SCORM vs. Tin Can (xAPI): Which is Right for Your eLearning Platform?

Edupreneurs, eLearning, SCORM, Tin Can

The Developer.

The Developer.

Do you have questions about having a SCORM-compliant learning management system (LMS)? Ever wonder about the difference between SCORM vs. Tin Can in online learning content standards and LMS training? If so, read on…

In the beginning, there was SCORM!

In the beginning (and foreseeing the need of interoperability between LMS platforms), the Developer created the protocol of SCORM 1.1, then SCORM 1.2, then SCORM 2004, and then the Developer saw that those were all good and said: “Let there be Tin Can (xAPI or Experience API)!” And then Tin Can was created! …and then over time, the Developer started to wonder why SCORM 1.2 was still being used so much after the new fangled and shiny Tin Can had been created… …or even why SCORM 1.2 is so much more popular than its younger sibling SCORM 2004.. but that’s a whole other blog post.

SCORM vs. Tin Can (xAPI)

As improved and innovative as Tin Can is in many ways over and above SCORM 1.2, we have found a notable amount of courses owners we deal with are still SCORM 1.2 compliant, even with Tin Can release offering so many news bells and whistles over SCORM 1.2.

The Simple Life: before the advent of the LMS and managing content standards.

The Simple Life: before the advent of the LMS and managing content standards.


The reasons for this could best be described that both content standards have different offerings, but that they still ultimately lead to similar outcomes, with both:

Built on HTML5, making them portable into any web browser and across a multitude of LMS platforms

  • Tracking completion of a course
  • Tracking the time spent in a course
  • Recording the pass or fail grade of a course
  • Capturing and reporting on a single course score

The difference in one’s needs, however, is what is likely to drive you to choose one content standard over the other. SCORM 1.2 will offer you what has become the foundational functionalities needed for LMS content standardization, whereas Tin Can offers many improvements over SCORM 1.20, such as:

  • Recording multiple scores
  • No LMS or internet browser required
  • Transitioning between platforms (i.e., from computer to mobile)
  • Tracking learning outside of the LMS, such as:
    • Simulations
    • Gamification
    • Offline learning
    • Team-based learning
    • Apps
  • High level of data captured, allowing for granular reporting

Unfortunately, while Tin Can offers a host of features over and above SCORM 1.2, such as those noted above, due to so many course owners already having their educational offerings established as SCORM 1.2 compliant and developed previously along those lines, many have declined to upgrade to Tin Can due to SCORM 1.2 still fulfilling their eLearning needs. Likewise, it is noteworthy that Tin Can itself failing to offer a turnkey solution to easily convert from one content standard to the other has also been a deterrent to SCORM 1.2 users. If you desire granular tracking, detailed reporting and you know your courses will be taught across multiple interfaces leaving you needing a content standard that will allow your students’ performance to be assessed across those interfaces uniformly, Tin Can compliance is recommended for those new to implementing an LMS platform. On the other hand, if you value simplicity and know that the requirements you need your content standard to fulfill are concise, short and sweet, SCORM 1.2 is also recommended.

You can read a more detailed list of SCORM vs. Tin Can features here.

Who should use a SCORM or Tin Can content standard?

Going from taking a course in a traditional classroom without a course instructor physically present (and the direction and accountability that fosters) to learning solo via an LMS presents its own set of unique challenges. Thankfully, some of this can be addressed with the utilization of an established content standard. The value of SCORM and Tin Can is the bar it sets for the student’s learning standards and the assurance it provides both educators and their students of the quality of their learning experience. Among others, here are some areas where the SCORM or Tin Can content standard has been usefully applied:

  • Continuing education
  • Professional training and certifications
  • Academic courses and higher education providers

Have more questions about SCORM or Tin Can? We have helped our clients implement all versions of SCORM and also Tin Can with their courses. If you have any questions or would like to discuss which content standard is best for your needs, please contact us!

FUN FACT: The first SCORM content standard version was developed in the 1990s by the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense via the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative to increase educational opportunities between branches of the U.S. military, whose previous educational courses were siloed in separate LMS platforms.


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