Carnegie Mellon release SCORM best practices guide for developers.
Wilbert Kraan, CETIS staff
September 28, 2002

One of the main contributors to the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) specification, The Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab, have made a draft version of the SCORM best practices guide for developers available on their website. The guide is neither normative, nor particularly detailed technically, but is intended to get content developers up to speed on SCORM 1.3 instead.

The intention of the best practices guide is to get content developers and instructional designers from mostly traditional CBT workflows to repurpose existing material in SCORM efficiently. This is achieved by outlining a number of widely useable models of how a learner can progress through material. These models are drawn up into templates that can be applied by content developers to their own materials, without having to worry about how exactly the flow of learning objects is regulated technically. The intention is that the models and the associated templates can be adapted to support other content sequences, though that would inevitably introduce additional programming at the back-end.

The development of the guide will not stop with the publication of the final version of the guide. Dan Rehak, Carnegie Mellon's SCORM specialist, is planning to convert the guide into a complete content package of a number of objects that will be used in open workshops on how to develop SCORM compliant content.

Slightly further into the future, Dan hopes that form based authoring tools will be developed that will hide and automate most of the plumbing that makes the sequencing of the guide's models possible. Ultimately, more sophisticated authoring tools are likely to become available that will do much the same thing for custom sequences that go beyond those modeled in the guide.

One issue that the intended audience of the guide needs to bear in mind is that the guide presupposes and advocates an environment where content is developed by a team of instructional designers, authors, subject specialists, programmers and system developers. Put differently, the guide will provide the templates and the guidance for content designers, but a programmer will still have to make it work.

The wider significance of the guide is that it is intended for the (currently draft) SCORM application profile version 1.3. This version, unlike the previous versions, includes a means to specify the sequencing between single Sharable Content Objects (SCOs) depending on variables like test scores. This addition makes the job of designing learning content rather different from the previous version, because it now allows creators to compose whole courses out of aggregations of the relative small scale SCOs that are at the heart of the SCORM application profile.

The guide and some SCO metadata templates are available from the Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab.