Tips and Tricks: Secrets to Adobe Captivate & SCORM-Compliant Learning Management System Integration

By Brian Kleeman

Update: August 2016 – This article has been updated to reflect changes made in newer versions of Captivate.

View the Update

Overview

Until recently, anyone who wanted to author SCORM-compliant content had few choices. Not many authoring programs existed and the technical knowledge to create compliant content was and, in fact, still is beyond the reach of most training developers. Now there are many affordable, easy to use content authoring programs to create SCORM-compliant content that can be deployed to learning management systems (LMS). Adobe, a leader in the multimedia authoring and programming industry, has recently thrown their hat into the ring and released Adobe Captivate – a SCORM-compliant authoring tool that includes screen capture, simulation, automated testing and more.

ICS Learning Group was a beta-test facility for Adobe Captivate and has an ongoing dialogue with Adobe representatives discussing how to improve Captivate and its LMS integration with relation to SCORM-compliance. Our Inquisiq R3 Learning Management System is also featured in Essentials of Adobe Captivate from IconLogic and underwent extensive testing with Captivate lessons in preparation for the book’s release.

Adobe Captivate and LMS Integration

When exporting content from Adobe Captivate, you have the option of making your package SCORM 1.2 Compliant. Specifics of the SCORM specification could fill an entire book (in fact, it does!), so let’s just say that SCORM defines what must be included in a content package (certain files which contain certain information in a certain format) and the methods that the content package must use to communicate information (student name, score, etc.) to and from the LMS. The idea is that content authoring programs and learning management systems would all be programmed to comply with the spec and therefore be compatible with each other. Unfortunately, reality has not lived up to the vision.

The SCORM 1.2 specification is long, open to some interpretation and not always logical. Developers have had to make some assumptions and, at the same time, had to predict and hope that other developers made the same assumptions! Our experience with the workings of Adobe Captivate and the development or our own SCORM-compliant LMS has given us some insight to help you get the most out of Adobe Captivate and your LMS – even if it’s not our LMS! Note that we are only focusing on SCORM 1.2. The SCORM 1.3 specification was recently released, however most learning management systems and authoring tools, even those recently released, still support SCORM 1.2 and rightfully so.

Making Sure Your Captivate Lesson is Compliant

Problem #1:

I’ll get right into it here. If you export a Captivate package that does not have any graded questions in it, it will not be SCORM-compliant. I don’t mean that it just won’t track because it has no grade to send; I mean it is not compliant. In tracing method calls from Captivate lessons, we’ve found that a lesson with no questions will not make the required call to the LMS to initialize itself upon startup. It will make the finalize call upon exit, however any compliant LMS will throw back an error when this happens. The spec dictates that a content package must initialize itself before it can finalize itself. Makes sense, right?

A tangential problem to this is that a lesson with no questions (even if the correct initialize and finalize calls are made) has no way to tell when it’s been completed, so it does not send that information to the LMS either. This secondary problem is not an issue of compliance as the SCORM specification does not require this information to be sent, but more an issue of usability. What’s the point of making a SCORM-compliant lesson and loading it into an LMS if you never find out when your users have completed it?

How do newer versions of Captivate address this problem?

View the Update

The Solution:

The resolution to both these problems is easy – just make sure that you have a graded interaction in your lesson. It can be an interaction that is actually presented as such or even a button or hot spot that you are sure your users will click while viewing the lesson. The possibilities here are endless, so be sure to test your solution, but the bottom line is that there needs to at least one graded interaction in your lesson.

Passing the Proper Lesson Status Value

quiz-manager

Problem #2:

Adobe Captivate lets you choose whether to report ‘pass/fail’ or ‘complete/incomplete’ values for lesson status, but this is not an arbitrary choice. The spec dictates that this shall be determined by the lesson after querying the LMS and deciding based upon the response it receives.

When publishing with Captivate, if you select complete/incomplete, and the user fails or fails to finish the lesson, the value of ‘incomplete’ will be reported to the LMS. In the event that the user completes or passes the lesson, the value of ‘complete’ will be reported to the LMS. Likewise, if you select pass/fail, then the value of ‘pass’ will be used instead of ‘complete’ and the value of ‘fail’ will be used instead of ‘incomplete’.

Additionally, Captivate lessons never query the LMS for the value of ‘credit’, which is the element that the lesson should be using to determine whether to use ‘complete/incomplete’ or ‘pass/fail’.

How do newer versions of Captivate address this problem?

View the Update

The Solution:

Solving this problem may or may not even be necessary – it’s a rather minor issue. The best thing to do is make sure that you coordinate the credit setting you use in the LMS with the lesson status value you select here. Lessons that are for credit should use ‘pass/fail’ and lessons that are not for credit should use ‘complete/incomplete’. However, one thing to note, and this takes us indirectly to Problem #3 and beyond, is that the spec dictates that the LMS reevaluate the score and change this value if you have set a mastery score. We’ll come back to this when we get to Problem #4.

