Have you heard about cmi5, the next generation of SCORM? If not, you might want to check out the background information in “Experience API, cmi5 and Future SCORM” in Learning Solutions Magazine.

So now you know that cmi5 is a new specification from Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL), and that cmi5 was co-developed by ADL and the Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC). With that in mind, let’s look at why you would want to use cmi5 instead of SCORM.

Reason one: Pop-up windows

If you have ever used SCORM, you know about the pop-up windows. With SCORM, you get a least two windows: One for the LMS and the other for the SCORM content. Usually you get more than two because sometimes the SCORM content decides to have its own “player” window.

If you are an LMS administrator, you know you have to watch out for SCORM’s arch enemy—the pop-up blocker! How many times have you answered a call from a student who says, “The content won’t open”? You dread going on the hunt for all the possible pop-up blockers that may be installed on the student’s workstation. (Tip from the trenches: I’ve found as many as seven pop-up blockers on a single machine.)

Even if you clear out all the pop-up blockers, you still get the occasional student that hates pop-up windows … so they just close them immediately, thereby breaking your SCORM module.

Finally, if you want to support mobile, pop-ups are a “no-no.”

Luckily, this was one of the first issues addressed in cmi5. Content can now launch in the same window as the LMS. The LMS disappears and the content opens; simple as that. When the content is done, it disappears and the LMS returns—right where you left off.

Reason two: Distributed content

Let’s face it, content modules are getting bigger and bigger. As bandwidth has increased, our will to compress and optimize our content has diminished. You know you should, but … surely the bandwidth will handle it, right?

The problem is, if you build a 200-Mbyte content module that works great for your local users, it may not work so well for your remote students. Enter content distribution networks, or CDNs. A CDN allows you to post your web content on several servers, around the country or even around the world. Then, when your student links to the content, they connect to the closest server. A student in Houston might download the content from a Houston-based server, while a student in Germany gets the content from a server housed in Germany.

Just one problem … this won’t work in SCORM. You see SCORM requires that the content and the LMS reside in the same domain. Effectively, this means your content must reside on the same server as your LMS so distributed content is not an option.

Fortunately, this is another problem that cmi5 has solved. Content can reside anywhere, even on a mobile device.

This same issue arises with content-as-a-service, or CaaS. If you buy content from an online provider, wouldn’t it be nice if the content could remain on the provider’s site? With SCORM you can only do that with custom workarounds. With cmi5, the CAAS model just works, no workarounds required.

Reason three: Store any data you want

There is no doubt that SCORM has a lot of data properties. And when you find something super awesome that you want to track about your students’ performance … oh bummer, SCORM doesn’t store that.

To track your new super awesome data, you could use xAPI … but xAPI does not define an LMS launch scenario for your content. Happily, cmi5 is based on xAPI. So by extension, cmi5 can store any data that is possible in xAPI. For example, you can:

  • Store an audio recording of your student responding to a question
  • Store a video of your student performing a task
  • Store an essay written by your student

All this is possible with cmi5.

cmi5 status

As of this writing, cmi5 has been released as the “Sandstone” version. This is meant as a beta-period for developers to find issues in the spec. The initial “Granite” release of cmi5 should be out in the first quarter of 2016.


There is no doubt that SCORM has served us well for many years. Times have changed, however, and we need a new specification that works with today’s technology and learning challenges. Welcome, cmi5.