In Google Trends, if you search for people’s interest over time in SCORM, the results do not look so promising. SCORM is fading out, and it is evident in the falling interest of people. So what has gone wrong? Why is SCORM, a gold standard for eLearning industry, facing this decline?
A Quick Recap on Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)
SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model. It is a collection of standards and specifications that define how your course content interacts with your learning management system. In a nutshell, if your content and LMS are SCORM compliant, your LMS will be able to track the consumption of your course content. Also, SCORM compliance on both sides (content and delivery) makes the eLearning content portable, reusable and durable. As an analogy, think of your content as a “DVD”, the LMS as a “DVD player” and imagine the difficulties you would have to face if the DVD worked with just a selected type of players!
What Went Wrong?
Developed by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), an initiative by the Office of the US Secretary of Defense, the first version of SCORM (SCORM 1.2) soon became the industry standard in education technology. Since then, although many advanced versions of SCORM have been released in the market to improve its features, its popularity has seen a drop. What are the reasons behind this? Let’s take a look:
The first step in setting up an eLearning course is creating your course content. With SCORM, this process becomes costly and difficult. SCORM content is designed in SCORM authoring tools (an additional step for the users) that give you a .zip file as an output, and this .zip file is then uploaded in the LMS. SCORM content authoring tools are not light on your pocket – Adobe Captivate currently costs around $1099 and Articulate Storyline 2 charges $999 for a single user license.
SCORM content is published in Flash which doesn’t work well with iOS devices. Authoring tools provide an HTML5 output option, but the content package can be buggy. Creating rich media, video-based courses, interactive quizzes, etc. is challenging in the current SCORM authoring tools. The SCORM packages created from these tools are cumbersome and manually uploading them is a drag. Also, the course setting activities should be carried out in off-peak hours otherwise existing users may face problems in accessing your LMS. Course settings modifications lead to direct impact on structure, configuration and accessibility of the course. Therefore, simultaneous access by learners while the settings are being modified is not advised.
SCORM was developed in the late 1990s. Since then, advanced smartphones have become mainstream, gamification is on the rise, and cloud computing is rapidly becoming a norm. SCORM solved a burning problem of its time – interoperability of different content objects and systems, but new technologies have brought a different set of expectations. In the earlier section, we saw how difficult it is to create SCORM-compliant courses with rich media. More and more people are accessing online content on smartphones now, and SCORM’s incompatibility with mobile devices doesn’t fit into the consumption patterns of today’s learners.
SCORM is complex, and that’s no understatement. The process of creating and delivering SCORM content is slow, clunky, complicated and incomplete. If you spot even a minor error in your course content, it can’t be edited there and then. You will have re-deploy the entire package to correct that error that also requires an in-depth understanding of the software.
Also, when the user launches a course on SCORM, another iframe or pop up window opens up which maintains connectivity with the SCORM servers. Online courses now need to be compatible with mobile phones and opening a SCORM course is very difficult. This iframe needs to be kept open until the time the user ends the session.
It is imperative that user data be analyzed to figure out where are learners spending most of their time on the internet. SCORM’s capability lies in tracking pages where the customer has completed a course and has closed the browser. In case the learner forgets to close the browser or if the session times out, or there is a loss of internet connectivity, (among many other reasons) then SCORM will not be able to count the user session.
SCORM limits tracking within its framework which leads to a loss of valuable data which maps users learning over the internet. For example, learning would include watching a YouTube video to make a mince pie or Googling the meaning of a word. Thus analytics on learner behavior will be limited on the SCORM and give an incomplete picture of user behavior. Trainers may be unable to apply learnings to future course design.
What Lies Ahead?
SCORM, even though in use, is on its way out. Some reasons are listed above to corroborate this statement. But who or what is pushing for a change? Newer technology and learner objectives from the online course are two significant factors. Technology changes such as cloud computing, gamification are trends that have made the user experience so much better and simpler. Learner objectives – personalized courses which are bite-sized for easy understanding are required for the busy learner. The world is steadily shifting to secure technology to make delivering online courses effortless.