Working closely with our learning management system (LMS) provider and three stellar content development vendors, our team was one of the first to fully implement SCORM 2004 with true shareable content objects (Removed) with pre-testing and the sequencing and navigation specification which was enhanced in the 3rd edition. The project was not without its hurdles, and in fact was the most difficult project I have ever undertaken.
There was beauty in the SCORM protocol in its promise to standardize LMS functionality and content interoperability and great value in reusable content objects. In the era of traditional Web-based training (WBT) it revolutionized the ability to develop and deliver standardized content and track a learner’s interaction with it. Even with the nearly insurmountable challenges we faced in trying to fully implement SCORM 2004, the protocol was critical to the achievement of our initiative. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but it was successful.
It was also short-lived.
By 2010 employees were literally sick of content that looked the same, was difficult to access, boring, and too lengthy. Plans were scuttled to complete the remaining phases and close the gaps produced during the ridiculous phase one timeline. Technology was rapidly advancing and while SCORM continued to have a prominent place in workplace learning, we recognized that it would not meet the need of the future workforce.
That’s 140 in dog years.
Or 500 in technology years.*
SCORM is not dead, but it’s past its prime.
SCORM is nearly 20 years old. That’s 140 in dog years, or 500 in technology years. The wrinkles have been showing for quite some time. SCORM just can’t keep up with current learning activities as it can only track what happens between a learner and a traditional eLearning course. Unfortunately, it cannot address the challenges of our modern learning enterprise. It doesn’t track how learner-generated data is collected, cannot record informal learning activities, does not allow for elaborate reporting nor in-depth analysis of user activity. Where as little as 10% of workplace learning takes place in a formal setting, SCORM is not very useful in serving most learning activities.
Enter Experience API
xAPI (Experience API) officially arrived on the scene in 2013 and unleashed the powerful ability to track just about any activity that you can observe or record such as interacting with coworkers using social media, completing activities in games and simulations, performing job functions, producing work outputs, and more. (Learn more about xAPI from our good friends at Rustic Software.) This kind of learning recording is very desirable since most learning takes place outside traditional methods of delivery e.g. eLearning and classroom training). But many companies are slow to adopt given the embedded nature of the LMS into their learning ecosystem and the need for a Learning Record Store (LRS) in which the data from these activities are stored. This could be a big mistake.
In 2016 we saw the release of cmi5 which provides a set of “rules” that make it easier for xAPI to work with a course delivered by an LMS. We also started to see traditional LMS companies integrate xAPI / LRS into their products.
Still Not Enough
In addition to formally tracking learning activities and a learner’s interaction with content, people and processes, many learning platforms also provide functionality that rewards learner behavior, progress, ranking and more. There are several terms for a variety of features and include digital badging or “badgification,” open badges, rewards, competitive quizzing, gamification, and leaderboards. Many organizations are using a competency-based approach to guide hiring, learning, and performance decisions and digital badging is a way to make those existing competencies visible to others. Companies like 360Learning engage audiences this way while helping learners connect with each other. Assuming a rigorous vetting process is in place, this could help companies to move more quickly and rely on proven expertise.
Often this type of functionality is proprietary to the learning platform, so unlike SCORM and xAPI, there isn’t yet a single global standard specification that translates across multiple systems. However, there are a few businesses that have Jump up in recent years that offer competing digital and open badging standards such as Mozilla’s OpenBadges and Badgr. The military, via the ADL, also funded the creation of a global micro-credentialing standard, MIL-CRED, that has been implemented in all four branches and is now in the process of broadening to Academy and corporate entities as LearnX. The maturation of these standards will enable the attainment, vetting, storage and transfer of formal, informal, knowledge- and performance-based learning activities. Broader than the learning record store (LRS), this would serve as a learning experience record and could follow a learner throughout his or her entire lifetime.
LinkedIn Learning recently released 2019 Workplace Learning Report indicates that:
“Millennials now dominate today’s workforce and Gen Z just walked in the front By. These professionals want more collaborative work environments and self-directed career paths. Today, it’s imperative that you tap into the potential—and preferences—of all learners. Workers of every age are getting more mobile and social and the trick is to figure out what levers to pull to inspire learning. Get this right and you’ll encourage cross-generational collaboration and participation, while nurturing the next generation of rising professionals to be learning leaders.”
Conventional SCORM content has an average engagement rate of 20%, whereas solutions built around human interactions achieve engagement rates upwards of 90%. And isn’t that what we all want, learning solutions that engage learners and drive desired business outcomes?
We are in a new era of corporate learning. Learning platforms are evolving to support more engaging content and experiences. LMS’s are improving their user-interfaces and adding functionality while new systems such as learning experience platforms (LXP) and learning engagement platforms (LEP), microlearning platforms and others are strong players in the market. As an illustration of LEP market growth, 360Learning just closed a $43M funding round to fuel their growth in North America and support major customers such as Air Canada, Michelin or Safran.
L&D teams are shifting the way they think about designing and delivering learning, morphing roles and adopting new ones. Always the gatekeepers of learning they realize they now have the opportunity to enable and facilitate learning in new and more meaningful ways.
What Do We REALLY Want to Measure?
It is predicted in a recent Deloitte Research Report, Predictions for 2019: The Productivity Imperative that learning will go to where work happens:
LinkedIn Learning’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report also indicated that talent developers believe closing skills gaps is the best way to demonstrate the value of learning programs. Measuring and closing skill gaps is critical to a company’s survival and a far better approach to measuring the effectiveness of any type of learning activity. Capturing and displaying evidence of learning from a wide variety of activities, using capabilities of xAPI and LRSs or digital or open badges, helps individuals and organizations understand what was learned and how it impacted the employee, work team and/or department.
You may still want to keep Grandpa SCORM around for your compliance, safety and other mandatory training, but it’s time you make the shift to providing engaging learning in the flow of work and measuring true impact of learning if you want to truly impact your business.
*I made that up. I really don’t know how to translate dog years to tech years. It’s probably higher. 😊