SCORM Compliant LMS: How to Find an LMS That Checks All the Boxes

13 minutes

Here you are, looking for an eLearning platform that is a perfect match for your SCORM content. For everyone who has been into eLearning for a while, the search term “scorm compliance” seems to pop everywhere. Still, it’s easy to run into a solution that doesn’t support it.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through some SCORM technical refinements and provide you with a checklist for making a smart choice in an LMS.

SCORM Explained

Shareable Content Object Reference Model, or simply SCORM, is the gold standard for e-courses. Thanks to it, a SCORM compliant LMS runs any SCORM file just like a DVD player plays any DVD disc. So, if a company uses this format and decides to switch to another learning platform, there’s no need to worry about losing any content, as any other SCORM compatible LMS will recognize it too.

What does a SCORM course look like?

For an LMS admin, a typical SCORM-compliant course looks like a ZIP archive. This archive contains all the text, pictures, videos, and other assets that you’ll have in your course. But what makes a SCORM file different from the usual archived collection of assets is the strict hierarchy of files and the code that governs their interaction. And that’s a game changer

SCORM course structure

The structure of a SCORM course

As a mechanism of interaction between an e-course and an LMS, SCORM allows you to set rules for moving between learning units. For instance, you can make learners study the text content first and only then let them watch a video lecture. It also saves learners’ progress and tracks their results.

Lucky for us, the times when only tech-savvy professionals could build SCORM files are in the past. Now, almost anyone can do it with a special editor that automatically creates a package ready to be uploaded to an LMS.

What Is SCORM Compliance? 

SCORM compliance stands for technical compatibility. This implies that software supports this format of eLearning content so you can open, edit or deliver SCORM courses with it. Basically, you use SCORM eLearning authoring tools or converters to create a SCORM course. As for its delivery to learners, you need a SCORM compliant learning management system. Below, we’ll elaborate on what SCORM compliance is in more detail.

What Is a SCORM Compliant LMS?

A SCORM compliant LMS is an online platform that recognizes SCORM. Seems to be a no-brainer, right? Yet, there is a tricky part to pay attention to.

SCORM compliance is actually a general term, but in fact, there are three levels of SCORM support. An LMS can be:

  • SCORM conformant
  • SCORM compliant
  • or SCORM certified

The distinction between compliance and conformance isn’t obvious for most users, unless they’ve scanned the specifications closely, as an e-course will work and statistics will be gathered in any case. The difference is in the number of CMI elements that a SCORM compliant, conformant, or certified LMS supports.

Three levels of SCORM compliance

Three levels of SCORM compliance

CMI stands for “computer managed instruction”. The list of CMI elements is like a list of character abilities on each level in a video game. In the context of eLearning, it is the list of commands the LMS can follow and the types of data it collects.

As we mentioned earlier, compliance is a general term that refers to a wide range of solutions of different quality. But usually, SCORM compliant software supports the most basic level of interaction between courses and the LMS. That includes basic commands for communication initialization, saving progress, and finishing. Basic doesn’t always mean poor or insufficient; there are hundreds of “level one” solutions good enough for most people.

SCORM conformant LMSs support a wider set of CMI elements, allowing a more detailed analysis of the data gathered. For example, assessments published in SCORM 1.2/2004 allow you to obtain detailed question-answer level results. At the same time, not all LMSs enable this level of support, but this doesn’t mean that they are non-compliant.

Both conformant and compliant mean that an LMS supports SCORM standards. It wasn’t confirmed by a third-party certification, but the vendor has most likely performed its own tests.

SCORM-certified LMSs provide you with the maximum level of SCORM support. Their compliance is verified by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), a third-party organization. Its engineers use special testing tools that allow them to check almost every possible use-case for SCORM courses.

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SCORM Courses

SCORM performance also depends on the authoring tool you use to create e-courses. For example, we can guarantee that iSpring Suite flawlessly supports both SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 formats, as it was certified by ADL. But usually, it makes sense to test a course before putting new learning platforms through their paces.

