In elearning, you might hear about published files and source files. Here is a really simple explanation.
Source files are the files that are created by the program that is used to develop the course (sometimes called authoring tools). They can only be opened and changed by the same program that created them. For example, Articulate Storyline produces files that have the file extension .story and Adobe Captivate produces files that have the extension .cptx. Storyline cannot open a Captivate file and vice versa.
Published files are also created by the elearning programs in a standard format such as SCORM or xAPI. A published file is usually a zip file and if you open it, it will look similar regardless of what program was used to create it. Published files are run on an LMS (Learning Management System). So, it usually won’t matter which program has created the file, it will still run on most LMSs.
Why should you care? Because if you don’t have the source files, you can’t update anything. So, if you are working with a contractor or a developer, even if you don’t think you will ever do any of the development work yourself, make sure you get the source files. If you ever change developers or a contractor leaves and you don’t have the source file, you will have to recreate the entire file if you want to update or change it.