The world we live in is a fast-growing digital ecosystem. Thousands of online services have sprung up in the past few years – right from shopping to education, everything can be found online. Education as an industry has drastically changed too. Even more so today due to the ongoing pandemic outbreak.
Traditional classroom teaching is no longer working and eLearning has taken the front seat and is helping the educational institutes to continue their teaching journey. It has made education accessible from all the corners of the world through a medium called Learning Management System (LMS). And in the heart of every LMS lies SCORM which is nothing but an eLearning standard that facilitates interoperability between two LMSs. In this post, we are going to understand in detail about SCORM and who should opt for a SCORM compliant LMS.
What is SCORM?
Shareable Content Object Reference Model or simply SCORM is often considered to be an innovation that made online learning popular. A few years back, when the e-learning industry took the world by storm, several platforms to facilitate eLearning were built. Individual course creators packed their content and uploaded it into these platforms to distribute their courses. These platforms came to be known as a personal Learning Management Systems or simply an LMS.
On the technical front, SCORM can be defined as a system that establishes a connection between a host system and the client-side. It then constructs a packet interchange format which is nothing but a ZIP file that has all the course content such as text, images, and videos packed in it, which can then be easily uploaded to the destination.
Evolution of SCORM
The popularity of eLearning made course authors create thousands of courses in the past. However, this posed a challenge that no one anticipated, which ultimately led to the constriction of the eLearning market on a global scale. And the challenge we are talking about was the distribution and transfer of content. Back then the created course content was always platform and server-specific which made the distribution a daunting task.
Thus the foundation stone of SCORM was laid by the Department of Defence’s Advanced Distributed Learning Group in 2001. They formulated a set of rules and guidelines upon which SCORM had to function or in other words how a SCORM course had to be created.
This meant, easy distribution and transfer of courses that allowed the eLearning industry the growth that it deserved. Ever since SCORM surfaced, it has cemented its place in eLearning, and the regulation of the industry as a whole started taking place. Different LMSs and course authoring software started creating courses the ‘SCORM’ way.
The first major release of SCORM that took the world by storm was the 1.2 version released in 2001. This is still the most widely adopted eLearning standard in the world due to its robustness. Even today, most LMSs are compatible with SCORM 1.2 as everyone knows that it will be prevalent for a long time.
The next major release of SCORM was in 2004 when SCORM 2004 1st edition was released. This version incorporated the sequencing and navigation specifications that allowed the course authors to dictate how a learner can progress through a course. This feature was absent in SCORM 1.2 and was badly missed by many course authors. The latest version of SCORM is the SCORM 2004 4th Edition that was released in 2009 and has added some more features on top of the existing ones.
Positives of SCORM
1. Broad distribution possible
The plug and play system of the SCORM lets the user create courses and distribute them across the globe in several platforms. It also helps individual content creators to get due recognition for the courses they created. It promoted the sharing of courses which in turn ensured that the course could easily reach those learners who badly wanted to learn.
2. Error-free content
A SCORM compliant LMS will deliver the content removing all the errors from it. This is a real sigh of relief for the creators of the courses as SCORM compliant system automatically checks the content according to the guidelines and warns the course creators of any issues.
With many course-creators complaining about the increasing expenses incurred in the course creation process, SCORM can be a savior for them. By using a SCORM compliant LMS you can bring down the costs of a newly created course by a huge margin. And not to forget, it also saves a lot of time for the creators.
Downsides of SCORM
3. Reduced flexibility in creating courses
This is the most obvious disadvantage and is certainly expected out of a standard. Content that you want to create based on SCORM specifications needs to follow a plethora of rules. These rules and specifications have to be mandatorily met if you have to upload your project successfully on a SCORM compliant LMS. This severely hampers the flexibility and creativity of the authors to create the course in a way they like.
2. Shortage of Experts
Though creating courses in a SCORM compliant LMS may reduce your costs, it has a hidden problem that most people never anticipate. Creating courses in a SCORM compliant authoring tool is not an easy task and it is even harder to find experts in this field. And if you plan to train them, it might increase the cost of course creation.
What is a SCORM compliant LMS, and is it mandatory to have one?
As the name suggests, a SCORM compliant LMS functions by abiding by the rules and regulations set forth by the SCORM management body. As far as the question of whether it is mandatory to have one is concerned, the answer is no. In fact, the disadvantages stated in this post have stopped several course authors from opting for a SCORM compliant LMS. On top of it, there are several new and effective standards such as Tin Can currently available in the market which offers more advanced features than SCORM.
But, SCORM isn’t dead as a culture. It is still successfully followed by many leading educational institutions. Most of the educational institutions today are not loyal to their LMS and they constantly look for a more affordable and one with better features. This means you need to constantly transfer your course content that will be easier in case of a SCORM compliant LMS due to its easy content transfer capabilities. On top of it, SCORM offers all the basic functionalities that are required for a course author, such as the ability for learners to click on onscreen elements, accessing mini-quizzes within the courses, etc. All these make selecting a SCORM compliant LMS as a wise option though not a mandatory one.
Who should opt for a SCORM compliant LMS?
To answer this question, let us consider three situations.
Natasha has been running a training academy teaching students C++ for the past 2 years. Natasha is a very budget-conscious person and is always on the lookout for a cheaper option for every product that she uses in her academy including her LMS. Her previous LMS was a SCORM compliant LMS that hosted all her courses. However, it was burning a hole in her pocket and she is on the lookout for a new LMS.
Claps Training Academy has been in the business for several years. They have been using their current LMS for several years. They want to shift to a new LMS that will offer them more flexibility in creating courses. They also do not want their creativity to be restricted while creating courses. If they choose a product, they stick with it for several years.
SBC college is one of the largest private colleges in the country. After the pandemic, they have come to realize the importance of e-learning and are planning to create several courses from scratch to teach their students. They are also on the lookout for an LMS.
If we analyze all these three situations, we realize that Natasha will keep shifting her LMS every now and then. Also, she is currently using a SCORM compliant LMS. It makes complete sense for her to shift to another SCORM compliant LMS.
Claps Training Academy hardly changes their LMS and also does not like to be restricted in terms of their creativity and flexibility to create courses. For them, a SCORM compliant LMS might not be a wise choice.
For SBC college, since they are starting from scratch, they can choose either a SCORM compliant LMS or a non SCORM compliant LMS. But it will be wiser for them to choose the former since they might want to shift to another LMS in the future. It will be quite easy then to transfer the courses.
In a nutshell, it all depends on the situation and your requirements whether you should opt for a SCORM compliant LMS or not. However, there are LMSs like Learnyst, which is not only SCORM compliant but also compliant with many other e-learning standards. On top of it, it has been designed in such a way that it doesn’t restrict your flexibility in creating courses, unlike other SCORM compliant LMSs.
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