Passing Score In The Proper Format

Problem #3

The ‘Publish’ interface in Adobe Captivate lets you choose whether to report score as a raw value or as a percentage while the spec dictates that this value must be ‘normalized between 0 and 100′ (meaning it must be a percentage score). When you choose to report this value as a raw score, your lesson is not compliant.

Adobe tells us that they put this option for a very specific reason. The spec defines 3 values relating to score and all shall be normalized between 0 and 100 – minimum score, maximum score and what they call raw score (oddly enough, the spec calls it ‘raw score’ and at the same time dictates that it be normalized – no wonder everyone is confused!). Logically, since they are required to be normalized between 0 and 100, minimum score would always be 0 and maximum score would always be 100 so why even use them? Because of this confusion, Adobe decided to allow the content author to decide whether to report score as raw or normalized.

The problem occurs when you choose to report score as raw and then load your content into an LMS that has been implemented according to the SCORM spec because it will expect to receive score normalized. Confusion ensues!

Scenario:

You create a Captivate lesson and choose to report score as a raw value. Your lesson has 5 questions and your user gets them all correct. Your lesson is going to report ’5′ as the score and a compliant LMS is going to interpret this as 5%. Of course, your lesson should also report a lesson status of ‘complete’ or ‘passed’ (see problem #2) which will truly confuse your user when they look at their stats and see that they passed/completed a lesson with a score of only 5%!

How do newer versions of Captivate address this problem?

View the Update

The Solution:

This is an easy one. Unless you are certain that your LMS implements score as a raw value, always select ‘percentage’ to ensure that your lesson is compliant.

Tying It All Together

manifest

Problem #4

Take a deep breath, because problem #4 might get a little confusing. The SCORM specification instructs the LMS to change the lesson status (the same value discussed in problem #2) when certain conditions apply. When this happens, the LMS shall use the score to decide how to change the lesson status value. If you remember though, from problem #3, you may be reporting score as a non-compliant raw value, so the LMS may change the lesson status based on bad information.

To get a better understanding of this, let’s introduce mastery score. You set the mastery score by clicking the ‘Manifest’ button on the Publish Interface. mastery score is value stored in the manifest file that is included in the content package you load into the LMS. The LMS reads this value and stores it with the lesson. If you notice, Captivate instructs that this value should be between 0 and 100, or normalized.

Now the SCORM specification instructs the LMS that if mastery score is set, the lesson is being taken for credit and the lesson status is not ‘incomplete’, the LMS shall change the lesson status to the appropriate value (complete, incomplete, pass or fail) by comparing the score reported from the lesson and the mastery score that is defined in the manifest. This occurs even if the lesson has already passed a value for lesson status.

The first thing to notice is that you probably should set the mastery score to the same value that you set passing score. That way, if the LMS re-evaluates the lesson status, it will use the same value as the passing score that the lesson itself does.

Now let’s refer back to Problem #3. You had the option of reporting score as a raw value. If you chose that option, when the LMS performs this re-evaluation of lesson status, it is going to compare a raw score to the normalized mastery score. Since one value is normalized and the other is not, it should be clear that you will have some unexpected results from this.

Scenario:

You create a Captivate lesson with 20 questions. You choose to report score as a raw value (non-complaint per Problem #3, but Captivate lets you do it), choose to use ‘pass/fail’ for lesson status, enter a mastery score of 80% and enter a passing score of 80%. Your user gets 17 questions correct.

When the lesson finalizes, the lesson reports ‘pass’ to the LMS for lesson status and ’17′ for score. Everything looks good until the LMS sees that there is a mastery score and therefore it must re-evaluate the lesson status. The LMS looks at score (’17′) and sees that it is less than mastery score (’80′), so it changes lesson status to ‘fail’. In fact, a lesson created with these settings will always have its lesson status re-evaluated to ‘fail’ by the LMS because even a perfect raw score (’20′) will always be less than the mastery score (’80′).

The root of the problem is that Captivate prompts you to enter mastery score normalized, but gives you the option to report score as a raw value. They need to be on the same scale for the re-evaluation by the LMS to work properly.

How do newer versions of Captivate address this problem?

View the Update

The Solutions:

#1: Don’t enter a mastery score. By doing this, the LMS will not re-evaluate the lesson status and you avoid the problem altogether. But don’t forget about Problem #3 and its solution.

#2: Make sure that mastery score and score are both normalized by choosing to report score as a ‘percentage.’ You’ll notice that this is also the solution to Problem #3. If you have confirmed that your LMS expects to receive score as raw, then use Solution #3.

