational materials that could not work across systems the military has for education and training. SCORM is based on those standards, they are not mandatory and the LMS market has pushed many authoring tool vendors into making their published packages SCORM compliant.

How does SCORM work with the LMS?

When you publish a course using an authoring tool using the LMS option, or SCORM option, the software prepares the content for the interface and the LMS API (Application Program Interface) will grab that information to integrate the object into any of their designated tools.

How authoring tool vendors interpret SCORM has created another issue. Packages produced with the one software cannot be transferred to other system, it will not matter if both are SCORM compliant. If you have a legacy package and the authoring tool is not in the market anymore, you will have to start development from scratch.

A last note

SCORM is still evolving and it might change names soon (TinCan or xAPI are two proposed names), it is slowly taking a central role in elearning development for LMS integration. LMS systems are catching up and soon you will be able to integrate more information into the LMS. If authoring tool makers agree on using the same standard, portability of SCORM packages could become a reality, this would mean a step forward towards universal elearning, we are not there yet.