Sharable Content Object Reference Model

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  • SCORM refers to a series of "standards packages" (also called "profiles" or "collections of standards") for defining reusable learning objects and behavior that compatible Learning management systems must adopt. SCORM profiles are defined and promoted by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative by the US government, i.e. the Department of Defense (DOD). SCORM is also currently a de-facto Industry Standard.
  • The initial Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) specified how learning content should be coded, how others can later "discover" that content, how it fits into a sequence of learning activities, and how its appearance through the delivery media can be customized for the individual learner. More recent versions, e.g. SCORM TLA annonced in 2012 go beyond this content-centric view.
  • Here is another quote from their Web Site (feb 2006): "The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) defines a Web-based learning "Content Aggregation Model" and "Run-Time Environment" for learning objects. At its simplest, it is a reference model that references a set of interrelated technical specifications and guidelines designed to meet DoD's high level requirements for Web-based learning content. These requirements include, but are not limited to, reusability, accessibility, durability and interoperability."
  • Until 2000 SCORM was an acronym for "Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model".
See also (!)
  • learning objects for a general discussion on modular, reusable learning contents and activities.
  • IMS Content Packaging (IMS CP), the now well-established standard for assembling, distributing and running learning objects.
  • SCORM 1.2 for a more in-depth discussion of the outdated, but (still) most popular SCORM profile
  • IMS Common Cartridge (IMS CC), which is an alternative to SCORM 2004. If/when popular academic platforms decide to move away from (old) SCORM 1.2, they probably rather will directly adopt IMS CC.
  • Standard for an overview on pedagogical (and other) standards.

Contents of the SCORM profiles

It is quite difficult to find out which different standards (e.g. form IMS) are integrated in which SCORM profile. It is even more difficult to understand how additions by SCORM fit in. Below a short overview of various profiles. Please consult the learning object standard article. It provides overview tables for the whole IMS/Scorm Galaxy.

SCORM 1.0 (January 2000)

The original version of SCORM was primarily a test version. The concept of a Sharable Content Object (SCO) was introduced and after some testing, ADL made some implementation examples available.

SCORM 1.1 (January 2001)

This profile marked the end of a first trial and error implementation phase and the beginning of the application phase. This version used a XML file based on AICC specifications for describing content structure. Also noteworthy is the change from Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model to Sharable Content Object Reference Model. This version, though improved still lacked support for metadata and was quickly replaced by SCORM 1.2.

SCORM 1.2 (October 2001)

The most important parts of this profile are the Run-Time Environment (RTE) and Content Aggregation Model (CAM).

  • The RTE specifies how content should behave once it has been launched by the LMS.
  • The CAM specifies how you should package your content so that it can be imported into an LMS. This involves creating XML files that an LMS can read and learn everything it needs about metadata describing the course, its pedagogical content elements and organization of the learning experience. SCORM 1.2 adopted the IMS Content Packaging specification and the the IMS/IEEE Learning Object Metadata Standard and it added various extensions.

SCORM 1.2 remains the most popular standard in academia, although it has long time ago been replaced by SCORM 2004. E.g. Moodle development for SCORM 2004 stopped sometimes in 2013 due to the lack of funding.

See SCORM 1.2 for a more detailed discussion of this profile.

SCORM 2004 (2004 - 2009)

There are three subversions which are quite different

  • 1st (ak Scorm 1.3),
  • 2nd
  • 3rd edition (2006)
  • 4th edition (2009)

The 3rd version added to SCORM 1.2 elements like:

  • IEEE’s ECMAScript Application Programming Interface. More particularly: Content to Learning Management System (LMS) communication and Data model for content to LMS communication
  • IMS Simple Sequencing, i.e. the possibility to define learning sequences depending on the sequence of activities. However, we have the impression that most implementors just ignore this and nevertheless claim SCORM 2004 compatibility
  • It also allows for a sharing and use of information on learners status with respect to the learning objectives and competencies acquired while working through different content objects and courses, so long as they remain within the same LMS.

This more robust version should offer greater interoperability since it adopts "stronger" IEEE API and IMS sequencing standards.

Teaching and learning Architecture (TLA)

As of 2012, TLA is under development, however it seems that some people already use the experience (aka Tin Can) API.

“The challenge that specification work presents is that there is generally a huge lag behind the technology we’re using at any moment. Specifications are a lot like a snapshot – a capture in intricate detail of a technology in a certain time. The intent of the spec is to make it clear how to recreate that technology in repeatable, dependable ways. [...] In the last four years, however, it’s clear that some specifications have grown long in the tooth. The gap between the best of 1990s thinking about what the Internet would look like and how the Internet actually looks has grown too wide. Our practices around learning online were based on the indefinite future of the mid-to-late 1990s.” (From ADL Team Member… Aaron Silvers: The Definite & Indefinite Future of SCORM, retrieved nov 2 2012.

