What is SCORM and Why It Matters for Global Elearning

March 2, 2023
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SCORM, or Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a set of technical standards and specifications used to package and share eLearning content. It is a core technology when you are developing eLearning programs. Choosing whether to use SCORM can strongly affect the localization of your eLearning programs.
If you will deliver your eLearning content through a learning management system (LMS), it's likely that SCORM will be involved. While there are newer alternatives — including Tin Can/xAPI and AICC — SCORM has a long history and is well supported by both eLearning authoring tools and LMS platforms.
Creating a localized global eLearning initiative can be complex, with many stakeholders and moving parts. By providing a standardized way to package course content, SCORM helps streamline this process.
Here's how you can use SCORM to make eLearning creation and localization easier…

What is SCORM?

The Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is an internationally recognized standard for creating, delivering, tracking, and monitoring digital learning content. It is designed to promote reusability across different platforms, allowing content to be created only once then opened with any SCORM-compatible software.
SCORM was developed in 2000 by the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative, an organization of the US Department of Defense. They created it as part of the US government's "President's Task Force on Federal Training Technology," with the aim of coordinating the effective use of digital technologies in training and education.
Since then, SCORM has become the de facto standard for content creation in the eLearning industry.
As it was developed back when learning technology was still quite primitive, SCORM has its limitations. For example, it doesn't support all new learning technologies and modalities, like virtual or augmented reality. However, it remains important within eLearning.
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How SCORM helps when sharing digital content

The major benefit of using SCORM is its compatibility with many software packages.
First, you can use an eLearning authoring tool to package your learning content into a single SCORM file, rather than multiple files. This keeps everything tidy and reduces the chance of data loss.
Then, you can load that same SCORM file directly into your LMS to deliver the training content to users. This allows you to roll out an eLearning course quickly across multiple platforms without worrying about compatibility issues.
Having the entire course in a single file also keeps localized courses in a self-contained format. When localizing a course for a client, we first localize the content within the authoring tool using the editable source files. The tool then exports the entire course in SCORM format.

What's inside a SCORM package?

All SCORM packages work on two basic principles:
  1. Content packaging — The file structure, detailed in the manifest file, shows how the content within the SCORM file is arranged.
  2. Data exchange — Through the data exchange components, the course information is passed from the SCORM file to the LMS and vice versa.
The core components of SCORM packages include:
  • A manifest file, which contains meta-data about the course.
  • The resource files, which contain the learning content itself and information about it.
  • The launch file, which specifies how to access and launch the course.
SCORM packages also include mechanisms for tracking data about the learners' progress through the eLearning course. For example, the file will include information about how much of the course a learner has completed, the results of their in-course assessments, and individual answers to exam questions.

Considerations when localizing a SCORM eLearning course

Localizing a course becomes much easier when you first streamline your content creation process.
There are various considerations when utilizing the SCORM format for localized courses. Some of these include:
  • Do you want to use SCORM at all? The xAPI standard, for example, has challenged SCORM's dominance in recent years. It may make more sense for you to use this or another format.
  • Do you want to customize your learning experience a lot? The consistency that SCORM brings can lead to a more impersonal learning experience. You might want to customize your learning program more than SCORM allows.
  • Does your translation provider support SCORM natively? A good translation provider should be able to work directly with your eLearning files without requiring you to export the content for translation.

Selecting the right LMS and authoring tool to support SCORM

If you decide to make use of the SCORM format this must inform your decision when selecting both your learning management system (LMS) and eLearning authoring tool(s). Both must support SCORM.
The key is to work for consistency. If you often convert between file formats, it is more likely that some of your learning content could become corrupted or disorganized. Where possible, keep all your content in the same format.
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Will you use SCORM courses for your global eLearning?

Whether you decide to use SCORM for your eLearning courses, it's important to be familiar with it as you will almost certainly come across it.
By using a SCORM-compliant authoring tool, LMS, and translation provider, you will avoid many of the common challenges that can arise when using SCORM courses.
If you need help to decide how you can localize your SCORM courses, just get in touch and we can help you out.

Best Practices for Online Learning Localization

In this report, we share our best practices for writing, designing, and translating high-quality online learning material cost-effectively. Technology advances have made it easier than ever to create high-quality online learning courses, but translating instructional content can still be prohibitively expensive if it is not authored with localization in mind.