Understanding LMS standards: SCORM, xAPI, AICC and cmi5

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A learning management system (LMS) is a crucial business tool. They are commonly used to deliver training and learning content to internal teams, clients, and partners. They track and store data helping organisations understand their team’s training and development requirements and stay on top of compliance.

When it comes to data, the way you manage and share it is hugely important as it informs all your LMS reporting. There are lots of ways to do this which is why having LMS standards is essential.

A standard is a shared language for communicating with an LMS. Having standards ensures that no matter the authoring app or LMS, information can be shared easily without complicated coding.

Two things to understand before we get into the standards – while the LMS hosts the content and stores the data, you also need an authoring application or tool which is a software program used to create the eLearning content (e.g., courses, lessons, etc) and publish it.

Once the content is created with the authoring apps, it is published or uploaded to an LMS.  Authoring content tools need to be compliant with content standards so that when the eLearning content is exported, it will be compatible with an LMS that supports the same standard.

There are four common standards – SCORM, xAPI, AICC and cmi5. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate them, fortunately, this blog can help. We’ll learn about what the standards are, their differences, similarities, and general uses.


SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. It is a set of technical specifications that provide a common approach to how eLearning content is developed and used.

This ensures that eLearning courses can easily report information to an LMS – such as whether the learner completed the course or how they performed on a test. Basically, if authoring software can export content that’s SCORM-compatible, you’ll be able to use it in a SCORM-compatible LMS.

One of the main advantages of SCORM is its widespread use. Many e-learning platforms and tools are SCORM-compliant. This means that content created using SCORM can be shared across different systems with ease.

It has also become a marker of quality as all top LMSs and authoring tools should be SCORM compliant.

You need to check the ability of your LMS to report on quiz results, both at an individual level and summary level. This gives insight on what questions are the least successful. This could be the result of not enough context in your content, or simply the question may indicate a correct answer when in fact it’s wrong.

When choosing which version of SCORM either 1.2, 2004 (and its editions) best check with your LMS provider what will work.  Whilst SCORM 1.2 is still the most popular it is far less powerful.  Choose SCORM 2004 if you want your LMS to track the users responses to specific questions and multiple attempts.


xAPI, also known as Experience API or Tin Can API, is another key eLearning standard. It tracks and analyses learning experiences beyond the traditional LMS environments.

This includes informal and experiential learning that takes place outside of more traditional learning environments such as offline activities like attending conferences or workshops.

A main advantage of xAPI is its flexibility. It can track not only what was learned but also how and where it was learned.

This eLearning standard can be great for getting a deeper understanding of learner behaviour as it captures a broad and more nuanced picture of learning experiences.


Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) ensures that all aviation-related training materials are compatible.

AICC creates a communication protocol between the training content and the LMS that delivers it. This protocol enables the LMS to track and record the learner’s progress and performance. It does so in a standardised way, regardless of the source of the training content.

One great bonus of AICC is its compatibility with older eLearning systems. It also provides a standard way of tracking and recording learner progress. This can help organisations ensure compliance and demonstrate effective training.

Unfortunately, AICC has limited functionality. There’s a notable lack of support for more interactive and engaging learning experiences.

AICC is the best LMS for training pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance technicians. It’s also ideal for compliance training and safety training for airline employees.


Cmi5 stands for Computer Managed Instruction 5. This eLearning standard integrates the features of SCORM and xAPI.

It’s a relatively new standard that builds on the strengths of its predecessors. Its purpose is to provide a more comprehensive and robust eLearning experience.

Cmi5 uses the xAPI data model to track learning activities. It then incorporates SCORM’s content packaging and sequencing capabilities, making it a versatile standard that supports a wide range of learning experiences.

One key benefit of cmi5 is its ability to track learning activities outside the LMS. With xAPI’s support, it can capture data from various sources. These can include mobile devices, simulations, and games. This feature provides a more comprehensive view of learners’ progress and performance. It enables organisations to personalise learning experiences and provide targeted feedback.

How to choose the right standard

Choosing the right eLearning standard can be challenging. Not only do you have to consider the technical matters and compliance. It’s also valuable to consider what standard might actually engage and excite your learners.

The first step is to determine the organisation’s learning, business needs, goals, and objectives. Once these are established, you’ll know which standard will best support its learning activities. If organisations already have an LMS, they should also consider its compatibility.

Its important to note that not all LMS are built the same.  Many providers state they are for example SCORM compliant but in fact they are not and it requires you to manipulate the files to ensure the content works with the LMS. If that’s the case then look for another LMS!  The publishing process should be as simple as click, upload and assign learners.

If using Articulate apps and Birch Learning Platform then you are guaranteed they are comply with all the standards mentioned. If something goes wrong then it’s how the developer has put the content together, the size of the eLearning module is too large to bookmark or its published incorrectly. Always choose an experienced provider to ensure your content behaves the way you want it to in the LMS.

As the Exclusive Certified Articulate Training partner in Australia & New Zealand, we offer training in how to use Articulate Storyline and Rise authoring tools which are compliant with SCORM 1.2 and 2004 (second, third and fourth editions), AICC, xAPI and cmi5. Birch Learning Platform is also compatible with all SCORM, xAPI, AICC or Cmi5.

These applications are easy to use, have extensive and comprehensive functionality and most importantly they make it very easy for clients to publish and load their own eLearning content, whenever they want.

Future trends in eLearning standards

The future of eLearning standards is exciting. As technology and specifically learning technology is always changing, standards must keep abreast of any new and emerging trends on the horizon. One of the key trends in eLearning standards is the focus on personalised and adaptive learning. These experiences can be tailored to individual learners’ needs and preferences.

Another trend is the increasing use of virtual and augmented reality technologies in e-learning. This is driving the development of new standards such as WebVR and WebAR.

As eLearning continues to evolve, we’ll see even more new and emerging standards. It’s up to organisation leaders to navigate them and find the ideal solution.

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