Multiple SCO usage in the real world. Is it worth it?

Apr 20, 2015

I've been engaged in a discussion lately about the pros and cons of delivering courses in a multiple SCO (Sharable Content Object) environment. This methodology is listed as part of the SCORM best practices. We often maintain multiple versions of the same course, each with minor customizations to one or two lessons. While I can see the advantage of having each "lesson" or SCO being separated from the built-in course menu in Storyline, I can help but think there might be other issues that will arise. 

Besides reusability of content, are there any other benefits that would make this worthwhile?

Has anyone implemented multi-SCO and if so what were your experiences?

Is this just something that sounds good on paper but when you get right down to it the process is rife with technical challenges?

Thanks for your input.

7 Replies
Bob S


It's awesome in theory.... but my experience is that it often turns out to fall apart long term.  Sort of like LCMS's, right? Cool idea but for most situations overkill.

I've tried both over the years with several companies and the results are fairly consistent. Here's why I believe that has been the case...

  1. The sheer "pace" of business today means rapid development is often a defacto standard.  Setting this kind of building block approach up takes longer initially.
  2. Business leaders, imperatives, needs change quite rapidly today. As a result, far more content is perishable than in year's past. As a result, it's often more practical to re-author the course than changing multiple lessons and trying to reintegrate.
  3. Training teams (actually all employee types) are less stable today and continuity can be challenging. So companies often wind up with a collection of complete courses authored at different times with different slants rather than continuing to support an approach put in place by the person who was here before the last person that was here.
  4. The skill level and process discipline required is higher than a closed end course approach. Similarly, it's simpler to contract out for a packaged course than it is to maintain and integrate new SCOs or content objects.

All that being said, have I seen it work?  Yup.   But it tends to be best utilized by very large organizations, that change more slowly, and also have a need to reuse a high percentage of content across multiple learner groups.   The US Navy is often a classic example of such an organization that I believe still utilizes an LCMS /multiple SCO approach.

But please don't let me deter you!  My experiences are just that, mine. And others may have had much more success in deploying and maintaining such an approach.  I would love to hear that side of the story as well.

Hope this helps and good luck.



PS: One exception I have seen implemented to good effect.... If your LMS allows you (and the learner) to easily implement stand alone "lessons" (each actually their own full package) into a larger course bundle, and also combine lesson types such as stand alone videos etc; this type of approach can work quite well. Especially if the LMS allows you to specify order and or select X-out-of-Y type lesson completion requirements for the course.



Mark Cairns

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your valuable feedback!

We have a proprietary LMS that doesn't currently allow us to reuse lessons (SCO's) that are common across custom versions of a specific course. So, let's say we have a generic compliance course, but a client wants the intro to be customized and the rest of the course left as is. We duplicate the course and swap out the intro. Simple enough. However, if we need to update a lesson that is part of the base course content, we then need to upload that lesson to the generic version, as well as all of the custom versions. This could be 10 or 15 different versions depending on the number of clients. It's manageable but a pain.

I should note that we have a custom Flash-based Course Player that pulls all of these lessons in and creates a menu and navigation.

Here's the thing. All of these lessons have been authored in Flash and each lesson is contained within its own file, which is helpful. However, we are thinking of moving the authoring of our courses to Storyline. The benefits of rapid development as well HTML5 output is the main driver here. 

So when we reauthor all of the courses we will lose the common course player as well as the separation of lessons as individual files. It's a bit of a dilemma.

One option I was thinking of was having the master or base storyline course in the main scene with client customizations in different scenes. I would add the custom client slides to the main scene where required and publish. If a change or update was needed to either the base content or custom content I would swap in or out the content and re-publish.

Not ideal, but at least everything is contained within one .story file.

If the clients would just be satisfied with the generic version I would be very happy. :)


Kind Regards,

Bob S

Hi Mark,

Couple of random thoughts...

1) The advantage of an easy authoring tool like Storyline is exactly as you mention; easy republishing as needed.  So it would in fact be much faster to republish multiple versions than it would be today... should you decide to stay that course.

2) Not sure what your LMS's capabilities are, but instead of thinking SCOs, perhaps consider the "main" content as a stand alone lesson  (ie complete package in and of itself).  While the terminology changes, many LMSs have the ability to "bundle" lessons/courses into a larger canister somehow. It just might be that you have to think of the intro and the main as two courses that are somehow packaged by the LMS into it's largest canister. Make sense?

3) Another option might sound crazy at first, but I've seen it work wonderfully....  Publish one course, period. But have it start with a classy, if generic, landing page,  then branching from there for each client group.  Again depending on your LMS, this can be dynamic via log in credentials, or just encoded in the course where the learner selects (picture, drop down, etc) which company they are from, name, etc on the landing page. From there the experience can be tweaked as needed both for the intro portion.... and in small ways throughout the course via variables!    In that way, it would appear to be a true "customized" course for each client.
Only you will know you that it's just single course to author and maintain.   ;0

Hope these ramblings help and good luck.

Mervyn Finch

Hi there, Mark. I've been using my own LCMS (Course We Can Constructor) for many years and as long as you develop each SCO/RLO as a teaching subject/lesson and it can either standalone, or be reused in other courses then it works, believe me. I've been working for a company that purchased the CWCC six years ago and all their instructors and developers couldn't work without it now. Because it  can be used with PowerPoint and Word they use it not only for course creation and management, but for slide presentations and documentation creation.

If the technology or subject is constantly changing, then editing the one lesson or object ensures that all occurrences of this item are reflected throughout the other courses. A good system of notification of change is important so that courses having the reuse object are republished to reflect the new changes. 

Many years ago when the rlo/sco idea was banded about, I was told that "think of it, we could create something as simple as a single sentence and reuse it". I thought, "Yeah, and who's going to catalog and remember all these objects?" That's when I thought, maybe not so granular, but keep it at a feature, subject matter or lesson level, then it might work. And it does, believe me.

I may not have convinced you yet, but I'm willing to demonstrate how it can work. Cheers. Merv

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