In favour of data.
SCORM may sound great. It used to be.
To understand why traditional, SCORM based Learning Management Systems are no longer keeping up with commonplace organisational requirements one has to first understand their legacy:
The first generation of commercialised, purpose-built LMS’s appeared on the market in the mid 1990’s during the dawn of modern networking. These primordial LMS's comprised a disarray of custom built content containers, which gave rise to the USA government initiating a standard that was aimed at LMS’s being able to share content with each other; and so “SCORM” came to be. SCORM, an acronym for "Shareable Content Object Reference Model', is a legacy standard still employed within eLearning today.
One of the fundamental objectives of SCORM was interoperability between different LMS’s, which translated to taking content assets, such as documents, videos, images and assessments and collating these into a specific ZIP file, thereby compressing the said into a uniform, standard and shareable file.
The irony is that this revered action of compressing assets into a specific ZIP file via the SCORM standard is the exact action that has begun causing SCORM to diminish in relevance: via this standard it is not without significant (read: near impossible) effort to extrapolate data in order to objectively measure the entire learning environment, which is hamstringing the majority of LMS’s worldwide. SCORM may sound like a good solution, and it certainly used to be, however two decades after its initial release the world of learning has moved on quite substantially.
Ultimately, the fork in the road divides two paths: the one delivering pretty content with a SCORM based system without significant measurability and reporting, the other delivering equally intriguing content coupled with granular reporting and insights, such as the Knowledge Management System.
The below points focus on why the latter path should be strongly considered in favour of a SCORM based system:
1. SCORM lacks Big Data
Data: that data is the new oil does not require further elaboration. Data becomes more useful the more it is used and, once processed, data often reveals further applications. Most organisations actually do have an understanding of the value of data but unfortunately this does not cover all areas, such as the training environment. Without this data it is impossible to generate meaningful reports that cover comparisons, trends and objective performance to name but a few. Important to consider is that obtaining data retrospectively is near impossible, hence why collection efforts should have commenced yesterday. SCORM on the other hand treats data as an afterthought or add-on whereby the primary focus is only on delivering content.
2. Limited measurability & reporting
If it cannot be measured, it cannot be improved - the value and extent of measurability is directly proportionate to the data that is being collected. If a training department is to achieve major success, such will require a well managed environment along with the ability to measure and report on whatever can be measured and reported on. Extensive data analysis will be required to provide insight into what has been achieved and what the current trends are. SCORM simply does not have the capability to measure and report to the extent that most training professionals require. For example, traditional SCORM reports for the most part comprise learner enrolments as well as results regarding competencies.
3. SCORM is not built for the modern workplace
SCORM was initially released in the year 2000 whereby the most commonly used version, 1.2, stems from 2004. This was 15 years ago - a lifetime in technology! A common requirement for the modern workplace is mobility. Employees learn from home, during their commute and from remote campuses. The majority of legacy SCORM content was designed with desktop viewing in mind and as a result display scalability is a challenge. While some SCORM versions may claim to support mobility, the latter is a successful combination of the SCORM version, the device, the authoring tool as well as the LMS utilised.
Also, SCORM traditionally works with Adobe Flash, which is being slowly abandoned since Adobe is favouring a transition to HTML5. iOS (Apple) does not support Flash and thus SCORM content will not play on Apple devices. In South Africa alone roughly 31% of mobile users make use of an iPhone, who would be precluded from SCORM content on their mobile devices.
SCORM is not optimised for bite sized / micro learning, since this environment was never contemplated when SCORM was developed.
4. SCORM content & authoring tools
SCORM content must be generated on SCORM compliant authoring tools. While these tools are inherently solid, such as Adobe Captivate and Storyline, they are cost prohibitive at about $1,300 per license per year for Adobe Captivate. Should the organisation wish for more than one person to generate content the organisation would need to acquire additional licenses.
Authoring tools are quite complex in nature and require training as well as practice, which can add significant lead time before any training can ensue.
Lastly, a common-found problem with SCORM compliant authoring tools is the lack of backward compatibility. If a course is designed on one authoring tool version and edited with a later version, the file often renders with significant problems thus leaving the author to recreate the entire course.
5. Restricted assessing capabilities
SCORM's assessing capabilities are superficial in nature extending, for the most part, to short quizzes or individual questions. The assessments are also compressed within the SCORM zip container, meaning that any assessment changes require the entire content file to be updated. Lastly, randomisation comes from within the SCORM container, meaning that questions are simply randomised each time round rather than selected from a question bank comprising a plethora of questions (thereby genuinely providing unique questions with each assessment).