SCORM defines a specific way of constructing Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and training content so that they work well with other SCORM conformant systems.

  • SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. It is a collection standards and specifications as part of the Advanced Distributive Learning (ADL) initiative of the US Secretary of Defense.
  • Sharable Content Object indicates that SCORM is about creating units of online training material that can be shared across systems. SCORM defines how to create sharable content objects, or SCOs, that can be reused in different systems and contexts.
  • Reference Model reflects the fact that SCORM isn’t actually a standard. ADL didn’t write SCORM from the ground up. Instead, they noticed that the industry already had many standards that solved part of the problem. SCORM simply references these existing standards and tells developers how to properly use them together.

  • A Sharable Content Object, or SCO, is the most granular piece of training in a SCORM world. Some would call it a module, a chapter, or a page. A SCORM purist would tell you that it should be the smallest piece of content that is both reusable and independent. In terms of how the learning management system treats it, this is the item shown separately in the table of contents and tracked separately from other items. It can contain its own bookmark, score, and completion status.

Basically, the different versions of SCORM all govern the same two things packaging content and exchanging data at run-time.

  • Packaging content or the content aggregation model, or CAM, determines how a piece of content should be delivered in a physical sense. At the core of SCORM, packaging is a document titled the imsmanifest. This file contains every piece of information required by the learning management system to import and launch content without human intervention. This manifest file contains XML (Extensible Markup Language) that describes the structure of a course from a learner’s perspective and from a physical file system perspective. Questions like, “Which document should be launched?” and “What is the name of this content?” are answered by this document.
  • Run-time communication, or data exchange, specifies how the content talks to the learning management system while the content is actually playing. This is the part of the equation we describe as delivery and tracking. There are two major components to this communication. First, the content has to find the learning management system. Once found, it can communicate through a series of get and set calls and an associated vocabulary. Conceptually, these are things like “equest the learner’s name and tell the learning management system that the learner scored 95% on this test. Based on the available SCORM vocabulary, many rich interactive experiences can be communicated to the learning management system.


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