Third Party Courses: SCORM, AICC & Tin Can

Want to learn more about third party courses? Check out our tutorial, Third-Party Courses: A Quick Guide on Absorb Academy! Please be advised you must be signed into Absorb Academy in order to access this course.

Absorb offers the ability to import third-party e-learning courses, authored in either the SCORM, Tin Can, or AICC formats. Importing a Course Package is a simple process that can be performed in one of two ways: to a new Online Course, or by adding new Learning Objects to an existing Online Course. This article provides general information about Absorb LMS and how it interprets data from third-party content, such as e-learning modules, and lists recommended publish settings.

Third-Party Content Advisory

Absorb does not provide instruction on how to use individual course authoring programs, nor do we dive into all the variations presented when publishing content (i.e., JavaScript commands, slide variables, etc).

  • You can test e-learning content for free by creating an account at SCORM Cloud. Please advise that we do not handle course content in exactly the same way as SCORM Cloud and testing on this platform is entirely for the purposes of determining what the course is doing in a neutral setting.
  • If you require assistance with the building, testing, or maintenance of your training content, please contact the respective course authoring support team: 
  • The configuration required for SCORM courses using a dispatch protocol to fully operate does not meet our security standards.  Absorb LMS does not support the usage of dispatch files or external course drivers for third-party e-learning content. SCORM content must be uploaded alongside all course components to the LMS.

We highly recommend that you test your third-party content before making it available to learners to ensure the project launches, behaves, and reports as intended.

 

Adding a Third Party Course to your Portal

Absorb supports the following Third Party Course Formats:

  • SCORM (1.2 & 2004)
  • Tin Can
  • AICC

These Third Party Courses are typically distributed as a .zip file, such as in the following example:

The .zip file format is exactly what Absorb expects, when it comes to adding or importing a Course Package into the LMS. When you open the course in a file explorer you will often see different folders in the architecture:

The files and folders contained in the .zip are considered to be the course components. The content of this .zip contains all the code, images, videos and similar information required for the course to run as expected. A file of specific interest is titled imsmanifest.xml. This file, if opened in a text editor capable of viewing .XML files, will showcase information about the course.

Schemaversion indicates the Third Party Course Format of the course in question. Additionally under the Resources section, you should see a reference to all the images/videos and content used by the course. If none of the images/videos or content used by the course are listed under Resources; this may indicate the course is using a dispatch protocol.

 

When you are ready to Add or Import your Third Party Course Package to the LMS, you may reference one or all of the following methods.

 

Importing New Courses

In Absorb, Administrators may choose to import a Third Party Course Package. The packages can be either a SCORM, Tin Can, or AICC file. Follow these steps to import a Third Party Course Package:

  1. From the Admin Interface, click the Courses button from the left-hand side menu. This will open the Courses menu.
  2. Under the Courses menu, select Courses. This will open the Courses Report.
  3. From the right-hand side Actions menu, click the Import Course button. A modal frame will appear.

  4. Select the Format of the course you would like to import. For the purposes of this example we will use SCORM 2004. You can upload the file via your browser by clicking the Choose File button.
  5. Confirm the correct file is listed under Import Your Package File then select Import.
  6. The Course Package will process and upload. Depending on file size and your local upload speed you may need to wait a few minutes. Once the Course Package has uploaded it will appear on your Courses Report. The Course Package you selected will be a Learning Object in the new Online Course that is created. The Online Course will be created using the internal course name of the Course Package.

 

Add as a Learning Object

Depending on your use-case you may have already created the Online Course you want to upload your content to, or, you may want to add content to an existing course. The following method showcases how to do so:

If Creating a New Online Course

The following method presumes you are adding a Third Party Course Package to an existing Online Course. If you are in the process of creating a new Online Course, skip to step #5 in the following method as the steps are the same.

  1. From the Admin Interface, click the Courses button. This will open the Courses menu.
  2. Under the Courses menu, select Courses. This will open the Courses Report.
  3. Click the checkbox next to the intended Online Course.
  4. From the right-hand side Actions menu, click Edit. This will open the Edit Online Course page.
  5. On the Add/Edit Online Course page, navigate to the the Syllabus section.
  6. Select Add Learning Object. There may be existing Third Party Course Packages uploaded in this section.
  7. Select the Third Party Course Format of the content you will be uploading. For this example we will be using SCORM 1.2.
  8. Click Next.
  9. You will be prompted to Select the Update Behavior. You can select New Learning Object or Replace an Existing Lesson. We will select New Learning Object. Below you can upload the file from your computer or File Manager. For information on how to replace existing packages, please see this section.
  10. Once you have confirmed the file selected is the correct file, click Continue. Depending on the file size and your local upload speed you may experience processing for a few minutes.
  11. Upon completion the modal frame will update and allow you to enter details about the Learning Object.
  12. Set the Launch Options depending on the configuration of your content. Some Third Party Course Packages expect the file to open in new tab compared to the default modal frame.
    • Launch in a modal: The Lesson will open within an iFrame on the page, which is unaffected by pop-up blockers and is effectively a new element on the existing web page.
    • Launch in a popup: The Lesson will open in a new window of the the Learner's browser.
    • Launch in a new tab: The Lesson will open in a new tab of the Learner's browser.
  13. Use the Width and Height fields to modify the display size of the course as required.
  14. Confirm whether or not this Learning Object contains a Assessment.
  15. Once you are satisfied with the Learning Object configuration, at the bottom of the modal frame you can click Apply. Afterwards the Learning Object will appear under the Syllabus of the Online Course.

