A glossary of SCORM terminlogy

1. Activity

In SCORM 2004 sequencing, every item in a SCORM manifest is called an “activity”. Activities can be “deliverable”, or “leafs” when they correspond to a SCO or Asset. Or, activities can be “clusters” when they are aggregations containing child activities.

2. Activity Tree

The complete set of all activities in a SCORM 2004 course. Activities are nested into parent-child relationships. The complete tree of parent-child relationships is referred to as the “activity tree”. An activity tree generally corresponds to an organization in the SCORM manifest.

3. ADL

“Advanced Distributed Learning” – The term primarily refers to the research laboratory sponsored by the United States Department of Defense that created SCORM (www.adlnet.gov). The term can also refer to delivering training (learning) to a distributed audience in an advanced manner (this usage is pretty much a synonym for “online training”).

4. Aggregation

An item in the SCORM manifest that contains child items. Corresponds to a “cluster” when referred to in the context of SCORM sequencing.


“Aviation Industry CBT Committee” – (www.aicc.org) A standards organization that develops online learning standards that have been used in SCORM. The AICC’s mission is targeted to the aviation industry, but their work is broadly applicable across all industries. “AICC” also refers to the most widely adopted specification from the AICC. AICC’s “CMI Guidelines for Interoperability” was the first widely adopted specification for interoperability between e-learning content and LMS’s (Document No. CMI001 on the AICC site)

6. API

“Application Programming Interface”

[Definition from Wikipedia]
An application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, data structures, object classes and/or protocols provided by libraries and/or operating system services in order to support the building of applications.

The SCORM API is a set of method interfaces that are implemented in ECMAScript (JavaScript) by an LMS that allow content to exchange data with the LMS.

7. Asset

A reusable piece of training that doesn’t communicate with the LMS. Assets may be a simple collection of files that are used by other resources in a SCORM manifest. Or, assets may be deliverable units of training similar to SCOs. Assets are a type of “resource” in the SCORM manifest just like SCOs.

8. Choice Navigation

Navigation through a SCORM course that lets the user choose where to go next by selecting an option from a table of contents. SCORM 2004 sequencing and navigation allows the content author to control if and how the learner is allowed to use choice navigation to move between activities.

9. Content Package

SCORM courses are meant to be delivered in self contained units. These units are called content packages. The Content Packaging Specification is the part of the SCORM specification that describes how content should be bundled into a package.

10. Cross Domain

Commonly used when referring to the “cross domain scripting problem”, also abbreviated “x-domain”. Cross domain means that communication is happening between software systems that reside in different domains (a domain is a web address, like www.scorm.com). In cross domain communication, content is served from one domain (like www.content.com) and the LMS resides in another domain (like www.lms.com). The way SCORM works, cross domain communication between content and an LMS is hindered by a web browser security restriction. Ideally SCORM content should be delivered from the same domain as the LMS, but if it can’t be, then there are some workarounds that need to be put in place to enable communication.

11. Data Model

A set of defined data points that the content and LMS can exchange via the SCORM API. Example data model elements include “cmi.score.scaled” (to record a user’s test score) and “cmi.completion_status” to record when/if the learner has completed some training.

12. de facto

[Definition from Wikipedia]
A de facto standard is a standard (formal or informal) that has achieved a dominant position, by tradition, enforcement, or market dominance.

A de facto standard is something the industry has voluntarily adopted because it adds real business value. In contrast, a de jure standard is something that is adopted because it is mandated by law (or some other authority). In industry and academia, SCORM is very much a de facto standard that is voluntarily adopted and embraced. In the United States Department of Defense, SCORM is a de jure standard. In June 2006, the DoD issued Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1322.26 which mandates the use of SCORM is all e-learning products procured by the DoD. In October 2017, the DoD re-issued DoDI 1322.26, which recommends government organizations procure products compliant with SCORM or the Experience API (xAPI). Other organizations have also recognized SCORM’s value and mandated its use internally.

13. Dependency

In SCORM content packaging, a resource can “depend” on other resources. These dependencies allow a list of common files (assets) to be shared across resources.

14. Descriptor Files

A set of files included in a content package that describe the content to an LMS. The LMS will parse these files to learn everything it needs to know about the content. Information includes metadata about the course (title, description, etc), the structure of the course and how to launch the course. In SCORM, the descriptor file is always called “imsmanifest.xml”. In AICC, the descriptor files have arbitrary names, but always use the file extensions, *.au, *.crs, *.des and *.cst.

15. DoD

United States Department of Defense – The branch of the United States federal government that oversees the military. The DoD employs approximately 3 million military and civilian personnel and has an annual budget of over $400 billion. [source Wikipedia]

16. ECMAScript

A programming language standardize by Ecma International. ECMAScript is a standardized version of JavaScript. For all practical SCORM implementation purposes, ECMAScript can just be assumed to mean “JavaScript”.

