Understanding the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)

Understanding the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)

January 9, 2024

In the realm of customer training and eLearning, success hinges on a few key factors: interoperability, consistent user experiences, scalability, and adaptability.

These factors are crucial in creating an effective and cohesive learning environment. But what ties all these elements together seamlessly? Enter the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM).

SCORM stands as a pivotal framework in eLearning, streamlining the integration, creation, and distribution of educational content. It enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of educational initiatives, making it an indispensable tool in the world of digital learning.

What is SCORM?

SCORM stands for sharable content object reference model and is a set of technical specifications for eLearning software products. It ensures that online learning materials, known as sharable content objects or SCOs, can be easily shared and used across learning management systems (LMS).

SCORM-compliant content follows a specific structure and communicates with the LMS using a standardized protocol, allowing seamless integration and consistent user experiences across various eLearning platforms.

There are five versions of SCORM:

  • SCORM 1.1
  • SCORM 1.2
  • SCORM 2004 2nd Edition
  • SCORM 2004 3rd Edition
  • SCORM 2004 4th Edition

The best version depends on your specific needs. For example, SCORM 1.1 and SCORM 1.2 are older versions, and while they are widely supported, they may lack some features available in later editions. SCORM 2004 (4th Edition) is the latest version, which offers better support for complex content structures.

Examples of SCORM tools

Here are a few examples of tools and solutions that support SCORM-compliant content:

  • Adobe Captivate: Adobe Captivate is an authoring tool for creating eLearning content. It supports SCORM and allows content creators to package their courses in the SCORM format for seamless integration with SCORM-compliant LMSs.
  • Moodle courses: Moodle is a widely used open-source LMS that supports SCORM. Many courses created within Moodle can be exported and shared as SCORM packages. Plus, content created using various authoring tools can be imported into Moodle as SCORM packages.
  • Cornerstone OnDemand: Cornerstone OnDemand is a cloud-based talent management system with an LMS that supports SCORM. Organizations can use Cornerstone to deliver and track SCORM-compliant training content.
  • EdX courses: EdX, a platform for online education, supports SCORM. Content creators on EdX can develop SCORM-compliant courses, ensuring interoperability with other SCORM-compatible systems.
  • BranchTrack for scenario-based learning: BranchTrack is a tool for creating scenario-based learning that supports SCORM compliance. This allows users to build immersive scenarios while ensuring compatibility with SCORM-compliant LMS platforms.
  • Tin Can API (xAPI): While not strictly SCORM 1.2, the Tin Can API (xAPI) is a modern successor to SCORM. Some eLearning platforms support both SCORM 1.2 and xAPI, offering compatibility with multiple eLearning standards.

What are the benefits of the SCORM format?

Below are some key advantages of the SCORM format:

  • Interoperability: SCORM ensures that an eLearning course works seamlessly across different Learning Management Systems. This means content developers don’t have to create multiple versions of the same online training and materials for different platforms.
  • Reusability: SCORM allows for creating modular content objects that can be used in various training materials. This makes content development more efficient, as elements like quizzes can be employed in different contexts without significant modification.
  • Flexibility: SCORM supports different content types, including text, images, videos, and interactive elements. This flexibility allows for diverse learning experiences, catering to different learning styles.
  • Tracking and reporting: SCORM enables detailed tracking of learner progress and performance. This data can be vital for instructors and organizations to assess the effectiveness of courses.
  • Standardization: SCORM provides a standardized framework for presenting eLearning content. This consistency results in a uniform user experience and facilitates a smoother learning process for learners.

How does SCORM work?

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how SCORM works:

Content packaging

  • Manifest file: SCORM content is organized using an XML file called imsmanifest.xml that defines the structure of the content package. It includes information about the organization of the content, sequencing, and resources used.
  • Packaging format: SCORM content is packaged in a specific format, often as a ZIP file, containing the manifest file, along with other resources like HTML pages, multimedia files, assessments, and any other components required for the learning experience.

Communication protocol

  • Run-time environment: SCORM-compliant content interacts with the LMS through run-time communication during the actual learning experience. This is typically accomplished using JavaScript and API calls.
  • SCORM API: The SCORM API is a set of functions that enables communication between the content and the LMS. It includes functions for data exchange related to learner progress and completion status.


  • Sequencing rules: SCORM includes a set of sequencing rules defining the order in which learners should experience content. This allows for a structured and controlled learning path. Sequencing can be based on criteria such as prerequisites, completion status, or a specific time frame.
  • Navigation controls: SCORM provides navigation controls that allow content to adapt to the learner’s progress. For example, it can control whether a learner can skip ahead to a specific module or if they need to complete certain prerequisites before accessing advanced content.

SCORM and LMS: How are they related?

SCORM and LMS serve different but related functions in eLearning. Let’s break down the role each plays:

Content compatibility:

  • SCORM: If your company already has existing eLearning content developed following SCORM standards, using an LMS that supports SCORM is important.
  • LMS: LMS, on the other hand, is the platform where your eLearning content resides and is managed. It’s not necessarily tied to SCORM, and modern LMS platforms often support various content types beyond SCORM, such as videos, quizzes, and documents.

Flexibility and interoperability:

  • SCORM: If your company collaborates with multiple content creators or uses different LMS systems, SCORM can ensure that the content remains consistent and functional across these platforms.
  • LMS: If your company wants to use a variety of content types and not rely solely on SCORM-compliant content, then you might prefer an LMS that supports a wide range of content formats.

User experience and interface:

  • SCORM: User interface and experience considerations are often more related to the specific LMS used, as SCORM doesn’t dictate how the learner interacts with the content.
  • LMS: The LMS plays a key role in the user experience. So, you should always consider an LMS with an intuitive interface, user-friendly navigation, and features that enhance the learning experience.

Reporting and analytics:

  • SCORM: SCORM provides basic tracking capabilities, such as completion status and quiz scores. However, the depth of reporting may depend on the specific implementation of SCORM in the LMS.
  • LMS: LMS platforms often have more robust reporting and analytics features, providing insights into learner progress, performance, and engagement. If detailed analytics is a priority for your company, consider the reporting capabilities of the LMS.

Skilljar has a customer training solution for your business

Skilljar is a learning management system (LMS) for external education. It supports two versions of SCORM: SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 (3rd and 4th editions), along with audio, video, and PDF files. This means that Skilljar ensures interoperability with a broad spectrum of eLearning content. The flexibility empowers content creators to use diverse authoring tools and meet the specific requirements of their educational content.

Skilljar can integrate with an external or third-party content vendor via a SCORM package that our customers download and upload into Skilljar.

Get a Skilljar demo to see how it helps you build an enriching learning experience for your customers.

Read more blog posts

Ready to take Skilljar for a spin?

Take an interactive tour of Skilljar, or book your demo with our team.