SCORM Versions – An eLearning Standards Roadmap

| 6 Jan 2009 | Permalink

Just like any technology, SCORM has evolved through the years. There are currently four different implementable versions of SCORM. SCORM 2004 has several different editions, and the latest version/next generation of SCORM is the Experience API (xAPI). Furthermore, SCORM isn’t the only e-learning standard out there. Other standards like AICC HACP and IMS Common Cartridge have their place in the industry. This page will describe these common e-learning standards and provide recommendations about adoption of each. The chart below summarizes the comparison of each standard:

Release Date Pages Widely Used Run-Time Packaging Metadata Sequencing Works Cross Domain
AICC HACP Feb 1998 337 Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
SCORM 1.0 Jan 2000 219 No Yes Yes Yes No No
SCORM 1.1 Jan 2001 233 No Yes Yes Yes No No
SCORM 1.2 Oct 2001 524 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
SCORM 2004 “1st Edition” Jan 2004 1,027 No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
SCORM 2004 2nd Edition Jul 2004 1,219 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Oct 2006 1137 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
SCORM 2004 4th Edition Mar 2009 1162 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
IMS Common Cartridge Oct 2008 135 No No Yes Yes No Yes
IMS LTI May 2010 25 In Academic LMSs Yes No No No Yes
The Experience API (xAPI) April 26, 2013 85 Not Yet Yes Partial No No Yes
cmi5 (a companion to xAPI) June 1, 2016 48 Not Yet Yes Yes No No Yes


A couple of useful research tools:


  • The e-Learning Atlas — a database of e-learning products and companies, searchable and filterable by which specification(s) each company/product supports.
  • SCORM Cloud Stats — statistics about what versions of SCORM are being used, as well as what parts of SCORM are being used. Updated daily.



The Versions of e-Learning Standards


Released January 2000

SCORM 1.0 was a draft outline of the SCORM framework. This document did not contain a fully implementable specification, but instead contained a preview of the work to come. SCORM 1.0 contained the core elements that would become the foundation of SCORM. In particular, it specified how content should be packaged (content packaging), how content should communicate with an LMS (run-time) and how content should be described (metadata). Each of these areas was described in a separate specification or a “book of SCORM.”

Recommendation: SCORM 1.0 is not relevant today. There are no significant implementations of SCORM 1.0.  It is the stuff of charts and historical retrospectives (like this one).


Released January 2001

SCORM 1.1 was the first real and implementable version of SCORM. It fleshed out SCORM 1.0 into an implementable specification and commercial vendors began to adopt it. These early adoptions revealed that the SCORM idea was valid, but that it left many details to be worked out to be sufficiently robust for widespread implementation.

Recommendation: There are still a few legacy implementations of SCORM 1.1 around. If you are designing for the absolute broadest possible compatibility, SCORM 1.1 is worth implementing.


Released October 2001

SCORM 1.2 is when SCORM hit the big time. SCORM 1.2 incorporated all of the lessons learned from the early adoptions of SCORM 1.1 to create a robust and implementable specification. Vendors who adopted SCORM 1.2 realized dramatic cost savings from increased content interoperability.

Recommendation: SCORM 1.2 was VERY widely adopted and is still the industry workhorse. Every e-learning vendor should make their products compatible with SCORM 1.2. SCORM 1.2 will be around for a long time to come.

SCORM 2004 “1st Edition”

Released January 2004

Widespread adoption of SCORM 1.2 brought some problems to light. SCORM 1.2 was very good, but it still had some ambiguities that needed to be tightened up. SCORM 1.2 also lacked a sequencing and navigation specification that allowed the content vendor to specify how the learner was allowed to progress between SCOs. The lack of a sequencing specification meant that most SCORM 1.2 content was produced as a single monolithic SCO instead of created with granular, reusable SCOs. SCORM 2004 addressed both of these problems.

SCORM 2004 (in all its flavors) includes very mature versions of the content packaging, run-time and metadata books. The parts of SCORM 2004 that were derived from SCORM 1.2 are VERY mature and VERY stable. In fact, the individual standards that make up these books are well on their way to becoming accredited standards.

SCORM 2004 also added a new “book” called “Sequencing and Navigation.” This specification allows content vendors to create rules about how users may navigate between SCOs. For  instance, a content author can say that “a learner can’t take a final test until he has completed all of the courseware material.” Or, “if a learner fails question X, remediate him back to SCO Y.”

The term “SCORM 2004” is generally used to refer to any edition of the SCORM 2004 specification. You may also see references to SCORM 1.3. Prior to its formal release, SCORM 2004 was indeed called SCORM 1.3, but that name is no longer in official use. The term “1st Edition” is in quotes in this section because this specification wasn’t actually called “1st Edition,” at the time, it was simply referred to as “SCORM 2004.”

