How to fix SCORM rot in your LMS 2024

What SCORM rot is and how to fix it in your Learning Management System (LMS).

Back in 2001, the SCORM standard played an important role in the rapid adoption of Learning Management Systems. By using SCORM your learning materials could be published just once and be hosted on many different LMS platforms. Today, we see large libraries of live courses published as SCORM that have outlived the authoring tools used to create and maintain them. We’re calling this ‘SCORM Rot’.

“Why is engagement on my LMS lower than it should be?”

“Why do I have such a large collection of old and uneditable courses in my LMS?”

The root cause is often SCORM Rot – where your courses published in SCORM are initially difficult to maintain and after a few years this becomes impossible. In this blog, we’ll explain how to find your SCORM files and how to fix SCORM Rot in your LMS.

SCORM: before the rot

SCORM stands for "Sharable Content Object Reference Model." It’s a technical specification for publishing learning content online independent of LMS platform.

In 2001 LMS were new and had limited course authoring and assessment options. Essentially, you needed SCORM:

  1. To have learning that played on different web browsers, where content branched based on learner responses.
  2. To incorporate images and video.
  3. To have drag-and-drop assessment questions.

The downside is this was via separate authoring tools, each with their own steep learning curve to use them. Plus, you needed a separate set of files stored independently of your LMS. The output was an uneditable SCORM module to host in your LMS.

As any LMS Site Administrator knows, the administrative burden of actually updating a SCORM is so much that no one really bothers. Inevitably, this undermines running regular review cycles of live courses, and keeping your learning up to date.

Is there still a place for SCORM?

Yes, but it should be considered a ‘niche technology’ for delivering learning content.

One area where it is still useful, but perhaps not for long, is enabling offline consumption of courseware. Here a SCORM module is downloaded inside the LMS mobile app and can be accessed even if the device is not connected to the internet. The learning outcome is uploaded to the LMS when the learner is next online. Its worth noting that it is unlikely any of your existing SCORMs are usable on a small screen device.

SCORM can also be useful if you need to share your course with another organisation. Again, this is only in the short-term as almost all modern learning management systems support the LTI standard where a course can be published between LMSs directly.

LTI also addresses a key SCORM rot problem: when the original course is updated all the other sites that access it via LTI instantly use the updated version.

How To Fix SCORM Rot

Firstly, determine if you actually have a SCORM rot problem:

  • As a general rule SCORMs that are over 5 years old (so published before 2019) are at risk of not being editable. We can help here, drop us a line and we’ll share the Report settings to determine the ages of your SCORM content in your site.
  • Even if you have newer SCORM files – are you able to find the original source files needed to update the SCORM and do you have the necessary software to do this?

Next, triage your old SCORMs – deprecate, re-publish, archive:

  • Some old courses need to remain live – even if out of date. We would recommend marking these as ‘Deprecated’ and advising learners before they open the SCORM that its not being maintained. You can also point them towards more current learning materials. This way the learner can make their own judgement if the course is right for them. It also means when they access an old SCORM file it doesn’t undermine the credibility of the whole site.
  • Re-publish. Generally old SCORMs are not salvageable, but often can be simply re-created with built-in LMS tools and H5P. In the process you can modernise them and move them into a maintainable state. We can help here, with support, training and even undertaking the work.
  • Some old courses have completed their purpose and should be archived.

Then, move away from SCORM:

  • Let your procurement team and those implementing business change know SCORM is no longer preferred.
  • Start building courses in maintainable formats – the aim is to have your learning content directly editable in your LMS by any system-user with appropriate permissions. At Catalyst, we advocate the built-in LMS tools and H5P.
  • If you must use external tools to author learning content, try and limit their use to specific learning activities not otherwise possible. A good example is video – linking to YouTube/Vimeo gives you video and audio optimised to the user’s device and bandwidth, along with captions and translations. Embedding the full video inside a SCORM often means compromise – lower quality video for those with fast internet and buffering or failure to play for those with slower internet connections.
  • Implement a course review and update cycle... and stick to it!

Lastly, have you thought about letting your organisation’s Subject Matter Experts build their own learning content and share it through the LMS?

Tōtara Engage enables your staff to create and share learning resources, including through MS Teams, and includes a recommendations engine, which uses machine learning to recommend aligned learning content to your users.

Stop the SCORM rot

Catalyst has a simple solution to quickly identify SCORM Rot in your LMS. Simply contact us if you would like us to send you the report settings for free.

We can also support you to:

  • Migrate away from SCORM to inbuilt LMS tools and H5P.
  • Implement a course review and update cycle.
  • Re-build and update old courses, or build brand new ones.

Remember, SCORM Rot gets worse the longer you leave it. The time to act is now.