SCORM is a descendent of ADL - the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative - started by the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Labor, the White House office of Science and Technology and others in 1997. Before ADL, distance learning was facilitated by proprietary Learning Management Systems, or LMS's. The goal of ADL was to establish a standard system so that data could be exchanged between systems and content could be leverage to a greater degree, etc. SCORM is broader than ADL and attempts to standardize a number of technologies required to facilitate distance learning.
SCORM consists of three parts:
The Content aggregation model describes the XML vocabulary used in SCORM. The meta data consists of what the content is, who owns it, what it cost, the technical requirements, educational goals, etc. Packaging consists of "zipping" all of the relevant files together with an XML manifest that describes all the contents and their relationship to each other.
The runtime environment includes an API and a Data Model. The runtime environment is mainly concerned with tracking the learners and reporting back their progress.
With the continued rapid growth and acceptance of distance learning programs SCORM is bound to increase in importance and relevance well into the future.