Recommendation: The sequencing specification in the first release of SCORM 2004 had some fundamental problems and wasn’t fully implementable. The “1st Edition” of SCORM 2004 isn’t deployed or usable.

SCORM 2004 2nd Edition

Released July 2004

As industry started to adopt SCORM 2004, it was quickly realized that there were some defects that had to be resolved. ADL quickly responded by issuing SCORM 2004 2nd Edition. This specification was adopted and implementations started to pop up.

Recommendation: SCORM 2004 2nd Edition has significant adoption, but it has not yet reached adoption levels near those of SCORM 1.2. While the core SCORM books are very stable in all of SCORM 2004, sequencing is a VERY complicated specification. Vendors creating new product implementations should strive to include support for SCORM 2004.

SCORM 2004 3rd Edition

Released October 2006

The complications of the sequencing and navigation specification have mostly driven the future evolution of SCORM. Third Edition is largely a set of improvements to the sequencing specification to remove ambiguities and tighten the specification for greater interoperability. The big change in Third Edition was the addition of user interface requirements for LMSs. Previously, it was completely up to the LMS to determine the appropriate user interface. In Third Edition, new language was added that requires the LMS to provide certain user interface elements to enable sequencing and navigation to function consistently across systems.

Recommendation: SCORM 2004 3rd Edition, like 2nd Edition, has significant adoption and vendors should strive to support it. Of all SCORM 2004 editions, the 3rd edition is the most widely used.

SCORM 2004 4th Edition

March 2009

This edition contains further disambiguation of the sequencing specification and also adds a few new features to the sequencing specification which will broaden the options available to content authors. The new features in Fourth Edition make creating sequenced content much simpler. ADL is unveiling a new certification process for SCORM 2004 4th Edition which will require LMS’s to be continually retested to maintain their certification ensuring that compliance problems can be continually addressed.

Recommendation: The new features of SCORM 2004 4th edition increase its usefulness dramatically, and we recommend you adopt it. SCORM 2004 4th Edition should be supported by vendors supporting SCORM 2004.


Released February 1998
SCORM is a “reference model.” The individual books of SCORM are actually each references to other specifications. Some of the most significant contributions to SCORM came from the AICC. The AICC was an early pioneer in the world of e-learning standards; their specifications date back to 1980s and the days of “computer-based training.” AICC’s “CMI Guidelines for Interoperability” was the first widely adopted specification for interoperability between e-learning content and LMSs (Document No. CMI001 on the AICC site).

The run-time communication in SCORM was based on the AICC’s work. Originally this specification began with file-based exchange of data between content and LMSs. It was then updated to support an HTTP-based data exchange. Recently, it was updated to support an EMCAScript-based data exchange to harmonize with SCORM. AICC HACP is still widely supported, mostly using the HTTP-based data exchange (known as HACP, “HTTP-based AICC/CMI Protocol”). AICC publishes many specifications, but when somebody refers to the “AICC spec,” they are most likely referring to to HACP protocol in the AICC CMI specification.

The HACP protocol has a unique characteristic that makes AICC HACP very useful and, in fact, preferable to SCORM in certain situations. Specifically, since HACP is HTTP-based, it doesn’t suffer from the cross domain scripting problem that plagues SCORM’s ECMAScript-based communication. In SCORM, because of (good and intentional) browser security restrictions, content served from one domain (ex. can’t talk to an LMS that is served from a different domain (ex. In AICC HACP, that problem is less restrictive, making it a useful alternative to SCORM in certain deployment situations.

Recommendation: AICC HACP should be supported by most vendors. Its level of adoption is likely still second only to SCORM 1.2.

IMS Common Cartridge

Released October 2008
Another organization that significantly contributed to the books of SCORM is IMS. IMS’s content packaging and sequencing specifications are the origins for two of the books of SCORM. Like AICC, IMS produces many specifications.

Recently IMS released a specification known as Common Cartridge that has some overlap with SCORM. Unfortunately, relations between IMS and ADL have soured because of a disagreement over intellectual property. IMS is now positioning Common Cartidge as a competitor to SCORM and some have even called it a “SCORM killer.” Our assessment is that Common Cartridge and SCORM solve two different problems and serve two different industries. Assuming Common Cartridge is adopted, the two specifications will likely live side by side.

Common Cartridge is designed to serve the higher education market, while SCORM primarily serves the online training market. Common Cartridge includes things that are appropriate to classroom-based education, such as discussion board topics and question banks. It lacks certain concepts that are more appropriate to online training like run-time data communication and sequencing.

Recommendation: It is still too early to tell whether the industry will adopt Common Cartridge widely. We recommend considering it if you are targeting education-based clients.