17. Flow Navigation

Navigation through a SCORM course that provides the user with the choice of moving to the previous or next activity. SCORM 2004 sequencing and navigation allows the content author to control if and when the learner is allowed to use flow navigation to move between activities.

18. HACP

“HTTP AICC Communication Protocol” – The primary method the AICC specification uses to facilitate communication between the content an LMS. HACP is an alternative to the ECMAScript run-time API used in SCORM. HACP is essentially based on HTTP form posts and is an effective workaround for the cross domain scripting problem in SCORM. The AICC specification also includes an option to use an ECAMScript API like SCORM’s, but it is rarely used. When people refer to AICC, they are usually referring to the HACP communication protocol in the CMI Guidelines for Interoperability.


“IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee” (http://ieeeltsc.org/) – IEEE is a formal accrediting standards body. The LTSC is a group within the IEEE focused on learning technology standards. Several parts of SCORM have become accredited standards through the IEEE LTSC.

20. IMS

IMS Global Learning Consortium – (http://www.imsglobal.org/) A consortium of e-learning industry members that develops standards related to online learning. Several IMS specification are part of SCORM, including content packaging and sequencing.

21. Item

Part of a SCORM manifest. Items represent each activity in the SCORM course. They are nested hierarchically into parent-child relationships. Leaf items have an associated resource that represents a deliverable unit of training.


“International Federation for Learning, Education, and Training Systems Interoperability” (https://letsi.org/) – A new organization assuming the stewardship of SCORM from ADL.

23. LMS

“Learning Management System” -In SCORM terminology, a LMS is simply any system that delivers online training. In the industry, there are many different definitions of what constitutes a LMS. The most common definition is a system that manages the delivery of learning for an organization. These systems manage both online and offline instruction, track skill gaps, manage competencies and do much more. Other definitions of LMSs include systems that manage classroom instruction and systems that do nothing more than deliver online training.

24. LRS

“Learning Record Store” – The concept of an LRS is a new one that goes hand in hand with the Tin Can API. The next generation of SCORM requires a repository (LRS) for learning records that can be accessed by an LMS, reporting tool, or another LRS. LRSs will work in conjunction with LMSs to alleviate many of the problems that have been associated with traditional e-learning standards. Learn more about LRSs here.

25. Manifest

A file that describes the contents of a content package. In SCORM, the manifest is always an XML file named “imsmanifest.xml” that is located at the root of the content package.

26. Metadata

Data that describes a SCORM course. The SCORM content packaging specification defines a number of metadata elements that content authors can use to describe their content. Metadata elements include things like, title, description, keywords, educational objectives and technical minimum requirements.

27. Organization

A collection of items in a content package. An organization corresponds to a sequencing activity tree and represents one way of aggregating all the resources in a content package. A content package can contain several alternate organizations that each represent a different way of organizing the training (potentially for different intended audiences).

28. Package

A deliverable SCORM course. A shortcut for describing a “content package”.

29. PENS

“Package Exchange Notification Services” – PENS is a publishing standard that works in conjunction with eLearning specifications such as SCORM and AICC to provide one-click publishing of content from authoring tools to LMS’s.

30. PIF

“Package Interchange File” – A content package that has been compressed into a ZIP file for delivery.

31. Resource

A discrete reusable unit of training defined in the SCORM manifest. Resources are the reusable chunks of learning that comprise a SCORM course. They can be either SCOs (the most common type of resource, a unit of training that communicates with the LMS) or Assets (simply collections of files that may or may not be deliverable units of training).

32. RTWS

“Run-time web services.” RTWS was developed by LETSI to alleviate some of the common problems of traditional e-learning standards, as well as bridge the gap between between SCORM and SCORM 2.0. RTWS provides e-learning on mobile devices, games, and simulations. RTWS also takes e-learning out of the browser, offline, and brings an extra layer of security.

33. Schema Definition Files

A set of files that defines the formal grammar of a well-formatted XML document. Schema definition files have the extension *.xsd or *.dtd. Each version of SCORM requires a different set of schema definition files be including in every content package to define the format of the manifest file.

34. SCO

“Sharable Content Object” – A type of resource that represents the heart of SCORM. SCOs are reusable chunks of training that are assembled into organizations within a manifest. Defining content as a set of SCOs enables content to be reused within and across courses.

35. Sharable

The same thing as “shareable” (with an E). SCORM uses the variant “sharable” instead of the more common “shareable”. For all practical purposes, a “shareable content object” is the same thing as a “sharable content object”. Although we are talking about the same group of people who viciously debate the distinction between “conformance” and “compliance”.