eLearning, SCORM, Tin Can

SCORM Vs. xAPI (Tin Can): eLearning Content Standards

5 min read | Dec 9, 2022
SCORM Vs. xAPI (Tin Can): eLearning Content Standards cover image

Both SCORM and xAPI are content standards used to create eLearning courses. These eLearning protocols are important so that courses are interoperable between LMSs and organizations can track learning-related activity.

Tin Can, otherwise known as xAPI, was developed in 2013 (over a decade after SCORM was released). So, in this article, we’re going to talk about some differences between the two standards.

After all, what’s the difference between SCORM and xAPI? And if you’re using SCORM, does it make sense to convert all of your eLearning to xAPI? These are just a few of the questions we will answer below.

  1. eLearning Content Standards
  2. SCORM Vs. xAPI
  3. What Is SCORM?
  4. What Is xAPI?
  5. Is SCORM better than xAPI?
  6. Using SCORM To Track Learning Activity
  7. Using xAPI To Track Learning Activity
  8. Types Of Training To Create With SCORM & xAPI?

Why eLearning Content Standards Matter

Content standards ensure that eLearning courses are designed to pass data and information along to technology like Learning Management Systems (LMS). SCORM was originally created in 1999 to solve the problem of courses not being interoperable. Fast forward to 2013 and xAPI was released as a more advanced version of SCORM — the main difference is that you can track learning outside of the LMS and offline.

Believe it or not, even before SCORM’s time, there was an eLearning content protocol called AICC. However, unless you’re still training using CD-ROMs, this content standard is now irrelevant

Let the face-off between two content standards begin…

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SCORM is the most common protocol for eLearning, but it’s not the most advanced. Even though that’s the case, in our experience as an LMS provider, we’ve found that most organizations don’t need xAPI. You can look at a lot of big LMS providers, and you will see that they don’t support xAPI since the demand isn’t high.

At Academy Of Mine, our clients have told us time and time again that SCORM courses in the LMS give them plenty of information on their learners. If you’re using an LMS and are not concerned with tracking learner information outside of that, switching to xAPI is unnecessary. It’s one thing if you’re creating your first eLearning course, but it’s unrealistic if you have been developing eLearning programs for years.

What Is SCORM?

SCORM was the first of its kind for web-based training, and it allows you to easily create training content that is portable from one LMS to another. SCORM also shares data with LMSs to ensure that you can report on learner activity like course completions, scores, time spent on a module, and more. That’s why you need to use a SCORM-compliant LMS when managing training with SCORM.

There have been many different versions of SCORM over the years:

  • SCORM 1.0
  • SCORM 1.1
  • SCORM 1.2
  • SCORM 2004 (four editions)

Each version is different and offers more flexibility in eLearning for both administrators and learners. As a reference, Academy Of Mine LMS supports SCORM 1.2 and the latest version of 2004 (the most popular protocols).

Learn more about the history of SCORM.

What Is xAPI?

xAPI is an eLearning content standard that was developed in 2013, and it was designed as a more advanced version of SCORM 2004. xAPI offers more extensive tracking abilities than SCORM; since the eLearning industry was changing, developers thought xAPI was necessary. For example, LMSs used to be the only software that companies would use for training teams, customers, and partners online. Don’t get us wrong — LMSs are still one of the most popular pieces of software for managing online learning. However, if you want to track learning-related activity outside of an LMS, then xAPI is best.

xAPI gives you more flexibility than SCORM for tracking data and monitoring the activities of learners. For example, you can track learner activity offline and outside of the LMS with xAPI. Still, for a lot of companies, xAPI is just overkill.

The developers of xAPI thought its release would make SCORM go away forever, but funny enough, quite the opposite happened. To this day, SCORM is still the most common protocol for eLearning.

Is SCORM Better Than xAPI?

The truth is, just because xAPI is a lot newer than SCORM, doesn’t mean it’s practical. There are not many LMS providers that support xAPI — and most customers don’t switch from SCORM to xAPI —- simply because LMSs work perfectly with SCORM already.

Using SCORM To Track Learning-Related Activity

SCORM, otherwise known as the shareable content object reference model is the most popular eLearning protocol because it’s effective. There have been dozens of updates to SCORM over the years, all making it easier for companies to create eLearning courses that are engaging and easy to manage with an LMS.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…Maybe this is what the developers of xAPI should have said after finishing SCORM 2004.

SCORM and xAPI are both built on HTML5, so they work well on any web browser and across all types of LMS platforms. You can think of the two standards as different protocols that lead to a similar outcome.

Here are some learning dimensions you can track with SCORM:

  • Track the completion of a course.
  • Track the time users spend in a course (seconds, minutes, hours, etc.)
  • Track the score users get on modules or a course.
  • Track pass or fail grades.
  • Track attendance.

Currently, Academy Of Mine does not support xAPI, but we do support SCORM; from 50 employees to 500 and up, many companies in different sectors, and with different use-cases for training love our software!

Tracking Learning-Related Activity With xAPI (Tin Can)

Although xAPI is powerful if you want to go above-and-beyond reporting in the LMS, most companies don’t need it. If this was not the case, then it would have gained a lot of traction when it was first released. Instead, what happened was most companies involved in eLearning realized the technology was interesting but not necessary. The result: not many eLearning software providers adopted the protocol.

All opinions aside, xAPI does have some impressive technology.

In addition to the reports you can track with SCORM, check out some of the reporting xAPI offers:

  • Record multiple scores.
  • Track learning that happens offline or outside of an LMS.
  • Team-based learning
  • Track platform transitioning from the computer to mobile.
  • Track real-world performance.

Read more about the types of reporting you can do with xAPI.

What Type Of Training Should Be Created With SCORM Or xAPI?

By using powerful content formats, such as SCORM and xAPI, you can create interactive courses that are engaging and easy to report on learning-related activities. This is true while training using self-paced courses that users can take on-demand and with virtual instructor-led classes that users attend in real-time.

SCORM and xAPI can be used for a wide variety of training programs:

  • Employee training (internal and external)
  • Customer training
  • Partner training
  • Extended enterprise training
  • Accredited continuing education programs, and more.

We believe SCORM is the most effective content format for effectively managing training programs — If you need help finding a SCORM-compliant LMS, we recommend the Academy Of Mine LMS.

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