The Rapid Elearning Blog


compliance trainingI’m not sure what the number is, but my guess is that compliance/regulatory training makes up a large majority of the e-learning that gets created.

Most compliance training isn’t training to change performance. The focus is awareness and certifying that the learner understands and accepts those expectations. Or perhaps it’s some sort of annual refresher.

I used to work with a community healthcare group and the nursing staff did a week of annual training. They already knew the content. However, they had to review the content each year and be certified. But they weren’t really learning a lot of new things.

Another common example is ethics training. We don’t have organizations full of unethical people and then do training to make them ethical. Instead, we do the ethics training to state the organization’s position and expectations.

That doesn’t mean there’s no performance expectation. For example, a performance requirement may be to identify unethical behavior. Or perhaps, it’s knowing what to do when it’s witnessed.

In fact, one of the downfalls of compliance training is that the focus is usually only on the content and end-of-year certification. But what about how to apply the expectations in the real world:  learn how to identify unethical behavior and then what to do?

Because compliance training is usually only focused on disseminating content, the measure of understanding is usually a few simple multiple choice quiz questions and certificate of completion.

However, if the compliance training focused on how the organization’s expectations play out in a real-world environment, the course designer could use decision-making scenarios that mimic the real-world. This is a better way to assess the learner’s understanding of ethics and how they apply the training in a context that’s meaningful to themselves.

I get asked a lot about compliance training and here is my core advice:

  • If it’s merely to certify exposure to the content, create a simple course with a simple quiz so that people can get in and out of the course and back to productive work quickly.
  • If you want to build engaging and meaningful training, identify the performance angle and create decision-making opportunities so they can process the content in a relevant context.

What do you find to be the biggest challenges with compliance training?


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4 responses to “Understanding Compliance Training”

For me, it’s managing Stakeholder and SME expectations. They sometimes expect all the content they can gather from every source to go into the training and for learners to come away with a real deep understanding of the content, from the one-off event, which in my case is normally an eLearn. Educating them on how we learn and trying to manage them so their expectations are aligned with relality is a challenge not just for compliance eLearning but for all, but I can often really have the problem with compliance training.

Thank you for posting this and I agree. I spend a good portion of time feeling guilty for compliance training being so bland and unengaging. This article gives me permission to carry on and use my elearning skills for those other engaging elearning modules.

March 16th, 2022

@Carlton: I agree. Getting the stakeholders and SME in alignment with real expectations is definitely one of the bigger challenges with e-learning development.

March 25th, 2022

Tom’s two pieces of core advice are right on. Most organizations I work with simply want a box that can be checked to prove everyone is up to speed on ethics, harassment, security, etc. There are some organizations I do enough work with that I am required to take their compliance training annually. Usually it’s the same e-learning course year after year without any updates! The idea of getting back to productive work asap is a very good one. I would love the opportunity to work on a compliance course that focused on good decision-making, but those come along very rarely, if ever.