If you are not familiar with cmi5 it is a profile for xAPI. Specifically, cmi5 is the use-case for xAPI in the “LMS launches content” scenario. Originally released by the Advanced Distributing Learning initiative (ADL) in 2016, cmi5 is the “official” specification for launching xAPI content from an LMS. It has been three years since the spec was released; it is time to check in to see what is going on with cmi5.

The xAPI package

You might be saying to yourself, “I can already publish content to xAPI.” While it is true that some content authoring tools have an xAPI publish option, it is important to know the limitations of that feature.

  1. It is not a defined or supported specification. ADL, the folks that brought us SCORM, did not participate in the definition of the “xAPI package” document and they do not recommend it.
  2. It is not interoperable. While many LMS and content authoring tool providers have implemented support for this package, interoperability is limited. The package itself is not clearly defined, nor is there any defined completion criteria. Most LMSs have had to adapt their completion criteria to whatever the authoring tool has chosen to implement.

The ADL cmi5 Working Group has written a document comparing the xAPI package to cmi5 (xAPI/TinCan Package vs. cmi5 Comparison).

cmi5 adoption

cmi5 adoption by both LMSs and authoring tools has been slow. You can find a list of the adopters on the cmi5 website. Despite the small list, there are some encouraging signs that we may soon have many more.

  1. Rustici Software has incorporated cmi5 in all of their products. This is an important development because many LMSs and authoring tools use Rustici products in their application. It should now be easier for those applications to adopt cmi5.
  2. At the DevLearn 2019 xAPI Camp, Rustici announced that there are over 4,000 cmi5 courses in SCORM Cloud. They also showed that cmi5 has exhibited faster adoption than xAPI itself.
  3. ADL has announced funding for a cmi5 test suite. More on this below.

cmi5 script library

When xAPI was released, ADL published a JavaScript library for interacting with an LRS. A similar library for cmi5 assignable units (AU) has now been published by ADL (cmi5-Client Library). There is also a sample AU that demonstrates use of the library. All for free!

cmi5 conformance testing

At its iFest 2019 conference in August, ADL released a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) that included a cmi5 player and test suite. If you are not familiar with the BAA term, basically it means that ADL is seeking proposals to perform a research or development task. Development of a cmi5 conformance test should greatly improve adoption, especially by the U.S. Department of Defense.

What about SCORM?

The future for SCORM is not as bright. In the BAA discussed above, the problem statement for the cmi5 player and test suite included the following:

The cmi5 specification was created to replicate SCORM functionality, with the intention of replacing SCORM as the de-facto format of online courses and traditional computer-based training. However, the Department of Defense (DoD) requires a minimally viable cmi5-player reference implementation and a software conformance test suite for cmi5-based content to enable its transition into operational use.

Does this mean that SCORM is dead? Not yet. Vendors will continue to support SCORM into the foreseeable future because their customers likely have large libraries of SCORM content. It does mean, however, that the DoD is looking for a path away from SCORM and into cmi5. It also means that SCORM will not be supported or updated by ADL.

Impact on L&D

Adoption of SCORM (2001) by the DoD is what pushed the rapid acceptance of the SCORM specification. History is about to repeat itself. The pending adoption of cmi5 by the DoD has important impact on any new content development.

  1. If you have an LMS and authoring tool that supports cmi5, you should strongly consider development in cmi5 rather than SCORM or the xAPI package. This helps “future proof” your development efforts.
  2. If you do not have tools with cmi5 support, push your vendors to adopt cmi5. Let them know you don’t want to be left behind.

The future of cmi5 looks very promising. I believe we will begin to see widespread adoption in the 2020-2021 timeframe.