What’s the difference between SCORM and Common Cartridge?

Question: My boss recently asked me whether or not our courses comply with the Common Cartridge standard. I’ve never heard of that! What can you tell me that I should know so I can talk intelligently about this?

Common Cartridge Overview

The  Common Cartridge concept is simple: Establish one standard way to package LMS course content (including externally created SCORM packages and internally created quizzes, links ,etc.) so that one can quickly and easily move content between Learning Management Systems. Many LMS systems offer student resources beyond prepackaged SCORM content (e.g., web links, discussion forums, built-in quizzes, etc.) and the goal of Common Cartridges is to enable LMS customers to port all of these resources between other LMS systems that have implemented the common cartridge standard. without any functionality loss.

SCORM verses Common Cartridge

SCORM is a standard for deploying standalone computer or web-based training materials. For example, when you create digital course content (Flash, Articulate, Captivate, other e-Learning content) and you publish it as SCORM, you ensure that any modern Learning Management System can import, launch, play, and track information relative to that course. Think of SCORM as plug-and-play for courses. The Common Cartridge, on the other hand, specifies how you can package a wider set of resources and move them between Learning Management Systems. For example, you may have external discussion boards and quizzes that complement your courses.

Prior to the advent of the Common Cartridge there was no practical way to export these other resources out of your LMS and import them into another. Clients were essentially locked-in to a proprietary LMS system because they did not want to have to recreate all of these other external resources. So SCORM and Common Cartridge serve different but complementary purposes and are designed to work together for the benefit of the instructor, student, and other stakeholders. If you think of a SCORM-wrapper as a way to take your digital content and “wrap-it” so that it can communicate with an LMS, then you can think of the “Common Cartridge” as a wrapper that goes around your SCORM objects and gives it added support for quizzes, discussion boards, web links, and likely future enhancements.

The Common Cartridge Challenge

Making the idea of a Common Cartridge a reality was a challenge for Learning Management System companies for several reasons. First, LMS companies benefited from having their customers somewhat locked into their LMS systems because many earn revenue on a yearly renewable subscription model. The harder it is to get your content out of their LMS, the more likely you are to stay with that vendor and not switch to a competitor. Additionally, they could build and maintain proprietary add-on solutions (discussion forums, quiz and grading features, etc.) without regard to interoperability with external competing systems. Finally, the establishment of universally accepted standards is a challenge in and of itself, but is especially difficult when companies that compete fiercely must cooperate and agree to a set of standards that essentially level the playing field between them and give more power to the consumer.

Common Cartridge Resources

Check out the Common Cartridge Frequently Aksed Questions for a detailed overview. If you have additional questions or would like assistance migrating your content from one LMS system to another, simply post a reply to this message or use the Ask the Expert feature.

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