 

Replacing Existing Packages

In Absorb Administrators can easily replace SCORM, AICC or Tin Can Learning Objects with updated versions of the same Learning Objects. You can use this option to update internally created content or content created by third-party vendors.

Replacing a Third Party Course Package is reflected in the Course History. In Course History, you can view information on the replacements from content not created by a third-party vendor (or any other historical changes to the course). 

To view the Course History, click the View History button from the right-hand side Actions menu on the Edit Course page.

When viewing the Course History you may observe a replaced Third Party Course Package alongside additional details like in the example below:

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If you are replacing a Learning Object lesson type (SCORM, Tin Can or AICC), you must replace the lesson type with like-content. For example a Tin Can Learning Object can only be replaced with another Tin Can Learning Object.

As it relates to Assessments and replacing a Learning Object it is important to confirm that Assessment Reporting Data is reflective of the current version of the Learning Object. Accordingly:

  • If you are replacing your Learning Object and it contains Assessment questions and answers, please be aware that the Assessment Reporting will be updated to reflect the current version of the Assessment's questions and answers.
  • If your questions and the incorrect and correct answers have extensive changes, you may encounter inconsistencies comparing Assessment data from historical attempts and active attempts among these different course versions.
  • If you are changing your course content more extensively than grammatical updates, you may want to consider creating a new Online Course to achieve accurate reporting across multiple course versions.
Enrollment and History Changes
Replacing a Learning Object will affect all enrollments as follows:
  • New/Not Started: An enrollment of this kind will launch the replaced version of the Learning Object.
  • Complete: An enrollment of this kind will not launch the replaced version of the Learning Object. The Learner will observe the version of the course uploaded at the time of the enrollment. You will need to Re-Enroll into the course to experience the newly uploaded Learning Object.
  • In Progress: Enrollments of this kind may require Re-Enrollment as the Suspend/Resume Data between Third Party Course Package versions may not be compatible. Absorb cannot guarantee interactions between old Suspend/Resume Data and new content.
    • Incompatibility between different versions of Suspend/Resume Data may manifest as bookmarking errors when the replaced version of the Learning Object is launched by a Learner that has launched the previous version of the course.

Follow these steps to replace a SCORM, AICC, or Tin Can course:

  1. From the Admin Interface, click the Courses button. This will open the Courses menu.
  2. Under the Courses menu, select Courses. This will open the Courses Report.
  3. Click the checkbox next to the intended Online Course.
  4. From the right-hand side Actions menu, click Edit. This will open the Edit Online Course page.
  5. On the Add/Edit Online Course page, navigate to the the Syllabus section.
  6. Select Add Learning Object. There may be existing Third Party Course Packages uploaded in this section.
  7. Select the Third Party Course Format of the content you will be uploading. For this example we will be using SCORM 1.2.
  8. Click Next.
  9. You will be prompted to Select the Update Behavior. You can select New Learning Object or Replace an Existing Lesson. We will select Replace an Existing Lesson.
  10. Click the Select a Lesson button. In the modal frame that opens, select the Lesson you want to replace then click Choose.
  11. Now you must upload the Third Party Course Package you want to replace your selected Lesson with. Click the Choose File button to upload the content.
  12. Once your Third Party Course Package is uploaded, click Continue.
  13. The upload will process. Once it is complete you will land on the Edit Course page.

 

Troubleshooting

Due to Third Party Course Packages coming in a wide variety of formats, built to varying standards and using different resources across the board, compatibility between Absorb LMS and third party course content may vary. It is important, prior to releasing content to Learners that you test the Third Party Course Packages you have uploaded and are observing a desirable outcome.

As Absorb LMS does not produce a majority of the SCORMTin Can or AICC content uploaded to the system, it is the responsibility of the course content creator to update, or modify components of the Third Party Course Package to obtain a desirable outcome.

