SSA adopts a learning management system

‘Software-based training and learning program’ a key HMS recommendation.

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Through an agreement forged with Canadian software company Marine Learning Systems, the Steamship Authority has begun to implement a major recommendation of the HMS Consulting report — a learning management system, or LMS.

According to the report, such a setup provides a “software-based training and learning program that provides administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery, all in one system.”

The HMS report found the SSA generated “a considerable” volume of training material over time, “but none of it is formally cataloged; it is administered by individual departments, and rarely tracked or reported.”

The SSA will employ Marine Learning System’s MarineLMS software, which will act as the SSA’s “hub for delivering and managing its marine and shore-side training and assessment programs,” according to SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll. “The secure web-based platform will be accessible to all Authority personnel, which in the summer includes more than 700 individuals.”

HMS also recommended implementation of both a safety management system (SMS) and a quality management system (QMS). The SSA board approved RFPs for those systems in February. The bid period recently closed.

“We have proposals in hand, and are evaluating them,” Driscoll wrote in an email.

Driscoll later said an RFP wasn’t used for the LMS because an off-the-shelf product was readily available and the cost of that product was relatively inexpensive.

“[T]he ongoing fees are cheaper than what was forecast in the HMS report,” Driscoll wrote regarding the LMS. In its report, HMS estimated it would cost $100,000 to develop an LMS, $75,000 to implement it, and $40,000 per year to maintain it. Driscoll pointed out the SSA hasn’t had to incur any development fees. He characterized implementation as “not easily tracked,” and was unable to summon a figure.

“The service fees are $1,885 per month starting in June 2019, or $22,620 a year, which is a cost we are able to absorb through our current budget,” he wrote. “We have not had significant spending regarding the development or implementation of the LMS, as it is a third-party system that we are subscribing to.”

The SMS and QMS must be custom-built to suit the SSA, and will be more costly, he said. Overall, HMS estimated $325,000 to develop and implement, and $25,000 per year to maintain, a QMS. For an SMS, it estimated $250,000 to develop and implement, and $50,000 to maintain.

“Developing either an SMS or QMS will also provide a large amount of training material,” the HMS report notes. “By placing this valuable information in an LMS, the SSA will be able to identify training and learning gaps by utilizing real-time analytical data and reporting.”

SSA general manager Robert Davis and Marine Learning Systems CEO Murray Goldberg signed a contract on March 26.

“We are extremely pleased to enter into this agreement with Marine Learning Systems,” Davis said in a statement. “From the beginning of our search for an LMS system for the Steamship Authority, they quickly emerged as a leader in the field, and were our clear preference for the job at hand. I strongly believe using their MarineLMS system will provide a clear advantage to our personnel and the entire organization.”

Marine Learning Systems vice president of sales and marketing, Peter Frankel, told The Times that numerous ferry services around North America use his company’s software, including America’s largest ferry service, Washington State Ferries. Frankel said no SSA employee will be left out of the LMS.

“Everyone in the company will have a login,” he said.

Asked if Marine Learning Systems will dispatch technicians to help implement the LMS, Frankel said, “We do just about everything remotely.”