Thinking Cap Blog

Why did the LMS mark this student as Failed when he got 100%? Spoiler alert… we didn’t.

Posted: 2020-08-17

Once upon a time there was a vison for LMSs managing the journey through course materials. There was an idea of Courses as collections of Shareable Content Objects (SCOs) with rules around each SCO where how you performed in a SCO would determine your next step. It allowed for defining remediation paths, it let you set Objectives… it was great. It was designed by Instructional Designers for Instructional Designers. And the entire eLearning Authoring tool world ignored it.

Authoring tool manufacturers don’t trust the LMSs people put the packages in. The idea of supporting the small variations of interpretation made by all the LMS vendors and the resulting “he said, she said” that would come by relying on an LMS to interpret your sequencing rules correctly…. Well, it was too big an ask. Add to this that very few of their customers wanted to learn Sequencing or to design their SCOs for reuse and you can see why we live in a world of Single SCO courses.

At the end of the day the LMS does what it is told.

This didn’t mean they didn’t want all the bells and whistles. Authoring tools still offered sequence control between the pages and chapters in the course you create, and some might even let you manage objectives and interactions. But control over how a leaner moves through this content is 100% controlled by the course itself. The course keeps track of you across visits by writing a number of values back to the LMS. Some we can read and understand like Completion and Success and Score. But most of the good stuff is hidden inside “Suspend Data” and it is proprietary to the Course Authoring tool and often obfuscated to hide what is going on.

With nearly 20 years in this business, I can tell you it is very common that they didn’t think out all the possible interactions of where a leaner is in the course with what their current status is. For instance, we see users who launch the course and are taken to the last page and told congratulations you have completed and the message sent to the LMS is “Incomplete” or the user got a failing grade then improved it and the Course sends the LMS the new grade but never updates “Failed” to “Passed”. I also have seen customers irate because the course report does not tell them how many people got question 3 wrong because the course never sent the LMS any interaction information.

Sometimes it isn’t bad Authoring tools so much as the tool giving the Author enough rope to hang themselves. Often, I’ve seen the Author has not taken into account that they gave the Learner a way to skip a page they defined as required but never gave them a way to get back to it once skipped. Most of these issues can be fixed by making a few small adjustments to the rules in the tool or by sending Suspend Data examples to the Support team of the Authoring tool.

At the end of the day the LMS does what it is told. As an Administrator learn how to read the SCORM API Log we provide. We can do a whole Post on just what do they all mean but for our purposes you are looking for these three: cmi.completion_status, cmi.success_status cmi.score.scaled. These three control the Completion Status, Success and Score for a learner and none are defined by the LMS.