ADL recently released beta versions of the SCORM 2004 4th Edition Conformance Test Suite and Sample Run Time Environment. 4th Edition adds 4 new features and 30-something clarifications/enhancements/bug fixes to SCORM 2004. This evolution is not a drastic change to the specification, but should represent a significant step forward in the compatibility and usability of SCORM 2004.

Since most of the changes are simply clarifications, the implementation burden on SCORM adopters should be rather light. For content developers, only minimal changes (if any) will be required. Most content should be unaffected by the update to 4th Edition. LMS vendors (as always) will have a greater load to carry. For them, the amount of development work required will vary considerably based on the quality of their 3rd Edition implementations. The 4 new features should be rather straight-forward to implement, but the numerous clarifications will present varying levels of difficulty to different vendors.

The new features include:

Rollup of weighted completion data. SCORM 2004 has always include a “progress measure” data model element that indicates “how complete” the user is on an individual SCO. This data will now be officially rolled up with different activities having different weights. This weighting and rollup will give an accurate picture of the user’s overall completion of a course and enable LMS’s to provide accurate progress bars.

Jump navigation request. Many sequenced courses want to provide the ability for SCOs to control navigation in a way that is different than what is available to the user. Previously, the navigation requests that a SCO was allowed to make were identical to what the learner was allowed to do. The new “jump” navigation request gives content authors more sequencing options and separates the requests that are available to internal calls from the requests that the learner is allowed to initiate.

Shared data between SCOs. SCORM 2004 4th Edition now allows SCOs to share arbitrary buckets of data. When creating a sequenced course, it is often very helpful to have a common pool of data that different SCOs can access to maintain a shared state. The lack of this functionality has always been a big obstacle to creating cohesive sequenced content.

More objective data available globally. All of the objective data that can be reported at runtime is now available to be shared with other SCOs and courses via global objectives. This will provide for simpler and more creative sequencing strategies.

Part of our duty as members of the ADL Technical Working Group is to be early implementers of new specifications to help ADL verify their accuracy. We are already working to update our products for SCORM 2004 4th Edition. The SCORM Engine was first on the list and we’re making good progress. ADL added or changed 92 LMS test cases for 4th Edition. Of those, 23 deal with the new features that we are starting to implement. Of the other 69 dealing with clarifications and bug fixes, we currently pass all but 12 of them. Of those 12 remaining test cases, 6 have open questions of interpretation that we’re discussing with ADL and the TWG. The other 6 should be completed soon.

Currently 4th Edition is in a beta period for review and public comment. Please let us and/or ADL if you have any feedback about the changes made for 4th Edition before the public comment period elapses. We intend to release a 4th Edtion complaint version of the SCORM Engine to the public SCORM Test Track instance shortly after it is completed. We will have production-ready and formally released versions of all our products that are compliant with 4th Edition very shortly after 4th Edition is finalized and out of beta.

Mike is the Founder and was President of Rustici Software until 2016. Most recently he was the CEO of Watershed Systems. He helped guide the first draft of the Tin Can API (xAPI) and believes ice cream is the "elixir of life."