Using Compliance to Support Innovation

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Compliance is often considered a barrier to innovation. But are innovation and compliance friends or foes? The session leaders invite attendees to explore online education compliance strategies (e.g., web accessibility and state authorization efforts) that have yielded sustainable and collaborative innovations in our institution’s approach to distance learning.


Richard (Ricky) LaFosse, J.D. As Compliance and Policy Lead for the the Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan, Ricky provides guidance on the complex regulatory framework for distance and online education. Ricky earned his J.D. from the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University in 2016 and is a Ph.D candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at Indiana University.

Additional Authors

Ilona Marie Hajdu, M.S.Ed. As Senior Associate Director in the Office of Online Education, Ilona also serves as the Compliance Officer for Distance Education at Indiana University. Ilona provides strategic leadership and management over all functional areas of the office, including administration, finance, compliance, online course and program development, data reporting, marketing, and student services. Ilona has presented her work on evolving instructional roles for faculty , core judgments of practicing instructional designers, collaborative seamless services for online students, and facilitating engagement and innovation in higher education compliance at OLC, UPCEA, AECT and AERA.

Extended Abstract

Are innovation and compliance friends or foes? Regulatory compliance is frequently cited as a barrier to innovation in online education, but as this myth-busting session will illustrate, the tension between compliance and innovation can be a useful and productive one. Rather than “moving fast and breaking things,” the session leaders advocate for a more deliberate approach to innovating in online education that is risk-adverse but also forward-looking, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and inclusive of stakeholders. Under this approach, compliance strategies can be integrated into learning-design efforts and can both inform and be informed by the pedagogical and technological innovations taking place across an institution’s online education ecosystem.

While incorporating a mix of guided questioning, analogy, illustrative examples, and individual experiences, the session leaders will introduce three crucial observations that they believe closely connect compliance and innovation: (i) a common set of standards or rules can encourage innovation by establishing a foundation of fair competition; (ii) compliance and innovation efforts tend to share common goals, such as improving quality and expanding accessibility; and (iii) frequent knowledge exchanges between compliance and learning professionals promote sustainable innovation and create opportunities to consolidate faculty training and resource-development efforts.

Next, the session leaders will provide a brief overview of key compliance areas for distance education, including Title IV requirements for regular and substantive interaction, web accessibility for students with disabilities, and adherence to quality frameworks, whether to evidence quality and faculty support criteria to the satisfaction of accreditors or as a membership requirement for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).Each topic will be broken down and tested under one or more of the three core connections articulated above. Attendees will have the opportunity to share in small- and whole-group discussions their own knowledge on these topics, methods for approaching compliance at their institutions, and whether opportunities for innovation exist for compliance or online learning professionals in addressing the concerns underlying these compliance standards. The session leaders will also share how they have addressed each of these topics through collaborative efforts, including assisting in the creation of new onboarding materials for online faculty that list compliance requirements in line with quality framework standards and best practices in online instruction (e.g., ADA compliance paired with Universal Design for Learning and Quality Matters standards, and regular and substantive interaction requirements paired with best practices for online discussion forums).

Attendees will then have five minutes to reflect individually in a manner of their choosing. The session leaders will, however, provide optional guided questions for this portion (e.g., What additional compliance challenges do you face at your institution that might be resolved using the strategies we have covered in this session?). Finally, attendees will be guided into new groups, arranged by compliance topic, and participate in a follow-up discussion and a semi-structured brainstorming activity. Specifically, areas of the room will be designated (depending on size and attendance) for accessibility and UDL; regular and substantive interaction and competency-based education; quality assurance; accreditation, state authorization, and out-of-state licensure; data protection and privacy; and “other.” Groups will be provided with poster paper and directed to compile lists of compliance and innovation challenges and lingering questions related to their topic. Groups will also be encouraged to discuss solutions and strategies, time permitting, but the purpose of this brainstorming activity is first and foremost to generate a list of challenges and questions that the session leaders can collect and reproduce via a shared Google document for post-conference collaboration. Attendees who volunteer their information will be invited to this shared document to continue their conversations and join additional compliance and innovation conversations, as desired, with continued support from the session leaders.