What Is SCORM?

SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based eLearning products.


SCORM provides the communication method and data models that allow eLearning content and an LMS to be able to work together. It tells programmers how to write code so that what they build will be compatible with other eLearning software.


SCORM is the most widely used eLearning standard available and is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.




What SCORM Means for L&D Professionals

When creating an eLearning course with an authoring tool that is “SCORM compliant,” the output is a Zip Folder. This Zip folder is uploaded to the LMS, and the LMS handles everything from there, as long as the LMS is SCORM compliant as well.


When you publish the course, an enrolled learner can launch it in a Web browser. The LMS collects data to track and report results of their performance. The SCORM course tells the LMS which data to receive.


Let's have a closer look at the two main components of SCORM, the Sharable Content Object and the Reference Model.


Shareable Content Object or SCO: These are the granular assets to be used in the course—a module, a chapter, a page. The SCO describes the elements of the SCORM package that can be reused across multiple tools and platforms. Once the various elements of the package are SCORM compliant, the content should be understood by all compatible learning platforms and tools. 


Reference Model: These are the ‘rules’ everyone follows. The Reference Model tells you that SCORM is a standard, the specification that is understood and applied in a consistent way by all who work in the eLearning industry. 


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The Benefits of Using SCORM

Flexibility: Courses built in SCORM are portable. You do not need to feel "trapped" with one particular LMS vendor. As long as you have the Zip folders, you can simply upload them into an alternative LMS if you’re about to switch vendors.


Reliability: Because most popular, high-quality LMSs and authoring tools are SCORM compliant, there exists an extensive ecosystem of interoperability and in turn, reliability.


Reduced Costs: SCORM is the most widely used eLearning standard, and instructional designers most likely have experience working with it. If an LMS is SCORM compliant,  then it can play any SCORM content; similarly, any SCORM content can be played in any SCORM compliant LMS. This interoperability can save a lot of time and money in building courses. 


Higher Quality: Because of the above mentioned flexibility and reliability, and the ecosystem of training professionals familiar with SCORM, your content will inevitably be of a higher quality. 



As tried-and-true as SCORM is in the industry, it has limitations. It cannot track informal and offline learning, which is often the reality of how learning happens in today's workplace.


We'e written about a newer eLearning standard, called xAPI, and here is a chart of the key differences between the two:


Track completion
Track time
Track Pass/Fail
Report a single score
Report multiple scores  
Detailed test results  
Solid security  
No LMS required  
No Internet browser required  
Keep complete control over your content  
No cross-domain limitation  
Use mobile apps for learning  
Platform transition (i.e., PC to mobile)  
Track serious games  
Track simulations  
Track informal learning  
Track real-world performance  
Track offline learning  
Track interactive learning  
Track adaptive learning  
Track blended learning  
Track long-term learning  
Track team-based learning  


Whichever standard is adopted by an L&D team, the same principle of interoperability applies. When courses, authoring tools, and LMSs accept the same standard, courses can be built more rapidly without worrying about delivery to the end user.


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