Emerging Learning Technologies and the End of SCORM

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Emerging Learning Technologies and the End of SCORMIs it finally time for SCORM, the specification superstar of the noughties, to move over for modern learning technology? Here’s the case for making the change to xAPI, LRS and cmi5.

SCORM won the hearts of L&D folk everywhere, when it was invented by the ADL in 2000. It was a big hit in its heyday and it’s sure got some staying power! It solved the eLearning dilemma of its age – software incompatibility.

Before SCORM the eLearning world was a jumble of different system specifications that just couldn’t communicate or work together. This meant when your company changed LMS all that old online training you loved didn’t work anymore! Online learning only worked on the LMS it was originally created for. SCORM solved this headache by providing a standard software specification that worked across all learning technology. It made eLearning truly interoperable (we can’t miss this awesome word out when we’re discussing SCORM!).

No wonder L&D folks are so attached to SCORM. It made eLearning life simple. And we all love it when stuff just works. No fuss. No hassle.

SCORM is Safe (too safe!)

If SCORM fixed eLearning, why change? Well, because the world has changed a lot since the pre-Facebook days of the early noughties. Back when SCORM was created, the ‘#’ was simply an obscure phone button and Snake II ruled.

SCORM has failed to evolve with the times. The last SCORM version was in 2004! And yet many eLearning pros are so used to SCORM, they are reluctant to move on to something new, something better! Thousands of online courses continue to be created in SCORM and many authoring tools solely support SCORM compliant learning technology. Why?

SCORM is safe. SCORM may feel as cosy and familiar as that college hoodie you can’t throw out, but safe is not always good – SCORM is like a relationship that is OK but not awesome. This leaves many L&D pros thinking: “SCORM is fine for now”, “we’re used to it”, “we know how it works”. Yet, something is missing. SCORM no longer understands or meets learners’ needs. It’s inflexible, has limited capabilities and is unsuitable for the modern mobile age. It’s time to stop settling for SCORM!

Why SCORM is No Longer Fit for Purpose

1. Fails to Meet Modern Technological Expectations

Today we live in an on-demand world where our expectations of technology are forever growing. We expect everything to be mobile, instantaneous and intuitive. We expect technology to know us inside out – and it does! Your smart fridge knows which treat you crave, can order it and even play your favourite music while you eat it! Modern technology is all singing, all dancing, literally!

Surely we want our online learning experience to be as intuitive as everything else in our lives? SCORM is no longer up to the job because its ability to track learners’ behaviour, preferences and interests is limited.

What’s more, it can not be fully embedded within modern mobile technology. This means SCORM-compliant eLearning, especially older content, does not always translate easily onto mobile devices. This is an issue because 64% of employees say accessing workplace learning from a mobile device is essential or very useful. SCORM struggles to deliver the strong mobile learning experience modern employees want.

2. Limited Tracking Functions

SCORM works well when it comes to the linear world of formal training. It can track learner progress and completion of online content. The difficulties arise when we want to track all the other informal learning that happens when the formal course ends.

Informal learning is responsible for up to 90% of what we know! This includes everything from an enlightening Googling session or sharing a podcast to conversations on the LMS messageboards. People are learning all the time, everywhere and SCORM is unable to track and record this vital learner behaviour.

3. Limited Reporting Abilities

If we can’t track learners’ full behaviour we definitely can’t accurately report on it. And if we can’t measure it, we can’t change it. SCORM means L&D pros are only able to get data on specific types of learner behaviour, such as completed training. As we’ve discovered, learning is about a lot more than finishing a course or getting a test score. Without all the informal learning data, L&D pros can not correctly analyse learners’ activity or design future eLearning tailored to meet their needs.

Modern Alternatives to SCORM

What if we told you there is something better out there than SCORM? Something a lot better.

Here are the top 3 modern eLearning solutions, ready to sweep your learners off their feet! Together, these learning technologies can transform eLearning into an efficient, flexible and personalised learner experience.

Experience API – Tin Can

Ever wondered how personal technology became so smart? Or how everything from your smartphone and FitBit, to your fridge seems to know you better than yourself? Well, it’s largely down to something called an Application Programming Interface (API). This can track and capture our online and offline activities. Imagine the possibilities this creates for tracking and understanding learner behaviour!

In the eLearning world, this software is called Experience API (or Tin Can). ‘Experience’ in this context is commonly shortened to ‘x’. It describes how xAPI tracks learners’ experiences whenever or wherever they happen.

Benefits of xAPI

  • xAPI is super flexible because the software specification can be embedded within almost any technology you can think of, from your traditional LMS to smartphones and video games. This creates massive opportunities for mobile learning.
  • Where SCORM was limited to monitoring learner progression and completion of formal training, xAPI can track just about any kind of learner activity. This includes that all-important informal learning. In this way, you can use xAPI to create a full picture of your learners’ behaviours, preferences and goals.
  • You can analyse the collected data to create more personalised learner experiences. So, it’s massively important to the success of your online learning!
  • L&D pros and instructional designers can choose what type of learner behaviour they wish to capture, dependent on the business and learner needs.

Learning Record Store (LRS)

You may be thinking, ‘Wow! That is a lot of information to store!’ You need somewhere to store all the valuable data tracked by xAPI. This is where the Learning Record Store (LRS) helps. Think of the LRS like one massive virtual storehouse or Hermione’s bottomless bag. You get the idea, it’s massive! The LRS stores all the data fed to it by xAPI about learners’ activity!

So, that time John from accounts clicked on the policies training – that’s there. The time your top performing retail team shared a video of their store-opening ritual – that’s there. The time the intern aced the company’s Master Mind quiz – that’s there. If it was captured by xAPI it will be stored on your LRS.

The LRS can be located within your company’s xAPI-compliant LMS. Alternatively, it can be located externally from your LMS. Housing your LRS externally frees the LMS up to focus on learner management functions rather than reporting. This is useful because you’re no longer tied into an LMS that houses heaps of excessive historical data. You could switch LMSs and keep your LRS (or move your data from one LRS to another easily).


Feeling brave? Are you considering making the move from SCORM to an xAPI and LRS solution? cmi5 makes the transition easier than you may think.

cmi5, released in 2016, is the new standardised specification that makes xAPI and LRS possible. Before cmi5, implementing xAPI within a compliant LMS could be complicated stuff. This is because there was a massive range of specifications being used to create xAPI LMSs. You could say, xAPI creation was starting to seem as complicated as the eLearning world before SCORM.

In the same way SCORM simplified eLearning back in 2000, cmi5 has simplified xAPI implementation now. cmi5 is the standard specification for creating xAPI compliant LMSs. It incorporates the specification needed to allow xAPI to be embedded within a massive variety of modern technology from apps to email. cmi5-compliant learning technology can use xAPI and LRS to fully track, report and deliver personalised eLearning for the modern workforce.

Here at Growth Engineering, we have taken the plunge and are designing cmi5 LMSs and mobile learning technology with all the benefits of xAPI and LRS software. You can do this too! Making the change from SCORM to modern technology solutions will transform your online training into an engaging and personalised learning experience that creates real behaviour change.

Are you eager to learn more about creating powerful personalised training? Click the button below for our White Paper on how to use personalisation for engagement in online learning. 

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