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eLearning courses have multiple standards to choose from for sending results.

  • The latest is xAPI, released in 2012.
  • Prior to that we had four editions of SCORM 2004 starting in 2004
  • Before that was SCORM 1.2 which dates from 2001.

And despite that, the oldest of the standards above (SCORM1.2) still dominates. a full 75% of course developers don’t bother with SCORM 2004 at all, and of those that to, 97% use SCORM 2004 on only on a technicality – using SCORM 2004 to deliver only SCORM 1.2 results.

In summary, of all the courses created last year, fewer than 1% used SCORM 2004 in the way it was intended. Everyone else only needed what SCORM 1.2 was able to achieve.

In short, SCORM course development today continues to use thinking that dates from the year George W Bush was sworn in, Apple opened its first store and the latest PCs came with Windows XP.

You might think we’d have moved on! We certainly had the chance to. SCORM has had one mahor version and four releases since then, but it was hamstrung by the fact that the first release (SCORM 1.2) was actually pretty good at what it does. The things SCORM 2004 allowed us to do were:

  1. Ask the course to look at the learner’s results from earlier questions and adjust the course based on their responses.
  2. Tell the course to re-order its content based on a range of (quite complex) options.
  3. Remembering whether a person actually completed in addition to their result.

It allowed us to determine:

  • This person completed, did they also pass?
  • Does the learner already know the next section and should we skip it?
  • Will we permit the learner to choose their own adventure as they traverse the course?

Nice, but hardly transformative.

Not surprisingly it was met with a collective “meh” and simply never took off. So if people were not tempted to move from SCORM 1.2 to 2004, what makes xAPI any different? Why am I so confident that it will be adopted?

The answer lies in the fact that the step from SCORM 1.2 to 2004 was so subtle while the, the step from SCORM to xAPI is a game changer.

In 2001, it was impossible to imagine the way we use technology today. “CBT” (Computer Based Training – now termed eLearning) was mostly used to deliver automated tests. What little teaching there was was rudimentary but was a convenient way to complement our 20th century learning. The very thought that a computer might simulate things, that we might accredit anyone using results collected automatically or that a computer would play a central role in a person’s formal training was frankly absurd.

And at one level, that’s still the case. Whether we’re measuring a pilot’s ability to fly an aircraft, whether a paramedic can rescuscitate a mannekin or how frequently loaves of bread emerge burned from the oven, vast sectors of the workforce can only be adequately assessed and trained in the real world. What’s changed is that we now want computers to play a role in all of these xAPI is permitting us to use IT to administer training and assessment that is mission critical and cannot be done without it.

It is easy to imagine xAPI becoming mandatory for professions, but considering how few professions can only be taught in a purely online way, mandating SCORM is all but unimaginable.

Indeed the US Department of Defense has mandated xAPI for its distance learning, and it is why all nurses across the US are now trained using xAPI. Last year 2.5 million xAPI statements were sent to the SCORM cloud a doubling in five years. ADL (the creators of SCORM and the group who commissioned xAPI) have confirmed that SCORM will have no further releases. Their support is with xAPI.

Compare the list of questions SCORM 2004 enabled (above) with those that xAPI intruduces:

  • When the learner watched that video, did he/she actually watch it, or did they scrubb or fast forward it? If they did watch it, where did they get the most value?
  • How safely did the person drive today?
  • When people encounter my interface, how do they typically interact with my UI?
  • After they did my training, were they better at their jobs?
  • Looking at their use of the organisation’s systems, does this person require trainig and if so, which course(s)?
  • What training delivers the best ROI to the organisation? How much is that ROI?
  • How did the learner go on a course on some other LMS we can’t access?

xAPI is not setting about to improve on what we have now. It’s rethinking what we do entirely. That’s why its adoption will be explosive and not at all like its predecessors.