The SCORM format appeared in 2001, so it’s actually a bit like a dinosaur in 2021. Each version of SCORM has its own set of testing suites; the challenge is that these testing tools haven’t been updated since then. In the iSpring QA dept, we have special virtual machines for testing SCORM compliance after any changes in the authoring tool.

If this seems too hardcore, there’s SCORM Cloud service, a good platform for testing SCORM content. The foundation of the platform is SCORM Engine. Although it doesn’t catch some minor non-conformances, the tool allows you to track the whole process of course interaction with an LMS, from initializing to terminating.

The Perfect Match: SCORM Compliant Courses & LMS

So, how do you find out whether an LMS will work with your SCORM compliant content? First of all, find out what type of SCORM the LMS supports. We’ve already mentioned that there are several versions of SCORM; you can learn more about the differences in this blog post.

If the LMS supports only SCORM 1.2, then e-courses in SCORM 2004 will be a waste of resources and vice versa. The logic of these two formats is similar, but they use different CMI elements. Let’s take a look at the most significant ones.

Status Value

In SCORM 1.2, there’s one type of status: completion. SCORM 2004 has a more advanced reporting system. There are two independent values submitted: completion (view progress) and success (test score).

SCORM standards comparison

Completion statuses:

  • passed
  • completed
  • failed
  • incomplete
  • browsed
  • not attempted (this status is set by default in the beginning)

Completion statuses:

  • completed
  • incomplete
  • not attempted
  • unknown

Success statuses:

  • passed
  • failed
  • unknown

N/B: There are LMSs that support only Completed/Incomplete statuses. When a SCORM file tries to submit another status such as Passed or Failed, the platforms can’t register it. As a result, the course is always “In progress”.

N/B: There are LMSs that use only one status value: completion or success. Upon achieving the passing score and submitting cmi.success_status = passed, the LMS sets the completion status to “Completed” (cmi.completion_status = completed.) If an LMS supports only completion statuses, then the score is used just for statistics. For example, a user completes a test by scoring 50% (i.e., did not pass).

Suspend Data Storage Limits

Each version of SCORM has a limit for the maximum storage size of suspend data. The standards were created almost 20 years ago, so its developers didn’t provide for large courses of several hundred slides with tests and other interactions.

The size of the suspend data isn’t the same as the size of an e-course; it’s the volume of data the course can submit to the LMS by cmi.suspend_data. The LMS ceases to keep track of the course status if this limit is exceeded.

Example: Let’s say you use SCORM 1.2 (allows 4,096 symbols in suspend_data) and your course consists of 120 slides. That means if a user closes the course on slide 90 and then restarts it, they will have to start somewhere from slide 35 to 40 because the limit of 4,096 symbols was reached somewhere in this range.  

4,096 symbols.

2nd Edition: 4,000 symbols.

3rd & 4th Editions: 64,000 symbols.

N/B:  If the LMS has a Learning Path feature, it’s better to divide large courses into SCORM modules and combine them into a learning path within the LMS. This way, users will have a more comfortable learning experience and you’ll get the most correct statistics.

Checklist for Choosing a Good SCORM Compliant LMS

  1. Which SCORM versions are supported? Is there a preferred edition? 

    It may happen that an LMS supports all editions of SCORM, but works better with a specific edition. For example, the LMS may guarantee the best performance for SCORM 2004 (3rd ed.), despite the fact that all versions of SCORM are supported.

  2. What level of SCORM Runtime Environment (RTE) does the LMS support? 

    There are some “1st tier” data model elements that are the most important and are recognized as the industry norm. The most commonly used elements are:

    • cmi.completion_status & cmi.success_status cmi.score.scaled
    • cmi.session_time
    • cmi.location
    • cmi.exit

    The 2nd tier includes:

    • interactions
    • objectives
    • cmi.progress_measure

    There are also some additional data model elements (entry, mode, and credit) that can be referred to as the 3rd tier. Their purpose is to provide learners with the optimal experience.

