The SCORM specification has been kicking around for years now and has been useful in standardizing e-learning content, but it is an old standard. The expectation of what e-learning content should do and deliver has changed, making SCORM a constraint on the creative process.
There is another issue with SCORM. Alongside the SCORM standard came SCORM-compliant software to build e-learning content. This technology has determined the way we have used e-learning for nearly two decades. However, SCORM is rudimentary and restrictive by today’s standards. It has gone through few changes since it appeared in 2001, hobbling e-learning creation. For example, SCORM doesn’t have the capability to track online activity within a course, which leaves a host of activities unacknowledged.
Take the first feature developed with SCORM software, which was “Import my PowerPoint deck,” and you can see that it is outdated. PowerPoint is great for creating face-to-face presentations, but it wasn’t developed for online use. Training materials have been churned out using this presentation method for as long as many can remember.
The Big Question of Content Creation
True, back in 2013, the e-learning industry made a quantum leap and decided that not everything had to be SCORM-compliant. We saw educational technology (edtech) start-ups seize the moment to promote more exciting ways to deliver e-learning and improve user experience (UX), including mobile-first content.
However, a lot of these start-ups have forgotten to factor in the e-learning designers, who have been left with the challenge of producing stimulating content for these new platforms with tools that were built pre-content management systems. The result is a problem for content creators: Being tied to SCORM limits the features they can deliver to learners, not to mention the scope of future developments.
At the same time, these content creators and authors also have a big ask on their skills. Take a look at the list of competencies required in a variety of L&D competency models, and you will see proof: There are many skills across a variety of categories, from strategy to content creation to learning facilitation. How can we add additional capabilities, such as creating intuitive interfaces and videos, if we can’t move away from the dated restrictions of SCORM?
We need a Wix or a WordPress to break through in the e-learning content creation market. Much in the same way that those tools emerged to build websites, which opened up creative thinking, we need someone to develop a similar tool sooner rather than later.
A Desperate Search
Unfortunately, there have been no great innovations for e-learning designers, so they are stuck working through technical processes instead of being able to use their talents to develop appealing designs for engaging content.
Lori Niles-Hofmann, a senior learning strategist and expert on data-driven design, has come to the same conclusion: that we have come to expect e-learning content designers to be experts in designing content as well as in using rapid authoring tools.
“But I have rarely met anyone good at both,” she said, “and the fact is, rapid authoring tools deliver the weirdest digital learning experience, unlike anything else online (click next to continue?).”
She would like to see an e-learning tool “which is exactly like SquareSpace, but which can do tests.” One that isn’t PowerPoint and doesn’t require coding skills. One that can create digital experiences quickly and easily — but with data behind them. I agree.
The time is right for a Wix for e-learning to emerge. A few leading edtech innovators are making advances, but it’s time for a combined industry effort — one that supports the content builders so that they can deliver on their promise of an immersive learner experience.