The Experience API

Released April 26, 2013
The Experience API is the newest version of SCORM and it solves a lot of issues that were inherent with older versions of SCORM. Mobile learning, team-based learning, cross domain functionality, sequencing, removal of the need for a web browser, and simulations/serious games are just a few things that are now relatively easy to accomplish.

xAPI removes content from the LMS, and allows the content to send “statements” based around [actor] [verb] [object], or “I – did – this” to a Learning Record Store (LRS). LRSs can live on their own or as part of an LMS. There are a lot of good things happening with the xAPI — go read about them.

Recommendation: xAPI has been adopted by over 200 products and organizations including the US Department of Defense as of October 2017. If you want to track more than just what SCORM or AICC track, and take learning outside of the LMS, then it’s recommended that you adopt the xAPI. If you have a traditional LMS-based learning use case, but want the flexibility and long term data convenience of xAPI, look into adopting cmi5 alongside xAPI.

cmi5 (a companion to xAPI)

Release date: June 1, 2016
cmi5 is a companion specification to xAPI. It provides a set of rules intended to achieve interoperability in a traditional LMS environment, and uses the xAPI as the communication protocol and data format. It defines the concept of a course structure which is intended to be packaged and imported into an LMS. The course structure provides metadata information allowing the LMS to launch content, in the form of Assignable Units (AUs). cmi5 includes the concept of a learning session and has specific rules for capturing a core set of data for learning experiences.

Recommendation: cmi5 is ready for adoption, but is very limited at the time of updating this page (June 2016). If you have the traditional LMS-based learning use case, but want the flexibility and long term data convenience of xAPI, look into adopting cmi5.


Traditionally, publishing content to an LMS could take a dozen or more manual steps for the end user. PENS is an eLearning standard that addresses the publishing of content from an authoring tool to an LMS. PENS offers one-click publishing, simplifying the process, and removing another layer of friction between content creators and LMS’s. It doesn’t replace other eLearning standards, but works in conjunction with them.

Recommendation: PENS is supported in the latest release of SCORM Engine, and SCORM Cloud can accept PENS requests. We plan to add support to SCORM Driver in the future. We recommend considering PENS if you deal regularly with importing lots of content to an LMS, and/or if that import process is tedious and time consuming.


ADL would ultimately like to transfer stewardship of SCORM to a non-governmental organization. Just like the government developed the Internet, GPS and a myriad of other technologies which have been spun off for the world to evolve and enjoy, ADL would like to give control of SCORM to the community. A few years ago, an organization called LETSI was formed to be the community’s steward of SCORM. Unfortunately, the lawyers got involved and the stewardship process has been put on indefinite hold. LETSI is still active however and developing tools to move the e-learning industry forward with an agile and innovative approach. LETSI is a completely open and transparent organization and all are welcome.


LETSI RTWS (run-time web services) is an enhancement to SCORM. Consider it the stopgap between traditional SCORM and whatever SCORM 2.0 will be. Building on the existing standard, it brings new features, fixes for old problems, and new ways for e-learning companies to do business. RTWS is great for offline learning, games, simulators, mobile devices, and adding an extra layer of security.

Recommendation: RTWS is supported in the latest release of SCORM Engine, and SCORM Cloud can accept RTWS content. We plan to add support to SCORM Driver in the future. RTWS is an ideal solution if you’re looking to take e-learning out of the browser and into simulations, games, or on mobile devices. RTWS is also recommended if you need extra security for higher-stakes e-learning.


LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) is mostly used by LMSs serving in educational settings. It’s a little different from other e-learning standards — it’s a plug-in architecture that allows LMSs to work with third-party/remote learning tools. It provides the ability to authenticate LMS users into the remote tool via OAuth. Simple Outcomes (part of LTI) allows the remote tool to report a score back to the LMS. This is the only LMS tracking that is available in LTI.

Recommendation: LTI is used commonly in the world of education, so if you intend to work in that space then LTI is something you should strongly consider supporting. LTI is supported in SCORM Cloud as a way to deliver a Dispatch — it allows a LTI conformant LMS to play SCORM content. The Simple Outcome (score) is delivered to the LMS, but you can still track SCORM data in SCORM Cloud.


Which e-learning standard should I adopt?

If you can’t tell by now, that’s a pretty complicated question. Whether you end up using our products or not, this is a conversation that we’d love to have with you. Nobody knows this stuff like we do, and we love talking about it. Just get in touch with us!



Is SCORM stable?

Yes. There are a lot of versions and editions floating around, but the fundamentals have remained very consistent through each release. Adopting SCORM does require continued vigilance to ensure you remain up to date (as is the case with any technology), but the core technology is stable, workable and beneficial.

Are versions backwards compatible?

The editions of SCORM 2004 are largely backwards compatible, however the versions of SCORM are not. Tools are available to assist with migration between SCORM versions and most e-learning products should be able to support all versions/editions side-by-side without any significant difficulty.


Thoughts on the evolution of SCORM