  3. Is the LMS certified by ADL? If not, which SCORM API elements are supported?
  4. How long ago was SCORM integrated with the LMS?

    The longer ago it was adopted, the less possibility of bugs and raw functionality.

  5. Is there a tool for content updates that lets you preserve previous statistics?
  6. Is there a content version control system?
  7. How is SCORM compliant content imported?

    How easy is it? Can you, for instance, upload a SCORM package right from an authoring tool?

  8. What kind of reports are available in the LMS for SCORM courses?
  9. How does the data from the SCORM course look in the LMS? How are reports presented? 

    For example, in the form of tables, or is there a more graphic representation?

  10. Does the LMS use Rustici Engine (formerly SCORM Engine)? If not, is there a built-in player for SCORM files?

    Having a special player with a navigation panel and close button is a good feature for an LMS. At the same time, many LMSs, even top ones, don’t have this feature.

  11. How is user data submitted to the LMS while viewing courses? 
    We’d recommend looking for a SCORM player based on JavaScript, because other solutions (say, that connect server-side via PHP) may slow down the course performance. So if a user quickly clicks through the course, the LMS might not have time to record the progress.
  12. Does the LMS open e-courses in a new window?                 Numerous pop-ups slow everything down, and users can get lost. If they can’t quickly find a certain window, it’s a problem (especially if it’s a test with limited time).
  13. Does the LMS show content statuses depending on the data it gets from the courses? Does the LMS show learners a progress bar?
  14. Are there any limits for the size of an uploaded course or the number of elements in each course?
  15. Is there a content scaling feature that makes it convenient for users to take courses on smartphones?

    If there’s no such feature, the statistics might be incorrect. The courses will send extra data packets when the users seem to be idle, even when they’re not; for example, when they spend a lot of time zooming in and out of a huge non-adaptive slide on their iPhone.

  16. Does the LMS require installation of any plugins or extensions?

    Some LMSs require you to set up a VPN, sometimes they ultimately need Flash and Silverlight. It’s better when everything works in plain HTML5 and JavaScript.

  17. In the event that there are problems on the LMS side, what debugging mechanism is used?

    The reason for asking this question is to find out if the vendor has a detailed plan for data loss, emergencies, or any other unexpected problems.


Here are some questions you may have and answers to them.

Are all LMSs SCORM compliant?

Pretty much. Almost all LMSs support SCORM content, but there may be exceptions. Some LMSs only allow for exporting data in SCORM files, but not importing SCORM packages into the system.

What is the most common version of SCORM?

SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004 3rd Edition are the most widely used formats to date.

What are the alternatives to SCORM?

SCORM is the predecessor of the newer eLearning standards: xAPI (Experience API, or Tin Can) and сmi5. These formats allow for more convenient work on mobile devices and provide detailed statistics.

How can I run a SCORM package?

There are two ways to run a SCORM package and view it. You can either open it in an LMS that has an inbuilt SCORM player or in your web browser. In the second case, you need to unzip the SCORM package and find the file that might be named something like index.html or story_html5.html.

How do I edit a SCORM package?

If you have a source (project) file of a SCORM course, you can open it with a SCORM- compliant authoring tool like iSpring Suite and make changes to the course at any time.

The Bottom Line: SCORM & iSpring Learn

As you can see, to make an informed choice of a SCORM compliant solution, you’ll have to dive deep into the technical nuts and bolts. If you don’t want to get lost, keep in mind three major questions:

  • What SCORM version do you use (or plan to use) for your current content?
  • Does your authoring tool really create SCORM compliant courses?
  • What level of SCORM support do you expect from a platform?

iSpring Learn is a SCORM compliant solution that supports SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004. One of its key benefits in terms of compliance is a fully-integrated authoring tool. It allows you to easily create SCORM content, upload it right to an LMS in a few clicks, and get extended statistics reports. Feel free to find out how it works by getting a free trial!

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