What Are The Real Elearning Standards?

What Are The Real Elearning Standards?

In the eLearning field, we usually come across SCORM/AICC as the standards to which the courseware should adhere to. But how far are these standards learner-centric? Are these standards impeding learning?

I found that these standards, being of technical nature (LMS/ LCMS compatibility), do not add anything to the learner. On the other hand, sometimes I found that breaking the course into SCOs or not able to create links between SCOs can be a little bothersome.

On the other hand, I found the lesser talked about standards like ASTD’s E-Learning Courseware Certification Standards and the standards used by Michigan Virtual University in producing specifications for, and evaluating, e-learning not only learner-centric but also very comprehensive. (I am, of course, not suggesting that these standards are in any way substitutes for SCORM/ AICC)

ASTD’s E-Learning Courseware Certification Standards are grouped into four principal categories to reflect the various elements of courseware design.

  1. Interface Standards address the relationship between the learner and the courseware itself. There are five interface standards.
  2. Compatibility Standards address the relationship between the courseware, the Operating system and related applications. There are four compatibility standards.
  3. Production Quality Standards examine the quality of the courseware’s text, graphics, grammar, and visual presentation. There are two production quality standards.
  4. Instructional Design Standards examine the relationship between the course purpose, objectives, instructional content, instructional methods, and the learner.

CommLab has been one of the earliest companies in the e-learning space to adopt these standards. There were times when these standards were the deciding factor in winning a project for us.

I am, of course, not suggesting that these standards are a substitute to SCORM/ AICC but that they add value to the course. I will be interested to learn about your views on this subject. Thank you for reading my blog.

RK Prasad


View E-book on Instructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to E-learning Designers

  • Thank you for the information above. Would you send the complete standards you discuss above to me on LinkedIn, please.

  • I would be particularly interested to know if the work on my website conforms to the standards you are talking about.

    I also wonder if the work I am doing would be useful to any school or schools in India.

    It is as you will see developing one unit at a time. I am in the long run attempting to integrate the history of art and the history of music. I am also asking the art images experienced used as an inspiration for making a piece of art.

    I am very interested in your ideas,
    Katherine Bolman

  • Tracy Farris

    Thanks for sharing — can I also please get a copy of the entire Standards you discuss above.

  • No problem, Tracy. I will dispatch it to email. Do let me know if you wish to discuss them.

  • Hi Prasad,

    I am currently researching the e-learning sector in India and am interested in knowing more about the ASTD’s E-Learning Courseware Certification Standards. Can you send them to me at [email protected].

    Also since you have extensive experience in e-learning content development, I would be interested in discussing more with you on aspects like assessing learners needs, developing course objectives, choosing ID strategies and methods, media selection and others pertaining to effective e-learning.

    Let me know if you can help me out in my study in understanding this upcoming field.

    Thanks for your kind support,

  • Ravi – please write to me with details of your research to my id – [email protected]

  • D Anderson

    I would be interested in seeing a copy of the standards that you have referred to. Could you please send me a copy.

    I am intrigued by your original comments regarding real elearning standards because they unscore the challenge of designing standards for content delivery.

    I would agree that standards such as SCORM/AICC tend to be technical in nature. This is the result, I believe, of attempting to provide technical teams with the guidance to incorporate structure learning content into their software design. The focus of such standards is to make it possible to make content consumable by a variety of compliant software applications. As a result, it is not directly usable as an instruction design aid.

    My own experience, over some 15 years of working with various eLearning initiatives has been that content development benefits from both a sound instructional design model/standard and a clear strategy for how to map instructional design elements to the technical standard (such as SCORM/AICC) being used for electronic delivery.

  • Thank you for sharing your views. I will send you a copy as requested.

    Sound instructional design models are essential but it would really help an ID if there are universally accepted standards for improving learning experience. I found that using a check list from these standards (ASTD) helped me improve my courses.

    BTW, have you heard of standards developed by Michigan Virtual School? They are even more detailed. I wonder why such standards never became a part of our process.

  • ed rebmann

    I, too, would like to see a copy of the standards.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. This is somewhat distressing to see somebody completely misrepresent 2 different types of standards and what their intentions are.

    “But how far are these standards learner-centric? ”

    Why would you ask that question about SCORM/AICC when they have been very forthright in saying there was never any intention of dealing with learners. SCORM (which uses AICC specs for scoring/ tracking…so no need to distinguish between the two) is a packaging standard. Its like having standards for tool sizes (Ex: Metric). It simply dictates how to package your objects so that it fits into environments that can use objects. So don’t critisize SCORM for not being what it was never meant to do. If you want to criticize it, then do so based on what it says it can do.

    As for linking one object and another together, SCORM adopted a packaging philosophy based on Ruth Clark’s RLO/RIO model which specifically says all learning objects should be able to stand on their on to enable reuse. How do you repackage a single object into another package if its hard linked to something else?

    Its unfortunate folks have no understanding of the standards and what they can do and why they do it in that way. SCORM isn’t perfect…lots to criticize…but please be responsible.


  • Hi Ed,

    Sure. I will send it.



  • Hi RT,

    Thank you very much for your post. I do apologize for the implication in my blog that SCORM/ AICC are criticized for what they are not. After reading your posting, I realized that my write up is misleading. Thank you for pointing it out.

    My message was for instructional designers (I am one myself)that we talk more about technical standards and not about learning standards, which as IDers we should.

    I totally agree about the appropriateness of SCORM/ AICC and it was not at all my intention to belittle them.

    Best regards

  • CM


    Thank you for the information. Very interesting at first sight.
    I’m a PhD student and I would like to know more about it. Could you please send a copy of the standards ?

    Thank you.


  • moriceau

    Very interesting point of view. SCORM standard has its utility but the difference lies on the service to the learner, especially when we deal with first levels of qualification and training, which is my case. I would be grateful if you could send me the ASTD’s
    Learning Courseware Certification Standards. Thank you for your contribution.
    M Moriceau

  • Sure. I will send it.

  • Do you realize that the AICC has had interface guidelines for a long time? “AGR009 – Icon Guidelines” goes back to 1996.

    AICC also developed a guidelines to help those unfamiliar with Instructional Design, who need to procure of manage elearning projects, see “AGR012 – Training Development Checklist” published in 2005.

    The AICC has also long advocated courseware interchange formats, to unshackle great learning experiences from being tied to one authoring system. This was quite a struggle, and the full vision has not been achieved. However, “AGR007 – Courseware Interchange” was published in 1995.

  • Thanks, Tom. I will explore the guidelines as suggested.

  • PJ Babcock

    This is great information. I am currently in the final courses for my Master’s in Adult Education and Training and the current course is related to eLearning.

    Could you please send me links or documents related to your blog statements:
    I found that using a check list from these standards (ASTD) helped me improve my courses.

    “TW, have you heard of standards developed by Michigan Virtual School? ” and the ASTD document you reference?

    I would love to be able to share these with my other students.

    Thanks in advance.


  • Would love to have a copy of the standards.

    Regardless of the discussion about SCORM, I do think your point that as Instructional Designers, we must include the learner in our process. If the appropriate level of learning does not occur, then the training is not successful.

    Thanks for this info.

  • Could you please send me a copy of those ASTD’s E-Learning Courseware Certification Standards? I’m eager to expand my views beyond SCORM. Thank you.

  • Ann V


    I would appreciate a copy of the standards as well. Thank you very much.

  • Ann – pl send me your request to [email protected] I will mail them to your email id.

  • Nevin

    The information provided by you is really wonderful. i have just completed my post graduation in computer science and found this information resourceful.
    Thanks for the information
    Online E-learning Software & Script