SCORM vs. xAPI: which is best for your business?

SCORM vs. xAPI: which is best for your business?

Everyday we discuss learning needs with our clients. Many of them ask about the difference between SCORM and Tin Can, as well as the benefits of going with Tin Can xAPI. Here we break down the background, options and benefits of each to help you make an informed choice.

A brief history of SCORM


SCORM is a coding standard created by the US Government (by a group called The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) Initiative to research and facilitate easier distribution of eLearning courses across geographically dispersed sites.  

In the late 1990s, many departments of the American Government were starting to develop online training courses. However, each department was developing and distributing them differently, and using different Learning Management Systems (LMS).

This led to a lot of duplicated effort and meant that
content developed by one department couldn’t be used with another department’s LMS. By setting a coding standard, SCORM, they were able to efficiently share and distribute courses irrespective of the LMS itself.

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The Savv-e team started in 1999, so we remember how exciting it was to be able to develop and distribute working learning modules to clients everywhere. It was comforting to know that as long as they were running a SCORM Compliant LMS, the end product would be fully functional and everyone was happy (and yes, we did send out eLearning courses on CDs once upon a time).


Improving learning experiences: SCORM vs xAPI


SCORM was a standard created not long after the infancy of the internet itself and well before the invention of the iPod, the tablet and the smartphones we use today. The world has moved on, and people want more from their learning experiences - as well as enhanced reporting and data with them.    

In 2011, it was well recognised that the learning landscape had changed. Learners were using different technology platforms, devices and tools to learn and elearning itself had evolved.  There was a need for a new standard that offered more capabilities than SCORM could provide.  

This prompted a research project called Project Tin Can. Consequently, this resulted in the Experience API, which can also be written as xAPI (hence the name Tin Can API).

 

The benefits of Tin Can API


Tin Can API is an open source API that allows content creators to deploy various new capabilities that are not supported by SCORM. It registers learner activity (not just completion of learning modules) and stores relevant student data that can be accessed in the future. We’ve outlined its core benefits below.

1. The Learning Record Store (LRS)

One of Tin Can’s key elements is the Learning Record Store (LRS), which stores data compiled as a result of the learner’s activities, so that it can be transmitted to the LMS when the user goes online. Because of this feature Tin Can does not require a permanent internet connection or web browser, broadening the horizons for learning completion and reporting.  

2. Versatility

Another related advantage of Tin Can is that eLearning can be taken outside of a web browser, and outside an LMS. This means:

  • eLearning can be designed for native mobile applications.
  • modules can include platform transition - so sessions can be started on a mobile device and finished on a desktop.
  • team-based eLearning is better supported.

3. Security

Tin Can also offers increased security and data protection measures. This includes:  

  • robust security using OAuth, which allows secure third party access to information.
  • improved control over learning content.

4. Tracking

A final major benefit of Tin Can is the capability to track simulations and games. All relevant activity can be tracked and recorded, including:

  • every mouse click or answer given.
  • learning goals and plans.
  • in-depth assessment results.

In contrast, SCORM can only track quizzes and completion statuses.

 

SCORM vs. Tin Can API: where do we stand?


Tin Can API was built on the successes of SCORM, so it does not bring many disadvantages to the table. However it currently has a much lower level of adoption among LMS providers than SCORM, which is still very widely supported. Find out more about our Tin Can xAPI compatible LMS here.

While the eLearning environment continues to develop Tin Can offers increasing advantages. Many Australian developers are experimenting with what is possible using the xAPI capabilities, including:

  • Avenues for enhancing the learning experience.
  • Reporting on metrics that are not possible in a SCORM world.


As more content developers embrace the benefits of offline and mobile learning, the limits will be on the imagination of developers who look for new ways of distributing, reporting and engaging in learning experiences.

When thinking about the type of eLearning content that you want to create, it’s vital to think about how accessible and useful that content can be. We have developed a downloadable eLearning accessibility checklist that can help you ensure new types of content are compliant with WCAG 2.0 requirements. Click the below image to get your copy.

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