When SCORM can be problematic.

I recently worked on a project requiring some SCORM-based assessment activities to be updated within a Moodle course (to reflect changes in the law).  The original developer was gone, as were the original files that produced the SCORM export.

In this case the SCORM assessment was not doing anything that could not have been handled in a Moodle quiz. The site owner and administrator had neither the time, inclination or expertise to learn to use an interactive tool but could certainly edit Moodle quiz questions given a simple guide.

This experience got me thinking as to the need (if any) for SCORM objects in Moodle courses.  As a person that works extensively with both Moodle course design and Articulate Storyline development it has made me think carefully about what a client might really need – as opposed to what they might think they need.

Articulate Storyline
Although there are other packages around Storyline seems to be, by consensus, the easiest tool to learn to produce HTML 5 compliant SCORM packages that can easily be inserted into a Moodle course for both Mobile and desktop access.  If you are not designing for mobile by the way (no Flash!) where have you been hiding away recently?

If you have used PowerPoint, Keynote or similar presentation software then you will find Storyline layers on top of that quite nicely.  There are significant things to learn but at least you start with familiar concepts and, in the case of PowerPoint, a similar look and feel. Here’s an example in case you are wondering what a good presentation looks like (and also in case you’re planning to cook a turkey in the near future). http://www.timslade.com/demos/howtocookaturkey/story.html

In this open course (log on as a guest) I have considered a range of free and non-free SCORM tools and given examples of what can be produced.

Some pros of SCORM
The graphic nature of the tool and the interactive experience are certainly attractive and advantageous to learners.  Most designers also believe that it is more engaging for learners and that therefore they will retain more of the content.

A carefully designed course can also encourage learner autonomy which we know is important in increasing engagement. In the case of Moodle, which supports the SCORM 1.2 standard, grades from SCORM packages can be transferred to the Moodle gradebook very easily. Finally, SCORM objects follow a standard so that if you do need to change your training or learning platform you should be able to transfer the packages seamlessly.

Some cons of SCORM
First and foremost the cost might well be a consideration.  An authoring package is typically 1400 – 1700 NZD per user.  This is significant for a small business. Secondly, as my client discovered, you may be locked into an authoring tool or even one developer who has the original files. Thirdly, it might just be used to provide superficial glitter or “polish a turd” to use a common phrase. Finally, it will take to time to learn or train designers to get the most out of the tool.

Moodle supports SCORM but, as of the time of writing only SCORM 1.2.  That said the newer SCORM 2004 has not been very widely adopted, and with the advent of the Tin Can API may well never be. Moodle itself has a wide range of core learning activities as well as third-party additions that are available.  Therefore, these other activities should not be ignored when designing courses.

In particular, the quiz activity is very powerful, with drag and drop now supported.  One of the common issues with quiz activities is slavish adherence to multiple choice with very basic feedback.  The use of varied question types, the addition of meaningful and well-designed feedback and features such as Certainty Based Marking can make Moodle quizzes very engaging.

The recently re-vamped Moodle Lesson (for version 3) is also a very flexible tool for scenario-based assessment and learning activities.  It is sadly neglected at present and I have seen it used merely as a linear presentation of text only pages which does it no favours at all.

If you do want just a linear progression of pages, with the ability to insert questions from the question bank see my third-party plugin Simple Lesson.

Caveat: Of course it is difficult to be definitive on (almost any) design issue and there are multiple possibilities depending on what you are trying to achieve. However, I would say, when you are trying to decide whether you need SCORM objects in a Moodle course, look through the other end of the telescope first.

That is, can I achieve my learning objectives with Moodle activities only?  If not, why not and what is it about SCORM that makes it the compelling choice? If you are a client, learn from my opening cautionary tale and make sure you have contractual rights to the original files used to produce SCORM activities.

Additional reading
To SCORM or not to SCORM: https://www.learnupon.com/to-scorm-or-not-to-scorm-that-is-the-question/

Authoring tools compared: http://jennifervalley.blogspot.com/2015/10/adobe-captivate-9-v-articulate.html

Moodle: https://docs.moodle.org/30/en/Creating_SCORM_Content and https://docs.moodle.org/30/en/SCORM_FAQ

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Richard Jones