In a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, SCORM’s limited value to eLearning and training has become more high profile.

The Chronicle reports:

Some higher-education leaders say a little-noticed technical note in a new $2-billion federal grant program could make it difficult for colleges to use the money to build free online course materials.

The issue centers around a single line of the 53-page grant guidelines for the program, known officially as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program: “All online and technology-enabled courses developed under this [program] must be compliant with the latest version of Scorm (Sharable Content Object Reference Model).”

As many of us in instructional design and eLearning know, SCORM has little to do with actual learning. Instead, SCORM represents a technical specification to help ensure that eLearning content survives different systems and upgrades. In order to take advantage of SCORM, learning has to be structured and meta-tagged appropriately so that it is retrieveable, or shareable.

The shareable factor is what I believe the government is after here. However, while much of eLearning emphasizes self-paced asynchronous training. Higher education rarely falls into this category. At the minimum, this highlights the basic difference between training and education. I believe the notion that one institution could build a SCORM-certified course and have it distributed and taught by another institution may in fact be flawed. Others may disagree with me. In either case, I would question whether the assessments are in fact aligned with the objectives and instructional methods for the content when the courses are shared. By way of the IMS GLC Public Forum, Rabel offers an extensive and deep analysis of the flaws of this thinking and follow-ups here..

Some may argue that what is being asked here is to generate generic learning content, that is content that lots of people need.  Labeling content as ‘generic’ is also flawed. All learning content has a built-in theoretical perspective for how teaching and learning should occur.  What SCORM most certainly fails to include is any identification of pedagogy or instructional methods. So, to believe that one faculty member’s philosophy of teaching that would be inherent to a SCORM-certified course is congruent with another faculty member’s philosophy of teaching fails to recognize the unique teaching skills of the individuals. I certainly do not assert that I could organize, teach, and assess the same course content the same way as another faculty would, which is what SCORM-compliant content would require.

What do you think? Can higher ed content be SCORMed?

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

3 Thoughts on “SCORM becoming important to higher ed

  1. Chuck H. on January 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm said:

    I agree that the sharable factor is what they are probably after. Specifically the concept of content surviving in different systems and through system upgrades. To that end developers will probably arrive at some “wrapper” that is SCORM compliant/compatible and relies on a few standards-based technologies and which will hold all sorts of gizmos that can be imagined and created.

    I also agree that generic content is problematic. I have often thought this in relation to the online materials from places like the MIT OpenCourseWare project. It is a great idea and many people vibist the site, but how many other universities have replaced any of their course materials with the online content from MIT? Some of the adoption issues are probably ego-related (not created here) but that would be the same for many SCORM modules too. Are the problems with generic content psychological (as in ego and branding) or technical? I am sure there are other reasons.

  2. Pingback: Scorm Becoming Important to Higher ED | Knowledge Management System (KMS) Blog

  3. Pingback: Viral Notebook » Oops! SCORM isn’t quite as important as we thought in higher education

Post Navigation