Common Cartridge® is a set of open standards developed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium® to enable strict interoperability between content and systems. The standard is flexible in type of the digital content that is supported and where the content can live. The goal of Common Cartridge is to provide a format for packing educational content that can be used across different learning applications. This reduces the cost and time needed to develop content that can be integrated into different systems and makes more digital content readily available for schools to adopt, regardless of which systems they use.

The Common Cartridge Standard

The most recent version of Common Cartridge (CC v1.3) was released in July, 2013. The standard is designed so that a Common Cartridge compliant application, such as a learning management system (LMS), can properly import any file that is stored in a previous version (i.e. CC v1.0, CC v1.1, or CC v1.2). A Common Cartridge file contains features such as a manifest file, metadata, Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) links, Web links, embedded filed and content, and question data.

Manifest File
The manifest file describes the content contained in the cartridge. For example, the manifest file tells the Common Cartridge compliant application which version of Common Cartridge is being used to package the contents. The components that make up the manifest may be in the package or external to the package.

A common cartridge file contains data about the content, links, and roles contained within the packaged. The metadata can be in the IMS Learning Object Metadata (LOM) schema or any other metadata schema. Curriculum standards that are attributed to specific content or links packaged in the file can also be included in the LOM.

LTI and Web Links
A Common Cartridge file can contain LTI launch links and links to external web pages. The standard allows for data to be exchanged between externally linked applications and the learning system. LTI links can also be used as a method of authorizing users so that they can access remote content securely.

Content and Embedded Files
The package can contain several pieces of multimedia content. This can include web content in an HTML format and common file types, such as PDFs, EPub textbooks, videos, and text documents.

A Common Cartridge package can contain tests, assessments, and question banks that are formatted using the IMS Question and Test Interoperability® (QTI®) and Accessible Portable Item Protocol® (APIP®) standard. The standard allows for multiple choice (single and multiple response), true/false, essay, fill in the blank, and pattern matching question types.

Once the Common Cartridge package is uploaded into a Common Cartridge compliant learning system, the content contained within the file should be accessible according to how the file was packaged. For example, questions contained within the Common Cartridge file should now appear as questions the learning system's interface. Similarly, applications that are launched via an LTI link contained within the package will appear within the learning system.

Thin Common Cartridge

Thin Common Cartridge is a profile within the Common Cartridge v1.2 and v1.3 specifications. A thin common cartridge restricts the types of objects that can be included and is limited to LTI links, web links, and metadata. The Thin Common Cartridge standard addresses the needs of consumers who need searchable content accessible within a learning object repository or LMS. As opposed to a thick common cartridge (where all of the content is bundled into a package, the Thin CC profile allows users to access a publisher's content that is contained externally and accessed via LTI. This allows for rapid deployment of a publisher's content within a learning system since only the LTI links that are used to access external content need to be packaged, as opposed to packaging all pieces of content (as is done in a thick Common Cartridge file). For more information about LTI, please see our article on LTI Advantage.

Common Cartridge®, Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®), Question and Test Interoperability® (QTI®), and Accessible Portable Item Protocol® (APIP®) are trademarks of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. (