University of Iowa

What is SCORM?

  • SCORM defines a specific way of constructing Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and training content so that they work well with other SCORM conformant systems.


What does SCORM stand for?

  • SCORM stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model”.
  • “Sharable Content Object” indicates that SCORM is all about creating units of online training material that can be shared across systems. SCORM defines how to create “sharable content objects” or “SCOs” that can be reused in different systems and contexts.
  • “Reference Model” reflects the fact that SCORM isn’t actually a standard. ADL didn’t write SCORM from the ground up. Instead, they noticed that the industry already had many standards that solved part of the problem. SCORM simply references these existing standards and tells developers how to properly use them together.


What’s a SCO?

  • A Sharable Content Object (SCO) is the most granular piece of training in a SCORM world. Some would call it a module, a chapter, a page… the point is that it varies wildly. A SCORM purist would tell you that it should be the smallest piece of content that is both reusable and independent. In terms of how the LMS treats it, this is the item shown separately in the table of contents and tracked separately from other items. It can contain its own bookmark, score and completion status.


How does SCORM work?

  • Basically, the different versions of SCORM all govern the same two things: packaging content and exchanging data at Run-Time.
    • Packaging content or the content aggregation model (CAM) determines how a piece of content should be delivered in a physical sense. At the core of SCORM packaging is a document titled the “imsmanifest”. This file contains every piece of information required by the LMS to import and launch content without human intervention. This manifest file contains XML that describes the structure of a course both from a learner’s perspective and from a physical file system perspective. Questions like, “Which document should be launched?” and “What is the name of this content?” are answered by this document.
    • Run-Time communication, or data exchange, specifies how the content ”talks” to the LMS while the content is actually playing. This is the part of the equation we describe as delivery and tracking. There are two major components to this communication. First, the content has to “find” the LMS. Once the content has found it, it can then communicate through a series of “get” and “set” calls and an associated vocabulary. Conceptually, these are things like “request the learner’s name” and “tell the LMS that the learner scored 95% on this test.” Based on the available SCORM vocabulary, many rich interactive experiences can be communicated to the LMS.


For more information regarding SCORM in ICON please check out Canvas's SCORM Support Documentation or their General Guides!