SCORM und Drang, or, Testing out Some E-Learning “Objects”

The other week I was thinking about little projects to test out on the e-learning development kits, and I hit upon the idea of teaching myself how to create interactive content in Camtasia Studio. After watching the how-to video on Camtasia’s website (go figure — most of the help for Camtasia is developed in Camtasia, which is delightfully meta), I recorded a quick test video and put an interactive quiz at the end.

Camtasia’s interactive quizzes support four question types: multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer. I added one of each question type to see how it would look and act. It can even score the results — for all but the last, the short answer question. I figured, hey, it must just save that somewhere! But how? I bet it will work if I export it as a SCORM object and import it into Blackboard….

Testing out the SCORM Test

This is not a SCORM, but it does do a good job saving student answers. The pencil and paper method, however, cannot grade exams for you.

This is not a SCORM-based exam, but this method of testing does do a good job saving student answers. The pencil and paper method, however, cannot grade exams for you. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Now, SCORM — the Sharable Content Object Reference Model — is a standard for e-learning media. Being a standard, which means that the SCORM object you create can be injected into any other system that supports the model. This is nice from both a content creation perspective (you don’t have to worry so much about what platform you’re creating for) and a reuse perspective (you can move your object if you move from system to system, if they both support SCORM). It can hook into the gradebook portion of an learning management system like Blackboard Learn.

I knew it was possible for us because I’d just used one recently in the policy course I’m taking at the School of Education. The second module of our course included an optional self-review of the first module, and being a nerd, of course I took it. One of the interactive questions in the video was a short answer question: “In your own words, describe what constitutes educational policy.” I sweated it a little. I thought, should I go back and read what the book says? What if I’m off the mark? Oh well, I’ll just do my best. It’s just an exercise. There, done. … But what if I was wrong? What if the professor thinks I’m a nincompoop?

Exporting in the Hopes that Short Answers Are Saved

Alas! Anyway, so that’s how I knew it would work. After watching another helpful video on exporting SCORM objects in Camtasia and reading a document on importing them into Blackboard, I got my video working in the sandbox course I use to test things out. I took the quiz and went looking for the results. There was my score, registering my attempt.

But where were the answers recorded?  Click … click … OK, there’s how much time it took me, that’s neat for instructors to be able to see. But whence the answers? I can’t stand it when I can’t figure these things out — it’s my job, after all. Click … click, and now it’s time to Google, and Google some more … and nothing. Plenty of questions, and nary an answer. Except I finally found one thread in a discussion board somewhere out there where the definitive answer was, “Nope. Blackboard will record the score, but not the answers.”

Not what I wanted to hear, but oh well. However, we are running a small pilot of the Canvas LMS which has a reputation as the new, modern, capable contender in the LMS realm (it may prove a good replacement for Blackboard here at W&M). Surely it would do better! A little more Googling, and I have my SCORM object into Canvas — piece of cake. I take the quiz. I check the gradebook …

Nothing.  Not even an attempt registered.

SCORM Objects Foiled by Security!

A little more Googling reveals: Canvas does not allow SCORM objects to communicate with the gradebook due to security reasons. It’s right there in the FAQ. OK, fine, can I gin up something myself? How hard can it be? Wait. This documentation is really long … reeeeeeeally long. Drat!

Oh, the agony of defeat. Well, that’s how lessons are learned, in life, business, and academic technology. Now at least I know what we can do with Camtasia, SCORM, and our LMS environment, along with its limitations — and now you do, too. Camtasia also has a custom player option that can email results, and I’m going to try that one of these days and see if I can get actual student responses out of it. But the worst? The worst is knowing that I’ll never know if the answer I gave to that policy course question was any good or not. Like unwritten thoughts and fruitless effort, it vanished into the ether of unrecorded history.

About John Drummond

John Drummond is the Academic Technology Manager at the College of William & Mary. Originally from Mathews County, VA, John graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English in 1996 and an MS in Technical and Scientific Communication in 2002, and is currently studying for an Ed.D. in Higher Education at the W&M School of Education. He has been with W&M since 2007. In addition to working in IT, John has taught occasionally at W&M and previously at Tidewater Community College, and in other roles has been an author, a musician, a Perl programmer, a UNIX systems engineer, and a network manager. He resides in Toano with his wife Andrea and daughter Rebekah.

Comments

  1. Thanks for your comment, Brian. I did read that in the Canvas FAQ, but I chose not to go into it in the post since I certainly don’t want to scare anyone off from using SCORM. (Actually, I find the phasing of the Canvas FAQ entry a little defensive and overwrought, for reasons you hint at). I will read your white paper with interest!

  2. The statement “Canvas does not allow SCORM objects to communicate with the gradebook due to security reasons” would be better stated as Canvas does not support the ability to write ANY data back to Canvas. As stated in Canvas FAQ
    “SCORM support in Canvas is “read-only” because of security flaws in SCORM”

    The flaw they are referring is called bookmarklets. This is not a flaw and it is not new. This is how SCORM is made, it is a client side standard and comes with the inherent issues that all client code have that allow access directly to the server. There are ways around this that you can build into your LMS. You can read more about it hare in my presentation on SCORM Security to the ADL.

    “Security Issues in SCORM. Proceedings of the Joint ADL Co-Lab Implementation Fest 2009 (NDIA) workshop, August 18-20 2009, Orlando, FL. ” – http://jcasolutions.com/white-papers