5 ways that instructional design is revamping the appeal of compliance training

Ewa Jaremka|January 14, 2020

When it comes to the creativity invested into workplace eLearning content, compliance training has too often been the “poor cousin” of its more tantalising corporate module counterparts; seen more as a humdrum tick-the-box necessity than an engaging learning experience in itself.

But today’s world is one of heightened risk for organisations and brands – who are doing business amid the constant threat of cybercrime, reputation-shattering information exposure, workplace lawsuits, and damaging social media that travels at lightning speed across the globe.

Given the higher stakes and importance of compliance training in such a climate, companies can no longer afford to wheel out modules that make their employees’ eyes glaze over.

If you’re considering implementing training for your team, here are five ways that the design of compliance courses used to fall short, and how content teams are revamping them from mundane to memorable.

1. Mobile-friendly and responsive design

Before: Until not so long ago, typical compliance eLearning modules were built purely for a desktop audience. This effectively meant that compliance training was welded to the office setting. If you tried to access the material on a smaller device, you’d be met with a shrunk version of what was on the desktop screen, along with tiny text, too-wide margins and impractically small click buttons.

What’s changed? Compliance training has become device agnostic, which means that users receive a rich and user-friendly experience anywhere, any time and on any device. Responsiveness means that the content and layout on the screen automatically adapts and resizes according to the size and shape of the device screen – whether it’s a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

What’s the benefit? The more flexibility and ease you can offer your staff when it comes to accessing their compliance training, the quicker and more likely they are to complete the modules. Which is good news for you if you’ve invested in the content, and good news for your company in terms of risk management. Having the option to do a great-looking course on a smartphone during the daily commute makes it that much easier and less burdensome on your employees.


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3. Shorter, bite-sized learning modules

Before: Even in the not-so-recent past, compliance training modules were a hefty 30 minutes or more, covering several strands of detailed information. For today’s workers, who are likely to already be overloaded with information and stimuli at every turn, that style of learning simply no longer resonates well, nor is it easy to retain.

What’s changed? The length of modules within a course has considerably shortened – to an average of 10 or 15 minutes, and covering only one topic. This is a more focused approach to course structure. It also acknowledges the fact that the learners of today are used to Googling a topic and quickly receiving the answer that they’re looking for. It makes sense that compliance training shouldn’t be any different.

What’s the benefit? It’s far more palatable for time-poor workers to schedule a 10- or 15-minute session into their day rather than 30 minutes or more. They’re also more likely to digest and retain the information presented. And, no matter our work role or age – from millennial to boomer – we all like to have a sense of achievement. It’s far more encouraging and satisfying to see a list of “Completed” courses ticked off in our user profile. This is much easier to achieve if the courses are an unintimidating length. Cutting the length of the content down also increases its “just-in-time” potential – workers who find themselves in a tricky scenario at work can quickly rewatch a short module to discover the correct course of action to take to resolve it.

4. Modern, emotive imagery

Before: Compliance training modules used to be filled with a lot of stock photography of people doing stylised or obvious poses into the camera. Imagery is powerful, and modern audiences have access to more images at the click of a button than probably any other generation has ever had before. It means that learners are savvy to what makes a good – and a bad – image. At worst, cliched or cheesy stock images can insult their intelligence or completely derail the learning experience.
What’s changed? Modern content teams know that images are the fastest way to capture the imagination of a learner. Many compliance courses now use a mixture of rich, relevant photography, illustrations and infographics. Used thoughtfully, rich photography can capture and communicate key messages in scenario-based learning very effectively – such as in courses covering discrimination or bullying. Instructional designers also take care to use visual aids, such as infographics, to distil and convey core concepts.

What’s the benefit? Imagery that affects people’s emotions can increase a sense of satisfaction about the learning experience. Many compliance courses cover sensitive topics and understanding these is helped by evoking emotion and empathy in the learner. An image or photo can make them amused, intrigued or strike an emotional chord – such as in a module on harassment. Learners are more likely to want to know the solution to the situation that’s being depicted and even try to relate to it personally. This is especially beneficial for bringing compliance training to life.

5. More animation, less voiceover

Before: Previously in compliance modules, there was a lot of needless voiceover narration which was often an exact duplicate of the text showing on the screen. Rather than adding to the material, it slowed it down and made for a frustrating and tedious learning experience. Too much audio can also potentially irritate, distract, and confuse the learner’s working memory, which means they retain less knowledge.

What’s changed? Well-designed compliance training uses audio and animated visuals that complement the content. It’s underpinned by scientific research into added media and its impact on learning, such as this work by Clark and Mayer. Ideally there’s at least one animation in each compliance training module. When animation is used well, it can underscore core concepts and ideas within the visual content and text on the screen.

What’s the benefit? As humans, we learn from other humans’ experiences, and we all love stories – especially when clever media is used to enhance that story’s authenticity. The ubiquity of the internet in every aspect of day-to-day life means we’re increasingly overloaded with stimuli and information. But thoughtful story-telling can take the “hard work” out of learning and can cut through the noise. Combining audio with animation adds richness and a sense of reality to example scenarios, and draws us into the content. It also caters for a wide variety of learning styles.

In short, the design of compliance training has moved forward in leaps and bounds in recent years. It means that you can now offer your team engaging, memorable modules that powerfully convey this important content that helps to safeguard your business.

See these design techniques in action and how they bring compliance training to life. Learn more about our compliance training tools or request a demo today.

About the author

Ewa Jaremka


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