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What is Cmi5? A new set of rules for xAPI

SCORM has long been the most common standard for eLearning content. In recent years another standard has emerged that has breathed new life and possibilities into the way in which your content can interact with your LMS and wider eLearning ecosystem. Initially called Tin Can, a more formal name of xAPI was settled upon.

The specification was perhaps too broad and made it difficult for the industry to come together in a way to best serve the end user. A new set of ‘rules’ for xAPI called cmi5 is set to harness the possibilities of xAPI making it even more impactful. In this post we take a look at a snippet of our new eBook: xAPI and cmi5, Plan now for the future of eLearning.

What is cmi5?

Cmi5 is a “profile” for using the xAPI specification with traditional learning management systems.

The cmi part of cmi5 stands for ‘computer managed instruction’, and it is essentially an extra set of rules that harnesses the benefits of xAPI (primarily to enable the capture of eLearning data from anywhere) whilst also adding focus to its otherwise broad, overly flexible specification. 

As a profile of xAPI the cmi5 specification helps to define the package specification for courses that are imported to an LMS and are using xAPI. Ben Clark of Rustici Software has described how cmi5 augments xAPI as follows: “xAPI is wide open, there’s so much this standard can do that people don’t know what to expect out of it and they don’t know how to track certain things consistently.

cmi5 is there to put some of the rules back on top of xAPI. And even though the new standard does have more rules and provides more structure, instructional designers still have a wide open field to track whatever they want to.”

The next generation

Being pitched as the true next generation of SCORM, cmi5 has started to gather momentum. As ADL have taken over the cmi5 specification there is a suggestion that this will prompt further evolution. With cmi5, ADL are writing the packaging and structuring specification that xAPI failed to deliver.

That means if you already support xAPI, implementing cmi5 should be pretty easy. ADL are taking the best parts of AICC, SCORM and xAPI, and combining them with a new specification to improve tracking for online course delivery and reporting systems.

In short, the people behind cmi5 are using xAPI as a communications protocol and are defining how courses should be packaged and structured too.

Goals of cmi5


A cmi5 “Assignable Unit” is the launchable content within the packaging. Any ‘AU’ should work across all systems that follow the specification. The structure is imported rather than the content so the content can be hosted anywhere such as on another system, behind a firewall or on a mobile device.


cmi5 supports extensions as it is based on xAPI. This will allow for future growth and prevent the standard becoming obsolete in the future.

Mobile Learning

Like xAPI, cmi5 supports mobile to give true ‘on the go’ learning with offline/online sync, provided the apps developed for the course support the offline sections of the specifications.

For more information on xAPI and cmi5 Download our free eBook.




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