How I would approach creating compliance e-learning

Last week I reported on Towards Maturity’s latest study, Reinvigorating Compliance Training. The study showed clearly what a hole we have got ourselves into with e-learning compliance training. More often than not management is coming to us with a requirement for a simple tell-and-test programme that does little more than tick boxes, and it seems that we are only too keen to oblige. In the process we risk irreparable damage to our status as professional designers and perpetuate management’s perception that we are mere order takers.

It’s easy to criticise, much harder to put forward a solution. However, I like a challenge, so, it falls to me to put my reputation on the line by suggesting how I would approach a request for compliance e-learning. I’m going to assume that I’ve already explored the alternatives and that e-learning stands a reasonable chance of influencing the outcome. So what would I do?
Analysing the requirement
FIrst of all, I need answers to some important questions:
  • What do we want employees to do that they may not be doing now, if the organisation is to achieve its goals for compliance?
  • What must (note the emphasis) employees know if they are to do these things?
  • What big ideas/principles do they need to understand and buy into in order to do these things?
  • What skills, if any, do they need to acquire and/or put into practice in order to do these things?
  • Over and above knowledge and skills, what else needs to be in place in the work environment if performance is going to change?
A typical solution
The answers to the questions above will obviously determine the shape of the solution. However, more often than not I would expect to see many of the following elements in the solution:
  • A resource, probably a video, which ramps up the level of emotional engagement. Using a documentary approach, I would interview real people who have been in real situations of risk related to the area of compliance. Statistics are not enough – we are much more likely to engage with the stories of real people. The important principle to get across here is that non-compliance really matters – it could threaten your employer’s future and your own.
  • A diagnostic assessment which determines how much of the programme you need to take – none, some or all. This assessment would comprise of a series of mini-scenarios (the portrayal of a situation, followed by one or more ‘what would you do?’ questions) rather than a knowledge test.
  • For novices, a clear and concise exposition of the absolute essentials of the policy, backed up with examples and rationales. Probably best if this is easily accessible and printable, so not a piece of e-learning.
  • A series of more in-depth scenarios tackling ever more challenging but realistic situations, ideally directly relevant to your particular job role. An element of gamification here might add something.
  • Resources which support the scenarios with in-depth explanations. These can take the form of web articles, videos, PDFs or whatever is necessary. The idea is that you will go to these to fill any gaps in your knowledge brought out by the scenarios.
  • A final assessment, again based on mini-scenarios, and ideally drawn from a large pool to reduce the risk of cheating. To avoid users guessing, I’d include the option ‘I don’t know’ in every question. This would score zero points, whereas wrong answers would score minus points, making a guess a risky response.
  • To follow-up, I’d provide a forum where you could ask experts for answers to really tricky questions not covered in the programme.
  • I’d also keep up a steady flow of new stories and reminders by email, on the intranet or any social platform.
  • And I’d try and make sure that compliance was not only modelled by managers but backed up by the performance management system.
So, what would you do?

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