eLearning Evolution: Deciding Between SCORM and Common Cartridge - MRCC EdTech

Nov 6 2023

eLearning Evolution: Deciding Between SCORM and Common Cartridge

Pranalee Navalkar: Associate Director
Pranalee Navalkar

Associate Director

Instructional designers and publishers dream of a world where they can create eLearning courses using their favorite authoring tool and export them to LMSs used by organizations and associations. However, the reality is different. Different learning management systems (LMSs) support different types of eLearning standards. Understanding these eLearning standards is essential to ensuring that the course content can be easily exported to the LMS used by schools and universities.

In this blog, we will compare the two common eLearning standards—Common Cartridge and SCORM—and their similarities, differences, and migration challenges.

What Is SCORM?

The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is the de-facto standard for eLearning courses. It was published by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) project of the US government in 2000. It was launched primarily to enable the reuse and interoperability of military training material. SCORM includes a predefined set of technical standards that enable course content and LMS to work together. It comprises the data models and communication methods for this collaboration between authoring platforms and the LMS.

A SCORM package is a zip archive of all training materials as files following a specific hierarchy. The components of a SCORM package are:

  1. Content packaging – Course content compressed in a zip file
  2. Run-time – To launch the course on a web browser
  3. Sequencing – Navigation for the course content

Multiple versions of SCORM have been launched since its inception. The most commonly used version is SCORM 1.2, even though SCORM 2004 is the latest version. About 57% of users still prefer to upload SCORM 1.2 content. It is the most stable version supported by most of the LMS tools.

Benefits of SCORM

SCORM continues to dominate as the industry standard for eLearning content. Some of the benefits of the SCORM standard are:

  • Quick content creation using SCORM authoring tools
  • Includes sequencing support, enabling you to choose the time needed to spend on a course
  • Almost all authoring tools available support SCORM versions
  • Almost all LMS vendors offer SCORM support, making it easy to migrate from one LMS to another
  • Practical to build content catalogs using different authoring tools to create a unified SCORM package
  • Standardized archiving for obsolete content

Downsides of SCORM

Even though SCORM is the most widely used eLearning, it has several downsides as well:

  • Lack of offline learning support as SCORM courses need an internet connection and browser
  • Tracking is available only through LMS and cannot be deployed directly on mobile apps or websites
  • HTML5 support in SCORM is non-native because it was originally Flash-based
  • Supports limited tracking metrics such as course completion, assessment scores, and total time spent on courses
  • Reporting capabilities are limited

What Is Common Cartridge?

Common Cartridge was developed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium in 2008. This non-profit consortium created the Common Cartridge standard to enhance interoperability between different types of online educational content. Instructors can use third-party content easily without any additional effort. This standard was developed primarily to encourage the hassle-free exchange of multiple learning materials created by various publishers.

Common Cartridge standard allows easy access to different types of content. You can also stream the intent from third-party systems in real-time. There is no need to upload content or set up integrations.

The Common Cartridge standard contains Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) protocols that connect multiple systems using internal and external links. The data is represented as an XML file, which can be imported into any LMS that supports the Common Cartridge standard.

The latest version of IMS Common Cartridge is version 1.4, released in 2020. The Common Cartridge standard is useful for academic and business institutions in providing continuous education.

Benefits of Common Cartridge

Common Cartridge was not developed to rival or replace SCORM. The core purpose of this standard is to promote interoperability between third-party systems. Some of the benefits of adopting Common Cartridge standards are:

  • Suitable for different types of authoring platforms to create a single LMS-compatible course
  • Extended data exchange supports multiple types of data, such as learning data, assessments, metadata, links, web pages, and discussion forums
  • No need for a run time interaction for sequencing or tracking
  • Update curriculum with direct access to learning materials
  • Supports a 21st-century learning model and additional met tagging
  • Enhanced support for including and sharing video content

Downsides of Common Cartridge

Common Cartridge is one of the latest eLearning standards but cannot quickly replace SCORM standards. Some of its downsides are:

  • Limited support from authoring tools
  • Limited support from LMS
  • Limited reporting capabilities

SCORM vs. Common Cartridge – Which Is the Right Choice?

Every eLearning standard has its pros and cons. Making the right choice for your content publishing needs depends on your LMS, the authoring platforms you use to create course content, and the objectives of exporting the learning content.

SCORM is a widely supported standard by numerous authoring tools and LMS platforms. If you are looking for a quick, hassle-free way to create and publish course content that will be easily integrated into existing LMS platforms, SCORM is an ideal choice. The detailed reporting capabilities make it a better choice for corporate learning programs and certification courses.

Common Cartridge is a recent eLearning standard, and we can expect LMS and authoring platforms to support this standard in the upcoming years. Common Cartridge is a suitable choice if you want to create multimedia-rich course content with interactive elements and promote interoperability.

Migration Challenges

As Common Cartridge is built with inherent support for interoperability, you can export SCORM packages as part of the course content. In that case, you must ensure that the target LMS supports Common Cartridge content. You must also complete thorough testing to ensure that the converted functions operate in the expected way.

Converting SCORM content into Common Cartridge standard course material is difficult because SCORM doesn’t support all the content structures of Common Cartridge. Many parts of the content must be rewritten to adhere to the Common Cartridge standard requirements.


It is impossible to single out a specific standard and call it ideal for all eLearning course objectives. You must choose based on learning goals, level of interactivity in the content, and tracking and reporting needs. You must also consider which LMS platform to use to upload the course content. As SCORM is considered a technical standard, plenty of SCORM-compliant tools and course materials are currently available. However, as publishers are now working on creating interactive content with rich multimedia elements, the Common Cartridge standard is also gaining popularity to provide a seamless eLearning experience.

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