Learning Management System Compliance

A very common scenario that any learning management system (LMS) vendors experience is, “A potential client reaches their exhibition booth and asks, “Is your LMS complies with regulatory standards?”

The answer is not very simple.

The worry with compliance is that it is driven by laws and regulations, which require specific training. The desire of companies is to avoid liabilities, business objectives implementation, reduction of paperwork.

To understand the topic thoroughly, we have to differentiate between the ability to track compliance in a number of areas and as a piece of software, a learning management system should be compliant with certain standards and regulations. It is crucial to understand that laws and regulations are explicit to individual countries or states, and will vary widely from one jurisdiction to another.

The below definitions and examples are drawn from the United States and Canada but there will be similar issues in the regulation of other countries as well.

Below are main compliance issues that a learning management system vendor needs to consider:

Accessibility standards – In the United States, accessibility regulations come under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘794d) of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act. These standards follow the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. LMS adhering to these standards will help to increase the user base.

Regulatory compliance tracking – LMSs are basically large databases and are often questioned to track regulatory compliance with specific government regulation.

Example: In United States, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are included.

In Canada, the requirements of training for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHIMIS) are at times tracked by an LMS.

Security standards – Many organizations require secured systems to store personal information. This is true in the medical field but can apply in other areas as well.

These requirements will include

  • maintenance of audit trails,
  • deployment of completely closed systems,
  • usage of digital signatures, such as the US Federal Drug Administration regulation FDA 21 CFR Part 11 for the medical, biotech, and pharmaceutical industries,
  • use of high degrees of encryption for groups such as the banking industry.

Interoperability standards – One of the most basic demands of LMS users is the interoperability of courses developed by different developers in the same LMS. It led to the development of one of the first set of LMS standards like those of the Aircraft Industry CBT Committee (AICC). In 1997, the IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC), a non-profit organization keen in setting stipulations and standards for the learning industry, was formed. It issued many sets of specifications since that date. In the same year the announcement of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative of the US Department of Defence. ADL developed the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and the ADL Registry of SCORM compliant software. LMS vendors are well aware of both AICC and SCORM, and generally are compliant with both standards.

However, most LMS implementations don’t work well with these standards and often require a period of adjustment and tuning to make them work seamlessly.

Tracking training for certification – There are many regulatory compliances for training in specific industries, where employees are required to be certified before being employed and require to be recertified on a regular basis. Many LMSs track certification and will trigger automatic alerts as the date for recertification approaches. This need can be driven by legislation or by standards imposed by a specific industry or company.

Tracking training for liability reduction – Training can aid reduce the liability for employers in controversial areas. Courses or educational materials on such things, such as sexual harassment, or employment discrimination; might be much less expensive to provide than a settling of lawsuits in case of disputes.

Reduction in paperwork – In conclusion, a fully functional LMS will have features that reduce workload and paperwork for compliance management. Such features include auto-enrolment in compliance training based on job, automated alerts to managers and workers on failure to complete compliance training, assessment and evaluation of the training, certificate issue on training completion, and many other configurations for tracking and reporting in this area.

So the answers to questions on compliance and learning management systems are not simple and are multidimensional.

Hopefully, this article will help you to sort out what you need in this area.

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