Under the Hood of Complex CEU Management

Complex CEU - What should continuing education providers understand about systems that support learning programs? Independent learning tech analyst John Leh explains

In a recent post, Intro to Continuing Education and the Admin Nightmare, I started exploring the world of complex continuing education management and the associated administrative challenges for both learners and organizations. My point in looking at how organizations manage complex continuing education is to help buyers of an LMS understand what to look for if they are tasked with delivering and tracking professional continuing education in multifaceted industries like financial, healthcare and legal.

Why focus on these industries?  They are the biggest and as it turns out they have some of the most sophisticated requirements and administrative challenges.  They don’t have an oligopoly on the CEU frustration though – there is plenty to spread around in many industries.

Mainly, if there is no national or global standard on credit requirements, continuing education is governed by states, provinces or other local jurisdictions.  If organizations have employees that are licensed in multiple jurisdictions, they must adhere to the standards of all and so must their accredited training.


Managing all this gets complicated in a hurry for everyone involved including organizations managing, providing or consuming continuing education.  Here are some key requirements that vary certification to certification and jurisdiction to jurisdiction that cause all the administrative problems:

  • Value of seat hour of instruction
  • Amount and type(s) of credits needed to maintain a certification
  • Length of certification period
  • Deadline to report continuing education
  • Where and how to report continuing education achievement
  • Categories or types of credit needed
  • Approved content formats

With each incremental accrediting jurisdiction the problem compounds and becomes so complicated that many organizations can’t use a commercially available LMS to manage CEUs but rather are forced to cobble together spreadsheets, home-grown custom systems, specialized commercial CE trackers and manual processes to bridge the gap, connect the data and ensure compliance.  Today there are more than 600 LMSs to choose from yet few are capable of managing complex CEUs.

With multiple systems (the LMS and the other system(s) and business processes) the administration, cost and headaches mount.  The disparate systems mandate manual intervention, integration or both.  It also is typically up to the learners to find their way to different systems for different aspects of training, certification and CE administration causing frustration, support calls and overall decreases in efficiency.

What Learning Leaders Say About CEU Management Challenges

We interviewed multiple professionals in banking, healthcare and accounting – all of whom are responsible for delivering and tracking complex CEUs.  Here are snippets from those conversations, revealing the challenges they face:

Accounting CEUs

“Our current LMS allows us to build a calendar and register people for requirements; that’s it,” says Jason McKeever, director of Training and Development for Eide Bailly LLP, a top-ranked accounting firm. “We can’t build, assign learning paths.”

The accounting industry’s accrediting bodies have decided there are six layers, or progressions an accountant can take. If an accountant is at the first progression, he or she may need to acquire 12 to 15 competencies to progress to layer six, where the accountant may ultimately need up to 35 competencies.

“We want to be more strategic about competency development,” McKeever adds. “We want to tie learning to competency and provide accountants the skills and knowledge they need to know.”

Healthcare CEUs

Among medical training providers, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education’s (ACCME) Program and Activity Reporting System (PARS) is a primary conduit for continuing medical education (CME) tracking. PARS, according to the ACCME, is a web-based portal designed to streamline and support the collection of program and activity data from accredited CME providers.

“I have to report to PARS on a yearly basis,” says Alicia M. Blodgett, director of Continuing Medical Education, University at Buffalo School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “By March 30 of every year, every CME activity I’ve certified for the year goes to ACCME through PARS.”

Blodgett added, “We also use CME Tracker, a system to get CME transcripts and record CME credits.”

“Our biggest challenge with CME is being completely integrated,” says the CME director of a West Coast hospital system. “Making sure everything flows from one part of our process to the other and not duplicating activities. CME is a very labor-intensive process.”

The West Coast CME director said she doesn’t employ an LMS for delivering and tracking CME, which can include:  seminars; courses; Grand Rounds, the walkabouts on a hospital floor that staff conduct to share information; webinars and more. Rather, the hospital relies on a combination of spreadsheets, which are used for input to PARS. The assistant chief of staff at this West Coast hospital adds, “For physicians in private practice, they would track CME on their own.”

The hospital does tap its LMS to ensure staff have taken and acknowledge understanding regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Banking CEUs

“We have 2.5 FTEs working on licensing our employees who handle the sale of insurance and securities,” says a vice president of administration for a top U.S. bank. “As we onboard a salesperson or branch manager, we register them from an insurance and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc (FINRA) perspective. For FINRA, that means using Web CRD, a database for licensing and registration for the securities industry.

“We are very manual. There’s no system that populates reports,” the vice president adds.

The director of training for a Northeastern U.S. regional bank says, “We could probably do something with our LMS to track external CE, but we would have to trick our LMS into thinking the person is registering for a course.”

Banks say the biggest challenge with CE is data warehousing requirements. One bank executive said, “If FINRA’s Web CRD could manage insurance CE on one platform that would be ideal.”


To manage complex professional continuing education successfully, an LMS must play the leading role in automating, centralizing and integrating all CE processes.  Having an LMS in place that not only manages organizational learning but also the amount and type of CE credits needed and achieved, even if they are obtained external to the organization, should be your goal.

Stay tuned for the 3rd post in this CE series where I will outline the three levels of CE support offered by 2015 LMSs.

Thanks for reading!


Want to Learn More? Replay Our On-Demand Webinar:

Best Practices in Managing Complex CEUs


Do you struggle with the headache of managing and selling continuing education? Don’t worry — so do thousands of others.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Join John Leh, CEO of Talented Learning and Bill Snowdon, CTO of eLogic Learning outline the business and technical challenges facing organizations that manage or sell continuing education. In this session you will learn:

• Statistics and size of continuing education market
• Professions requiring most continuing education
• Today’s tools and technologies for managing CEUs, CMEs, CLEs and more
• Levels of CEU support from LMS solutions
• Question and Answer session


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About John Leh (242 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you at@JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

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