Common issues observed for Third Party Course Packages are:

  • The internal name of the course is incorrect, or hasn't been entered. This causes a blank, or unintended course name to appear when the content is uploaded.
  • Internal question and answer names haven't been given titles. This causes the Answers Report to showcase confusing question names, or answers. Labelling questions and answers in the course can prevent this.
  • Using content that references external code, or insecure processes. This can cause Lesson Failed to Load errors.
  • Replacing content while a large volume of Learners are enrolled and In-Progress. Replacing content may cause an issue with Resume/Suspend Data which can cause bookmarking information to be lost, or the course to fail to launch at all. This often requires the Learner to be Re-Enrolled.
  • The name of the zip file, or the names of the folders and files within it are too long. This results in file paths that are too long to be successfully extracted and produces an error. To prevent this issue, please keep file paths in Third Party Course Packages to 130 characters or less.
  • Folder and/or file names contain special characters. These can produce errors when uploading and should be avoided.

 

Mixed Content Error

If you have received a mixed content error when attempting to use third-party content, this refers to an error handled by the browser. This error occurs when third-party content attempts to load content from secure (URLs starting with HTTPS), and non-secure (URLs starting with HTTP) content within a secure Absorb portal utilizing SSL.

To avoid this error message, third-party content will need to be re-authored and published after changing the links to use only HTTPS.

 

SCORM Dispatch Protocol Courses

When we refer to a dispatch protocol, we mean any SCORM course, or course shell that points to content that is hosted in another location. For example, e-learning content sellers use this method to deliver the same course to multiple customers across various platforms. This means that the images/videos/text that is showcased when the course launches is not hosted in Absorb LMS, but somewhere else.

For security purposes, Absorb LMS does not support the usage of dispatch courses/files/protocols:

  • Dispatch package files behave similarly to a malware process known as 'Clickjacking'.
    • Clickjacking is when an end-user is tricked into clicking a hyperlink on a page that redirects them to a different destination than anticipated.
  • Our implementation of the X-FRAME-OPTIONS header is necessary for the protection and security of both our platform and clients. We mitigate clickjacking attacks by ensuring that the LMS cannot be embedded into other sites (which could be malicious by nature).
  • Our implementation of the X-FRAME-OPTIONS header aligns with other SaaS and web-based applications like Google Apps, Office 365, Zendesk, etc.

 

Uploading a SCORM Dispatch Package File

Since a Third Party Course Package that utilizes a dispatch protocol is a type of SCORM, the package can often be imported to Absorb LMS without issue at the time of uploading. This does not mean the course will operate, launch or report as intended.

Dispatch package files include an imsmanifest.xml. This is the file read by Absorb LMS to generate the third-party SCORM lesson. Often a course using a dispatch protocol will not have any of the course content listed in this manifest, and accordingly, the content will fail to launch or be found.

Uploaded Dispatch Courses

Even if a dispatch course package is uploaded to the system, as Absorb does not support the usage of any dispatch protocol, the dispatch content is not expected to work as intended. This may result in lost reporting data, content failing to launch or browser related issues while the course is being used.

 

Identifying a Dispatch Package File

At times you can quickly identify dispatch files by opening the .zip containing the Third Party Course Package. Some course content creators will include a dispatch.html file, which clearly labels the protocol being used when the course is launched.

file.png

Other times, you can open the manifest of the course and you won't see images/videos/text attached as resources for the course to open. Additionally it may be a .html or .htm file which tries to open an external course player. Often, it will be a few files labelled similar to:

  • CourseDriver.html
  • CourseLaunch.html
  • LaunchCourses.JS
  • LocalCoursePlayer.htm

 

Third Party Course Compatibility

Absorb LMS utilizes its own method of handling, hosting and launching Third Party Course Packages. Accordingly, just because a course works in a popular testing medium, does not guarantee the course will work as intended in Absorb LMS.

As an example, if you are using SCORM Cloud to test your course content, this can be a great way to determine if the course is launching, how it sizes to the monitor, what questions/answers are offered and the processes the courses is proceeding through at any given time. This information can be used to inform further testing in Absorb LMS, but does not indicate Absorb LMS will handle the content in exactly the same way.

 

Mobile Compatibility

Given the wide variety of mobile devices in the current market, it is possible that a Learner accessing the LMS from a mobile browser, or similar, may have a different experience then a Learner accessing and launching content from a desktop computer. It is the responsibility of the course content creator to confirm the Third Party Course Package can handle being launched on a mobile device.

Common issues related to mobile device compatibility are as follows:

  • The course does not support multi-touch or touch base interfaces.
  • The course does not size correctly for mobile displays, and loses elements.
  • The course tries to launch in a new tab, or open a browser that doesn't exist. Depending on the mobile device, and browser, a new tab may break connection with the LMS. This relates to background processing and how the mobile device browser maintains cookies/cache across tabs/sessions.
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