Why You Don’t Need a SCORM Compliant Learning Management System

If you’re looking for a new learning management system (LMS), there’s a good chance you’ve come across the term “SCORM.” You may have seen advertising for a SCORM-compliant LMS or different versions of SCORM, like 1.1, 1.2, or SCORM 2004.

It can all be quite confusing.

But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to worry about it.

Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t worry about SCORM.

Ignore the marketing that says a learning management system is SCORM-compliant. Because you don’t need it. Learning has moved beyond SCORM.

Here are five reasons why. (But first, just in case you haven’t heard of SCORM, or haven’t been able to break through all of SCORM-related jargon, we’ll go over the basics.)

What Is SCORM?

“Shareable Content Object Reference Model.” That’s what SCORM stands for.

A shareable content object is one piece of material that’s used for learning. It might be a module or chapter. It’s a piece of content that’s both reusable and independent.

“Reference model” means that SCORM is a set of standards to make sure different learning management systems can work together.

So SCORM is a system that lets different pieces of software share digital learning content. You can use it to transfer courses from one system to another, or to buy trainings that can be instantly loaded into any SCORM-compliant learning management system.

It sounds great. And it used to be. But let’s take a look at some of the reasons that SCORM is no longer relevant.

1. It’s Not Built for the Modern Workplace

SCORM was first released in 2000, and one of the most common versions is from 2004. Technology changes quickly, and 15 years is a long time in the world of digital learning.

Take mobile learning, for example. The modern employee is highly mobile; employees work from home, travel, work at remote campuses, and spend time away from the main office in other ways. SCORM doesn’t work on smartphones or tablets, limiting employees’ access to training and development material.

That’s a big drawback by itself.

But SCORM also limits the types of content that you can deliver. SCORM-compliant learning management systems, for example, tend to struggle with video, a mainstay of modern learning. Certain file types and codecs won’t work with SCORM systems.

SCORM traditionally works with Flash files, which aren’t supported by iOS devices. SCORM-compliant LMSes may have trouble displaying content on different types of devices for other reasons, too.

And large file sizes can cause problems, which is bad for visual content. On top of all that, SCORM isn’t optimized for bite-sized learning.

There’s no way to limit access to specific users other than to create different courses and send out links to the right people. You can’t institute license codes or individualized instruction from within a SCORM course.

In short, SCORM is old. It doesn’t support the range of technology that learners need in the modern workplace.

2. It Lacks Robust Reporting

HR departments, instructors, and managers all want to know that the money and time they invest in training pays off. They want to see employees progress through training courses and that they’re moving toward their learning objectives.

SCORM-compliant learning management systems just don’t have enough reporting capabilities.

Sure, they can show you that a learner started or finished a module. Or that they took a quiz. But they won’t show you what’s popular among your learners, let you assign tasks to specific employees, or drive engagement.

When ADL created SCORM trainers weren’t thinking about these things yet. Now that they are, though, SCORM clearly falls behind when it comes to monitoring and reporting.

Modern systems give you deep insights into what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to improve your course.

3. SCORM Courses are Hard (and Expensive) to Build

The SCORM model requires very specific features to be embedded in the content that you want to share. Unfortunately, using those features is rather complicated.

The first thing you’ll need is software that can create SCORM-compliant learning materials. The two best apps for this are Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline.

They’re great apps, but very expensive. A full license for Captivate is $1,099. Storyline costs $1,299 per license. If you want more than one person to be able to build SCORM-compliant materials, you’re going to need more than one license.

And that adds up fast. Even a medium-sized company might have a handful of people involved in creating training materials.

Once you buy software that can build the course, you’re set . . . right? Not exactly.

These are highly complex pieces of software that require training and a lot of practice. That adds lead time to your training. If you’re hoping to buy a program and start creating immediately, you have a surprise coming. It might take a while.

Which is why many people buy SCORM trainings from third-party vendors. This is a good solution if you don’t want to create your own training in Captivate or Storyline. But it also gives you less control over the content of your course.

Today’s LMSes let you build training courses natively. And it’s often as simple as uploading a video and a document or two. If you already have some training materials, it will only take a matter of minutes to get things uploaded.

Doesn’t that sound easier (and more affordable) than building a SCORM-compliant course with expensive, complex software?

4. SCORM Courses Aren’t Engaging

Engagement is crucial for learning; unengaged learners aren’t going to see the outcomes that trainers, instructional designers, and supervisors want.

Because of the latest version of SCORM was created in 2004, it doesn’t have the capabilities to offer engaging content to learners. Beyond text, images, videos, and basic assessments, you don’t have many options.

Modern learning software offers learning tools like live webinars, interactive quizzes, audio files, social interactions, and more. Modern learners are used to these tools and better engage with them, improving learning.

SCORM-compliant learning management systems are focused on individual, self-paced learning. There’s no interaction with other learners or support from instructors built into the system, making it more difficult for students or employees to get what they need to help learning.

Today’s digital learning courses are built with the entire learning ecosystem in mind, including both cohort-based learning and interactions with teachers.

5. There are Alternatives

Years ago, SCORM was the only option for a powerful learning system. It was a groundbreaking system that standardized elearning in a field that had very few standards.

But there are more options today. SCORM courses just aren’t good enough for the modern learner. Quick, native course authoring and highly functional learning options are required for today’s workplace.

Which is why searching for a SCORM-compliant learning management system is a waste of your time. You don’t need SCORM-compliant software anymore.

That being said, if you already have SCORM content, you may be concerned about what you’re going to do with it. Many modern learning systems give you the ability to import SCORM files directly into your learning course. (Here’s how Continu does it in a few simple steps.)

It’s time to face the fact that SCORM as a standard is no longer useful. Even ADL, the company that created SCORM, has moved onto a different model.

And while standardization can be beneficial, the tradeoff in speed and flexibility isn’t worth it. Native authoring and delivery tools abound today, and they’re much more functional than SCORM.

How to Move Beyond SCORM

Whether you’ve been using a SCORM-compliant learning management system or thinking about getting one, it’s time to move on. Modern learning systems provide a number of advantages over SCORM-compliant LMSes:

  • Mobile friendliness

  • Permissions and distribution options

  • Very detailed reporting

  • Fast, native creation

  • Ability to quickly upload trainings you’ve already created

  • Engaging content (videos, quizzes, webinars, social interactions)

  • Cheaper, more flexible software options

There’s no reason for SCORM compatibility to be on your list of priorities for learning software anymore. Instead of worrying about the standardization of your tools, focus on how an LMS can help your company.

What can it do for you? How can it help your learners engage and retain information better? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking.

We recently added assessment capabilities to the Continu learning management system! Every Continu customer now has access to assessments. Click here to find out more about how it helps you improve your corporate learning.

Dann is a content strategy and marketing consultant who helps B2Bs generate demand and leads. He also blogs about strategy and content marketing at www.dannalbright.com.