Our approach to SCORM in LearnUpon

How to manage SCORM API content for your LMS

Over the past five years, SCORM has become all but the default content format of choice throughout the eLearning industry. While Tin Can API has recently appeared to challenge its dominance, SCORM remains the preferred option for many of the organizations we work with at LearnUpon.

Because we believe in the continuing usefulness of both formats, we’re taking two posts to suggest how the use of SCORM and Tin Can API might suit your organization. Beginning with SCORM, this post examines some common frustrations associated with the format and the approach we’ve taken to solve them.

Why SCORM can be a problem for you

The design of our SCORM implementation was inspired by a number of common problems we wanted to solve. Importing and publishing SCORM content was extremely time-consuming, so improving that experience was our first priority. We also saw that once users had imported SCORM content into an LMS, they often found that the course only partially operated or wouldn’t work at all. Why? For two simple reasons. 

Firstly, while many learning management systems say they’re SCORM compliant, they’re generally only compliant with the mandatory elements of the SCORM specification. If your course implements non-mandatory elements of SCORM because your business requires those pieces of data, the course will not work in many learning management systems. 

That a SCORM package is essentially a zip file containing all of the media contents a course consists of also creates problems when it’s imported to an LMS. The SCORM package includes a manifest file that dictates the structure and contents of a course, among other things. If the manifest is not located in the root of the zip file, then the course is not a valid SCORM content package at all.

But in most cases, an LMS won’t indicate that this is the problem. The import simply fails without offering any explanation why! Or you might find that you can import your course, but the files are in a different location to that specified in the manifest.

Or you might find that files are missing from the zip. Ultimately, your course just won’t work. To complicate matters further, in many cases you will have purchased the content from a third-party vendor. In that case, you’ll need to get your content vendor and LMS provider to communicate to fix the issue.

That creates a lot of nasty headaches for what should be a simple task.

Yet it’s also a pretty common scenario for an LMS implementation that involves SCORM content. A lot of energy, time and money will have been spent creating the implementation, only to find that the imported SCORM course can’t communicate with the LMS.

It might be because the LMS doesn’t support some of the fields the course implements but it never makes that clear. You’ve spent months, literally (don’t laugh, we know this to be true from conversations with customers) debugging to try to uncover the source of the problem.

Until finally, the search throws up an invalid manifest file or missing associated or detrimental media files or any number of other issues.

LearnUpon’s SCORM implementation

Inspired by these frustrations, we set out to develop a SCORM import tool and API that would solve these problems, creating a better experience for all. 

Here’s what we came up with.

  1. To import your SCORM course into LearnUpon, simply select the SCORM file from your computer’s hard-drive and we do the rest. Your course will be imported and validated straight away. If your SCORM zip was deemed invalid for whatever reason, we tell you so. You don’t need to spend hours, or months, trying to discover why the course won’t work. You simply fix the errors and upload a new zip file.
  2. In LearnUpon, all of your SCORM content is stored within a super fast Content Delivery Network (CDN). That means the files are delivered to clients extremely quickly, thanks to CDN geographic features that leverage the best services for media and content web-delivery available in the industry.
  3. Any SCORM content uploaded to LearnUpon is also completely reusable. If you need to add a module to one or more courses, you only need to upload the SCORM zip package once. Using our course content authoring library, you can drag and drop your SCORM modules into each course, as required. It’s as simple as that. There’s no need for multiple uploads or file management, so you save on duplicated media storage costs.
  4. Finally, all of the mandatory and non-mandatory API elements are implemented by LearnUpon’s SCORM API. You don’t need to wonder if our SCORM API will support your courses, it will.

Our product roadmap includes plans to develop the SCORM API further. Meanwhile, the implementation has left many experts in the eLearning industry surprised at how quickly it can transform SCORM content “from a zip file on a hard-drive to an accessible set of course contents that function and track exactly as you would expect”. 

With the growth in demand for mLearning and mobile learning options, Tin Can API (xAPI) has recently challenged SCORM’s reputation as the most flexible eLearning format available. Read this post to decide if Tin Can is the best choice for your organization.