March 17, 2003

Making the Grade with e-Learning--How e-Learning Can Facilitate RapidCompliance

As the government pays closer attention to the way America does business, corporations are being held more accountable for the accessibility of their organizations' information. Increasing amounts of new regulations and federal mandates, such as the USA Patriot Act, are demanding that companies revamp their current processes and systems to address escalating concern over national security. Failure to meet the deadlines for compliance may lead to severe penalties -- such as heavy fines and even the suspension of practice licenses.

Coupled with this increase in legislation is the growing complexity and girth of the global organization. These organizations not only have to adapt current systems and processes to meet these new regulations, but they face a challenge in having to quickly educate their often large and geographically-dispersed workforce on the complex changes as well.

Training-A Top Priority

Without a doubt, training is essential in meeting compliance; it can even help a company achieve compliance more quickly. But for organizations with a widespread workforce, the costs incurred in flying employees to a traditional classroom-based training session become a difficult budgetary burden. Furthermore, pulling employees from current job responsibilities can hugely interfere with the everyday business of the company.

So how can a growing enterprise respond quickly to shifts in the regulatory landscape? Online training is one effective way to meet compliance rapidly and cost-effectively. Many organizations facing compliance issues have taken a blended approach to training, whereby employees are provided both face-to-face and virtual training. It's a strategy that allows organizations to save money, while not overlooking the special needs and requirements of its employees.

Patriot Act Accountability

The financial services sector has identified opportunities where an effective e-learning strategy can be used to achieve compliance. The USA Patriot Act -- a body of new federal security and surveillance regulations passed on October 26, 2001 -- holds financial institutions more accountable for the tracking of large deposits and international transfers. With new provisions to this act scheduled for release in January 2003, financial institutions can expect to have only six to eight months to educate their workforce and ensure employee competency.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) -- a Wisconsin-based, not-for-profit trade association serving America's credit unions -- is planning to use e-learning to train approximately 10,000 credit unions on these new revisions. CUNA already utilizes e-learning to offer virtual classroom training on a wide variety of topics such as lending and collections, and finance and management.

CUNA's compliance strategy includes conducting a webinar to train all participating credit unions across the US on the USA Patriot Act revisions. The webinar will allow CUNA to develop and change content on extremely short notice and provide participants with access to the experts -- discussing legislation and asking questions both verbally and online to representatives from the Department of Treasury and National Credit Union Association (NCUA).

Like CUNA, organizations across all industries continue to rapidly adopt e-learning strategies to meet compliance with increased speed and efficiency. By streamlining educational content, reducing travel costs and allowing organizations to more quickly implement training programs, e-learning is emerging as the most effective solution to educate employees in meeting regulatory compliance as well as keeping them abreast of general industry changes.

About Margaret Driscoll

Margaret Driscoll, Ph.D., is director of strategic ventures for IBM Lotus e-Learning Solutions. She is the author of "Web-Based Training" from Jossey-Bass and a featured speaker at national and international training events.