#3: If you must report score as a raw value, then be sure to enter a raw value for mastery score. In our scenario, instead of entering ’80′ for mastery score, you would enter ’17′. That way, when the LMS re-evaluates lesson status, both score and mastery score are on the same scale and the calculation is done correctly. While technically incorrect since the spec dictates that mastery score be normalized, we won’t worry about it because you’d only use this solution in the case that your LMS is also non-compliant because it’s expecting raw values for score. It’s a workaround.

Summary

We’ve seen that Adobe Captivate provides a robust solution for quickly developing online training solutions. But let’s not forget that we need to be mindful of the implementation of the SCORM specification by the LMS and how it’s going to react to our Captivate lessons.

Review the problems and their solutions and you can be sure that your Captivate lessons are going to comply with SCORM 1.2 and function properly when loaded into a SCORM 1.2-compliant learning management system.

For more information on ICS Learning Group or how we can help you develop and integrate your online training program, visit us on the web http://www.icslearninggroup.com or call toll-free 877-427-4770.

Update

Adobe Captivate is one of the original SCORM-compliant authoring tools and has never been easier to use– the software is incredibly dynamic allowing you to create professional-looking eLearning content, from storyboarding to responsive design and everything in between. With the latest release of Adobe Captivate in August 2015, we felt it was time to update this Tips and Tricks whitepaper to reflect the improvements that Adobe has made to this cornerstone product. NOTE: All testing for this update was performed in Captivate 8.

Problem #1

If you don’t include graded questions in your Captivate project, it won’t make the required SCORM “Initialize” and “Finalize” calls.

This has been completely corrected. Adobe Captivate will properly initialize and finalize non-quiz projects published in both SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004.

Problem #2

Captivate communicates complete/passed lesson status based on project configuration rather than LMS credit values.

With the advent of SCORM 2004, complete/incomplete and pass/fail values are no longer an “either/or” option and can be used simultaneously with the “completion status” and “success status” parameters. Additionally, Captivate now provides a greatly expanded set of options in both SCORM 1.2 and 2004 settings for you to dictate criteria for these completion and success values such that virtually any need can be met. While we still do not see Captivate querying the LMS for “credit” configuration, by using SCORM 2004 publish settings (which we recommend in all cases) and the options that go with it, we see this as a non-issue – you now have complete control over how your lesson behaves with these options.

Problem #3

Reporting raw quiz scores can create confusion.

The new SCORM 2004 publish setting in Captivate do not contain the “raw” score option, so this problem only relates to SCORM 1.2 settings. Note also that Captivate now labels this option as “points” instead of “raw”. When selected, the score is still reported as a raw score, however Captivate will now also report the minimum and maximum score to the LMS. With this data, your LMS should be able to convert the raw score into a percentage so both option (“percentage” or “points”) can be used without worry. If your LMS doesn’t do this calculation correctly, and you still must use SCORM 1.2 publish settings, then we would still recommend selecting the “percentage” option. But again, using the SCORM 2004 publish setting avoids the issue all together and remains our first recommendation.

Problem #4

Mastery Score settings can create “un-passable” quizzes if not configured correctly with the previous options.

Later versions of Captivate have completely removed the use of Mastery Score and replaced it with “Pass/Fail Options” which now uses internal code to determine the success status of the lesson rather than the SCORM-dictated logic that came with Mastery Score. This avoids the original problem altogether, so the short answer is that this problem has been completely remedied.
The long answer also, however, should include the fact that in their internal logic, Captivate is correctly accounting for the “percentage or points” score option discussed earlier as well as giving you the option to specify the pass/fail limit as either percentage or points itself. Whichever combination of options you use in both SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004 publish settings, everything is reported and calculated properly.

Important Note (SCORM 1.2 only)! – because the root of the original issue related to the use of a percentage Mastery Score in conjunction with a raw lesson score, if your LMS allows you to specify or modify Mastery Scores, you may re-introduce the original problem by doing so. Therefore, if you modify Mastery Score from within the LMS you should, as was the case with the original solution, ensure that you are specifying a Mastery Score using the same scale (percentage or raw) that you have chosen in the Publish Settings.

Conclusion
No matter how polished your online training solution is, it’s invaluable to understand how SCORM works so that you can develop your content to achieve the progress and reporting goals that you’re looking for. In that regard, we hope that this, and other resources that we provide, can help you achieve those goals.
ICS Learning Group, creators of Inquisiq LMS, has years of experience and our training developers would be happy to offer a consultation to help you develop and integrate your online training program. Reach out at any time – we’d love to hear from you!

Have any Questions? Drop us a line!

Send Message

Inquisiq LMS | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | © 2016