What Is SCORM?

SCORM compliant training

SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based eLearning products.

The standard provides the communication method and data models that allow eLearning content and an LMS to be able to work together. It tells programmers how to write code so that what they build will be compatible with other eLearning software.

SCORM is the most widely used eLearning standard available and is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.

What SCORM Means for L&D Professionals

When creating an eLearning course with an authoring tool that is “SCORM compliant,” the output is a Zip Folder. This Zip folder is uploaded to the LMS, and the LMS handles everything from there, as long as the LMS is compliant as well.

When you publish the course, an enrolled learner can launch it in a Web browser. The LMS collects data to track and report the results of their performance. The course tells the LMS which data to receive.

Let’s have a closer look at the two main components of SCORM: the Sharable Content Object and the Reference Model.

Shareable Content Object or SCO: These are the granular assets to be used in the course—a module, a chapter, a page. The SCO describes the elements of the SCORM package that can be reused across multiple tools and platforms. Once the various elements of the package are compliant, the content should be understood by all compatible learning platforms and tools. 

Reference Model: These are the ‘rules’ everyone follows. The Reference Model tells you that SCORM is a standard, the specification that is understood and applied in a consistent way by all who work in the eLearning industry. 

The Benefits of Using SCORM

Flexibility: Courses are portable, so you do not need to feel “trapped” with one particular LMS vendor. As long as you have the Zip folders, you can simply upload them into an alternative LMS if you’re about to switch vendors.

Reliability: Because most popular, high-quality LMSs and authoring tools are SCORM compliant, there exists an extensive ecosystem of interoperability and in turn, reliability.

Reduced Costs: SCORM is the most widely used eLearning standard, and instructional designers most likely have experience working with it. If an LMS is SCORM compliant,  then it can play any SCORM content; similarly, any SCORM content can be played in any SCORM compliant LMS. This interoperability can save a lot of time and money in building courses. 

Higher Quality: Because of the above-mentioned flexibility and reliability, and the ecosystem of training professionals familiar with SCORM, your content will inevitably be of a higher quality. 


As tried-and-true as SCORM is in the industry, it has limitations. It cannot track informal and offline learning, which is often the reality of how learning happens in today’s workplace.

We’ve written about a newer eLearning standard, called xAPI, and here is a chart of the key differences between the two:

Track completion
Track time
Track Pass/Fail
Report a single score
Report multiple scores 
Detailed test results 
Solid security 
No LMS required 
No Internet browser required 
Keep complete control over your content 
No cross-domain limitation 
Use mobile apps for learning 
Platform transition (i.e., PC to mobile) 
Track serious games 
Track simulations 
Track informal learning 
Track real-world performance 
Track offline learning 
Track interactive learning 
Track adaptive learning 
Track blended learning 
Track long-term learning 
Track team-based learning 

Whichever standard is adopted by an L&D team, the same principle of interoperability applies. When courses, authoring tools, and LMSs accept the same standard, courses can be built more rapidly without worrying about delivery to the end-user.

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What Is SCORM?