SCORM in a Nutshell

SCORM in a Nutshell

Here's an non-technical Q/A session about SCORM. “SCORM Explained,” at, is concise enough, but it can seem vague if you’re new to the term. If you’re not involved with the technical side of things… and you’ve seen the terms “SCORM” and “SCORM-compliant”… and you just want to know what it’s about, perhaps this little explanation will help. (Remember, this isn’t really precise; it’s just to help you get an idea.)

Do I need to bother about SCORM?

SCORM is a set of technical standards. It has no direct connection with content. It’s typically the software folks who are involved with SCORM.

I know that SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. What does that mean?

Literally, it’s a Reference Model (RM) for Sharable Content Objects (SCO). The “RM” is a purely technical aspect; let’s look at the “SCO” part.

Imagine a geography course with one section on “World Cities.” This section has a world map with 20 important cities marked on it, plus some details about each city. The map plus text can be “standardised.” That is, every geography instructor who explains “cities of the world” can use the same map plus text in their course. For that to happen, you create a content object called “World Cities,” into which you package the map plus text. The “World Cities” package is now a sharable content object (SCO) – a reusable unit of training material.

Once you know what SCOs are, you can understand SCORM: It specifies how SCOs should be structured so that they can be re-used and shared effectively.

Re-used and shared by… people?

Shared across software systems. SCORM specifies how the LMS (Learning Management System) interacts with SCOs. LMSes are the software programs that deliver and track learning content.

And what does “SCORM compliant” mean?

If a course is SCORM-compliant, it’s been technically structured according to SCORM specifications. Also, if an LMS is SCORM-compliant, then SCORM-compliant courseware will run on it with no glitches.

A simple analogy would be: You connect your camera to your computer using a USB cable, say. The USB is the “standard” here. Camera manufacturers and computer manufacturers include the USB connector in their products. Likewise, courseware publishers and LMS programmers try to be SCORM-compliant.

So SCORM is about courseware and LMSes being compatible?

The emphasis on compliance is about this compatibility. But the basic idea behind SCORM is about structuring SCOs – such that they can be carried over across learning packages and systems.

If you’re interested in the details, here’s a good explanation of SCORM (by Brian Kleeman).