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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Continuing Education and Learning Management Systems

One of our colleagues came to me with a particular challenge, and I'm not sure I have a good answer, nor do I know specifically how to go about finding an answer. I'm hoping that readers can weigh in on both aspects: (1) specific thoughts or suggestions on LMS products that might fit and (2) how do you get answers to questions like this?

Continuing Education Requirements

Requirement #1: The LMS needs the ability to apply multiple types of continuing education credits to a single course, have the user select multiple types of credits to obtain and print certificates with the appropriate wording for the desired credit(s).

Use Case:
Becky Bonds is an RN with the responsibility for coding the plan of care in her office. She has acquired HCS-D credentials and must complete continuing education to maintain the certification as well as nursing continuing education for her RN license. The LMS offers courses with both nursing and HCS-D credits. Before completing the course she indicates that she wants to obtain both the nursing credits and the HCS-D credits available on the Assessing and Coding Wounds course. After completion she is notified that she has passed the test and has access to 1 hour of credit for each type. She then prints her certificates.

Requirement #2:
The LMS needs the ability to enter expiration dates and approval codes into the credit records and assign owners to the record. The fields for the dates and codes must be printable on the certificate and the date must be able to trigger an expiration message to the credit owner.

Use Case:
The Assessing and Coding Wounds course was approved for HSC-D credits on April 22, 2010 with an approval code of BMSC-LHC1234 and an expiration date of April 22, 2011. Jennifer is the credit owner for the HCS-D credit and receives a reminder 90 days prior to the expiration date to reapply for another year. She sends off the request to the BMSC and receives the approval for another year with the approval code of BMSC-LHC2345. A new credit is created for the new approval period and applied to the course when the period starts. The old credit is retained with previous completions.

Requirement #3:
The LMS needs the ability to create customized, course specific evaluation/survey assessments that are required to obtain a completed status for the course.

Use Case:
Evaluations are required for the ability to offer nursing continuing education through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Each course with CE nursing credits must have completed, summarizable evaluations for review by the ANCC.

Typical Gap Found

The biggest gap is in the number of credits most LMS products allow on a course. Most of the ones we’ve looked at allow for one credit per course. We need to be able to put multiple credits of varying values on each course. And each of those credits must be tied to an approval code and expiration date. When the credit expires (usually after 1 or 2 years) we need to be able to update the credit. The value usually stays the same, but the approval code changes. However, we need to retain the older credit so that people who took it while it was in force still have access to the approval code for certificates.

The value and approval code (and sometimes the date range for the validity) must be available to print on certificates. We like to be able to have the user print individual certificates based on their need. So they can either pick the certificate by discipline/CE board or it is automatically assigned based on something in their person record. Rather than having one certificate with multiple statements on it for however many credits the course has. Each board has a different statement they like you to put on the certificate.

The other issue centers around offering course materials to field facilitators for them to present locally. But, we have to approve the facilitator before they can access the materials by reviewing a biographical data form (something like a resume) and a conflict of interest signature. It’s basically a workflow where a person in the field requests permission to teach a topic, an admin has to review their credentials against the course requirements and either approve or deny their access. There is other stuff around it too, but most LMS’s have restricted approval processes that go all one way or another (manager approval OR admin approval), not one where I can choose the approval workflow on a course – by – course basis.


Any suggestions on specific LMS products that should be evaluated?

Does customization make sense?

Have you had a similar issue and found a way around it?

Getting Questions Answered

This is probably not the right venue to ask this kind of question, but I couldn't think of any other good way/place to get this question addressed.

In my LinkedIn Guide for Knowledge Workers, I point out several ways that you can search for experts who might help you. But I did a quick search for things like LMS and continuing education and didn't really come up with people who I thought would be able to help.

If you have this kind of question, how would you go about getting help?


Hilarie Sellers said...

Hi Tony, I was just invited to a webinar from Brandon Hall about evaluating LMS products. They have an amazing searchable area on their site - I would suggest starting there. Not sure if that is much help... but that is where I would start.
Have a great day!

Unknown said...

Hi Tony,

Oh my gosh, I feel their pain. We had a similar issue where I work. We provide CPE for our members, who are tax professionals. We ended up going with Absorb Anywhere LMS We needed to provide different CPE credit for the same course, so 8 hours for CPAs and maybe 6 hrs for CFPs, etc. Plus state boards who have different requirements. Anyway, we had some customization done to help with this. Our certificate has multiple CPEs for one course, plus a spot for sponsor numbers that we have to put for certification. Learners don't have the option of customizing their certificates, but each certificate has the various CPE and sponsor #s for that course.

It is not perfect, but we've put in place best practices that help ensure that we get what we need.

Hope that helps.

Paul V said...

Hi Tony,
I didn't realize how lucky we were until I read this posting. I didn't realize that so many other LMS's had such a flaw. We provide healthcare elearning solutions and can relate to the use cases very well.

Granted, we did a bit of tweaking /customizing with out LMS provider, but they fundamentally got this concept right.

In software development terms our LMS did not fall into the trap of making credits an attribute of the test/course. By allowing the CE certificates to stand alone, we can pick which tests and surveys need to be completed and to what level (passing grades etc) for each certificate we create.

This way we can create as many certificates with their own expiry dates and approval numbers, as we want; all pointing to the same evaluations.

Users can also enter their professional associations in their profile, so only the credits assigned to their associations are generated for them.

It doesn't automatically alert owners of expiry dates, but that is a small workaround.

The product we use is Informetica, from a LMS provider out of Thunder Bay Canada; Sencia Canada Ltd.

Hope this was helpful.

AIS Systems

Tony Karrer said...

Hilarie, Laura and Paul - thanks for chiming in. This is very valuable contributions.

Hilarie - not sure if the BH content would drill down to this level of detail, but it does provide a decent starting point to narrow the list.

Laura and Paul - would you be open to talking with the person who has this issue? Seems like you have lots of relevant experience.

Anonymous said...

In addition to Brandon Hall, Craig Weiss of E-Learn Info manages a spreadsheet directory of more than 300 LMSs, with info about their features. In general, he's pretty knowledgeable about what LMS would best fit a specific use case.

I hope you're able to find a good solution!

Matt W said...

We were able to piece together a system to do this using Moodle, MagentoCommerce, and joomla. To hardest part way getting usernames to sync up. For this, we used a joomla pluton called jfusion. You can take a look at our solution at

Claire G said...

Thank you all for the suggestions. We have been looking at the Absorb Anywhere product and it looks promising. I had not heard of Informetica and will definitely pursue that lead.

We are also looking at one called EthosCE which is targeted towards health care. Has anyone worked with this vendor?

Laura and Paul, I would love to hear about your systems and the good and bad about them.


Nathan said...

Hmmm the only thing I could think off the top of my head would be talking to a Moodle/PhP developer and creating some custom plugins. I am sure that it would be the same price or equal to a existing commercial product. However, you would really need to find a developer that understood clearly what the customer wanted, have this documented to make sure a little project does not become an expensive problem... that's my 2 cents worth

Unknown said...

The Utah Dept. of Ed. is using OnTrack from TrueNorth Logic. I think it might meet your needs. I'm not crazy about the user interface for administrators but it has a lot of the features you are looking for.

Jaime said...

definitely a good question and something i've wondered myself... I think Laurie and Paul's input is pretty eye-opening

Matt said...

We have this issue and it is tricky. To manage this we are just putting together a custom transcript solution on top of Moodle.

Ezra Wolfe said...

Just coming across this old thread, but EthosCE LMS ( provides most of these features out of the box. It's designed specifically for CE, so these are common requirements from our clients.