As of oct 2012, the most recent standardization project is called Training and Learning Architecture (TLA). Like its IMS equivalent (the Common cartridge, Learning Tools Interoperability‎, Learning Information Services trio), it attempts to marry closed circuit e-learning contents with other contents and tools and increase the power of existing tools. For example, the "Experience API" (xAPI) formerly called "Tin Can API" not only provides means for student tracking through a so-called Learning Record Store (LRS), but offers a general purpose API for connecting various learning resources and activities.

xAPI, as of 2016, is available in several products and several Learning Record Stores are available.

Given the fact that most higher education LMSs are over 15 years behind all sorts of e-learning standards (E.g. Moodle 2.0 still only runs SCORM 1.2 and IMS SS and IMS LD are simply ignored in discussions outside educational technology research), nothing can be predicted with respect to its adoption in higher education.


A word of warning

SCORM-compatibility of an LMS means 'nothing'. You must inquire:

  • About precisely what version (and subversion) your system claims to support. Currently, most major systems in used in higher education can only handle SCORM 1.2 (dated 2001). Some that claim to be SCORM 2004 compatible, will only support the 1st edition (aka SCORM 1.3). SCORM 2004 (3rd edition or better) must support IMS Simple Sequencing.
  • Whether your system has been certified. If not, you may find try to find what exactly it claims to handle (it is perfectly possible to write a tool that will just display SCORM-packaged Content Packages that includes just assets, but no SCOs and then choke on JavaScript calls ....)
  • A tool like the Reload Editor can help you to upgrade old content packages to SCORM 1.2. I don't know if there are packages for upgrading to SCORM 2004.
  • Some tools may produce bad SCORM packages, e.g. read what the MOODLE SCORM expert or the MOODLE SCORM FAQ have to say about SCORM 1.2 problems. There can be many ....


By DSchneider

While SCORM 1.2 and 2004 represents today's main-stream e-learning that is focused on delivery of courseware it does not represent in our opinion all of what educational technology could and should be. The main long-term contribution of SCORM is and was its insistence on data standards, run-time standards (i.e. interoperability) which indeed are major issue for organizations like the US Department of Defense that sponsors over 30'000 training courses. Frustration over non existing standards then naturally led industry and even parts of Academia to adopt various SCORM profiles, although academia is a very slow adapter. Moodle 1x, for example, could only run SCORM 1.2. archives. Moodle 2.x doesn't offer SCORM 2004 support (there have been plans in the past) or TLA support.

The technical architecture of SCORM 1.2, i.e. the API for LMS-contents interaction had very simple functionality, mostly a menu-based presentation of materials and the possibility to register user navigation plus quizzing results. SCORM 2004 with support for simple sequencing moves into the right direction since it does support mastery learning principles. However, since it was based on structured contents that require programmers to write an interpreter it never was implemented in any widely used open source LMS. The same fate happend to the more ambitious IMS Learning Design standard.

The teaching and learning architecture (TLA), first proposed in the early 2010's, picks up the philosophy of SCORM 1.2, i.e. the use of JavaScript calls. It focuses on integration of various contents, actors and services. This reflects the way Internet evolved, i.e. into a large Universe of many different sorts or learning opportunities, including informal learning which accounts for about 80% of workplace learning. It also reflects the death of the semantic web and XHTML 2, that i, moving away from design languages (XML) towards API specifications that programmers can understand much more easily. Probably a step in the good direction, but very different and in contradiction with prior strategies like IMS-LD or IMS simple sequencing.

The latest addition is cmi5 which is some kind of xAPI profile that both the course and the LMS must implement in order to be compliant.

See also IMS Learning Tools Interoperability that allows to integrate 3rd party applications into an LMS and the other way round. E.g. one could integrate a cloud-based SCORM player in MOODLE.



There are a number of tools that allow you to edit Scorm 1.2 or 1.3 compatible contents, e.g here are 4 free ones:

Search the web to find commercial solutions, e.g. Deltalearn's Advanced SCORM Editor, Saba, There exist also plugins/addons for software such as Dreamweaver, Toolbook, etc.


  • Reload Player.
  • (free simple version, commercial pro version). Course Player Standard is a SCORM engine implemented on the client side. It automatically provides the navigation and delivery services to the learner by extracting information from the SCORM package. The learner's progress is stored temporarily on the learners' machine. (Therefore also useful to make CD's or for deployment on a simple web server).

Learning management systems

An LMS may both play and let you edit. However, be warned about "SCORM-compatibly". Full SCORM compatibility is not guaranteed even if your vendor says so. E.g. your LMS may well play contents, but not be able to provide user tracking. Also "SCORM" doesn't mean much. E.g. SCORM 1.2 is no SCORM 2004. Only trust certified software by ADL or those you tested...


Standards and Bodies




  • Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), Version 1.2, The SCORM Run-Time, Environment, October 1, 2001 (available from ADL
  • Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), Version 1.2, The SCORM Content Aggregation Model, October 1, 2001 (available from ADL