SCORM is a marginally imperfect but accepted standard that drives technical coherence for developing e-learning platforms. It has nothing to do with any instructional design standards but simply establishes predictable protocols for how online training courses and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) work together.
Wikipedia defines SCORM it as:
Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for the development and delivery of elearning courses. It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment, which is commonly supported by a learning management system (LMS). (It does not address the broader question of online training solutions which might entail webinars.)
SCORM is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, which comes out of the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.
Sharable Content Object reflects SCORM being about online training software and courses that can be shared with separate and distinct Learning Management Systems. SCORM sets the protocols for how to create sharable content objects or SCOs that can be recycled via different elearning systems and in multiple environments, essentially different LMSs. This is critical for quality online course development.
Reference Model reflects SCORM not being a true standard. ADL didnt create SCORM from thin air. Instead, they observed that many standards already existed but that they only solved pieces of the puzzle. SCORM simply makes reference to these existing standards and provides guidelines as to how elearning developers can properly use them together. In short, SCORM essentially tells programmers how to write software code so that their end product works properly with other e-learning platforms.
To simplify the explanation consider Sony Playstation versus Nintendo Wii. One cannot routinely play a Wii game on a Sony Playstation as they do not use the same standards for software/hardware communication. On the other hand, DVDs play on a broad variety of DVD players because standards have long been in place for content/machine communication. Not unlike the DVD industry, SCORM dictates standards that allow e-learning courses, developed via a broad set of e-learning authoring tools, to communicate with a large number of different LMSs.
Conformant, Compliant or Certified?
Sometimes one can hear these terms used interchangeably and that contributes to the confusion about their respective meanings. Certified stands alone as to having absolute and specific meaning. It means that ADL has used its formal process to test the submission. The certificate then states that the submission has correctly implemented SCORM. Generally speaking compliant and conformant are used interchangeably and refer not only to elearning courses but to the LMSs that support them. These terms mean that the means that the training tracking software was developed was developed consistent with SCORM standards and that the provider has probably passed self-testing criteria, but the providers representation has not been validated by an independent body.
Technically, only e-learning content and LMSs can be SCORM conformant or compliant. ADL doesnt certify tools that produce content, nor does it certify e-learning develops; it does not certify LMS vendors although it will certify a LMS. Tools and providers can produce SCORM compliant elearning services, but they themselves cannot technically be SCORM conformant. Simply put, if an LMS is SCORM conformant, it can play any content that is SCORM compliant, and any SCORM compliant content can play in any SCORM conformant LMS.
The Evolution of SCORM
Now that you know the history and the purpose, this is the best summary we have found.
It is imperative that elearning developers and elearning courses be SCORM compliant.
Vantage Path only develops SCORM compliant courses and our LMS is SCORM compliant. Our custom elearning development and even our simplified elearning templates are SCORM certifiable should a user deem it necessary to have them tested by a relevant testing agency.
If you would like to know more about elearning platforms, training tracking software and/or online training solutions in general, please enjoy the Vantage Path ebook, Creating Performance Based eLearning.