All About Learning Objects

  • Approaches to Content
  • Interoperability and Rusability
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Table of Pros and Cons

SCORM Concepts

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Parts of the System

This section of the tutorial examines the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), a specification for standadizing the reusability and interoperability of learning content. SCORM has been developed by the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative (ADL).

SCORM focuses on two critical pieces of learning content interoperability:

  1. It defines an aggregation model for packaging learning content
  2. It defines an API for enabling communications between learning content and the system that launches it

These are discussed below.

SCORM also divides the world of learning technology into functional components. The key components are

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Shareable Content Objects (SCOs)

SCOs are a standardized form of reusable learning object. An LMS is (for the purposes of SCORM) any system that keeps learner information, can launch and communicate with SCOs, and can interpret instructions that tell it which SCO comes next. Additional components in the SCORM model are tools that create SCOs and assemble them into larger units of learning.


*SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model. SCORM is the brainchild of the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative (ADL).

Content Aggregation

SCOs are self-contained units of learning. They can be used as building blocks (or legos) to create packages of SCOs, but they cannot be broken down into smaller units.. Three things must be done to create a larger unit of learning from SCOs.

  1. 1. The SCOs must be found and organized into a structure.
  2. Instructions must be written that tell an LMS which SCO comes after which.
  3. The SCOs and instructions must be bundled into a portable package.

This process is called content aggregation. Note that content aggregation includes instructions for moving between SCOs but not for movement within individual SCOs. SCORM has adopted a content packaging format from the IMS Global Learning Consortium. A SCORM package contains a manifest file that declares the contents of the package and is set upt ot describe the order in which the SCOs are to be delivered. It also tells the LMS where to find the SCOs themselves. The physical resources represented by the SCO can be physically included in the package, or they can be referenced externally by the package.

Communicating with Content

The magic of SCORM is that SCORM content can communicate learner information with any LMS using a standardized method based on Javascript. The SCORM specification (which derives from work done by the Aviation Industry CBT Committee) lays out exactly what pieces of learner information can be retrieved and updated. This information includes the learner's name, the learner's ID, scores on quizzes, time spent in a SCO, and the learner's physical device preferences. It isn't fancy, but covers the basics.

In the SCORM model, content initiates all communication. When it is launched, it tells the LMS it has started. When it wants something from the LMS, it asks for it. When it wants to update learner information, it tells the LMS. And when it is finished, it tells the LMS it is finished. This passes control back to the LMS, and the LMS decides which SCO will be delivered next. The delivery order of SCOs is not yet based on learner information but will be in the future.


For learning objects to be used they must be found. It is not easy to find anything in a large distributed online environment like the World Wide Web or a large intranet. The solution is to store not only learning objects but also descriptions of the learning objects. Thinking of the learning objects as data, the descriptions are data about the data, or metadata. Learning object metadata potentially includes information about the title, author, version number, creation date, technical requirements and educational context and intent. Learning Object Metadata is compatible with the metadata used by the digital and online library community.

SCORM has a place for metadata in every SCO and in every content package.

Introduction | All About Learning Objects | Table of Pros & Cons | SCORM Concepts | Where to Learn More