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