Implementing SCORM

July 29th, 2003 Comments Off on Implementing SCORM

Last week I finished implementing a basic version of the SCORM standard in a LMS the company I work for is building. The implementation involved, in a general way, putting together support for the standard’s RTE in the LMS. It was an interesting experience, and I learned a lot from it — both about the standard and the related technologies. In the next few days I will post some thoughts about the process here. As this subject is probably not very interesting for most of you, feel free to ignore those entries if you wish.

A small introduction to SCORM

SCORM is a standard created by the ADL Initiative that defines both a run-time environment and a content aggregation model for online learning objects. It’s currently at version 1.2. A 1.3 revision, dealing with many problems in the previous versions, has been promised for real soon now for over a year.

The standard has gained a lot of attention in the past few years and is generally considered the successor to the AICC CMI, a former standard in the area. In truth, with regards to its conceptual model, SCORM builds upon the AICC model and adds its own extensions where needed.

In my experience, the standard has more advantages than disadvantages — although the latter are quite significant (especially from an implementation standpoint). It certainly embodies an interesting and useful idea, and it’s a big step for the integration between content and learning models based on the Web, but there are a lot of flaws in its conception that must be studied and addressed when it comes to a real implementation. In my own implementation, for instance, I had to take a lot of decisions about the most problematic areas of the specification based mainly on my own judgment or understanding of it, sometimes differing from what the specification stated because it contained inherent flaws that prevented a particular course of action.

A SCORM implementation consists basically of two pieces: a JavaScript interface (as defined in the specification) and a server-side run-time environment. The JavaScript interface mediates between the objects that make up a course and the server. The server-side part of the implementation integrates with the course management system (users management, reports, etc.) present in the LMS to provide the SCORM run-time environment that is accessed by the JavaScript interface. I implemented both the JavaScript and the SCORM run-time environment.

That’s basically what an SCORM implementation means. In the next entry I will analyze some of the advantages and disadvantages of the standard, explaining how I solved some of the initial problems.

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