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Compliance elearning that works — Design principles for compliance elearning

Blog posts | 05.10.2021

Compliance elearning

Helping you find your North Star

We’re noticing some common themes emerging in the demand for compliance elearning. What are they and what are the implications for those of us responsible for its design and delivery?

Article no.3 of 10 - The Kineo view on: Compliance elearning

Compliance-based learning needs an overhaul. We must take on contemporary design principles to maximise learner engagement and knowledge retention, and to find the sweet spot where we can satisfy all our stakeholders, as we described in the article ‘The people paradox’.

In this article, we look to demonstrate how compliance-based learning is evolving. Our research has highlighted the most common learning approaches that our clients are looking to deploy.

We’re deliberately putting multiple design ideas out there as food for thought. Some may not be appropriate in all compliance cases, but we’d like to show what is possible to achieve, and what our clients are looking to do now - especially in relation to learner journeys and specific design patterns.

We see this as a way of accelerating thinking and providing confidence by sharing design approaches that are working for others.

The thinking starts here

Typically, discussions start with the business case and explore business goals and objectives, audience, and content for the learning. These all need to be considered before arriving at the best approach. However, in the last year, we are increasingly seeing the following requirements informing our learning design conversations: 

  • Get under the skin of your learners’ challenges, goals and what’s expected of them
  • Use personalized learning pathways or adaptive content
  • Create the opportunity to ‘test-out’ of training
  • Develop branching scenarios using questions/challenges and personal judgement
  • Add audio or film, to increase engagement
  • Develop ways to gather learner feedback or extract data to support future design-decisions
  • Conduct A/B testing to conduct test and learns - assess what works
  • Prioritize accessibility and usability
  • Experiment and find what works

Design principles for compliance-based learning 

As designers, we need to remove complexity and focus on what matters. Based on these requirements, we have defined the following principles and supported them with models and examples to get you thinking.  

These models are what we call design patterns - sequences of learning interactions that are proven to get users where they need to be. They combine modern UX know-how with learning best practice to create digital content that has maximum (measurable) effectiveness. Patterns ensure consistency and good design across all experiences.

Use human-centered design thinking 

We use several methodologies to put our learners front and centre of our designs and ensure that the learning resonates with them. Rather than feed them unnecessary, tedious facts about the regulatory law and threatening them with the consequences of a breach, we focus on the people involved – their wants and needs – as well as the organization’s culture, ethics, and guiding values.

We also use what the field of psychology tells us about how we can play to our learners’ innate strengths as well as their weaknesses and the best way to build ethical, values-based cultures.

Personalize and adapt the experience 

We use personalization techniques to help the learning resonate with our audience.  

Personalization can take many forms. It is a by-product of human-centred design, because if you understand the challenges and needs of your audience, you can reflect those in your design decisions. You can offer different content to different audiences or multiple pathways through the learning. You can provide various ways of accessing it or change the sequence of its delivery. You can reflect your learners’ habits and preferences by mirroring the sites, apps, and other systems they use on a regular basis. Line managers too can play a role in recognizing individual competency and achievement.  

Let’s take just one of those examples. We recommend using content filters, like a role selector or assessment option, to dynamically personalize learning pathways. This helps to make the learning more relevant and allow learners to focus on what they need to know (not every man and his dog).

Flowchart diagram to show a learning pathway, moving from Role selector or assessment, to a personalised pathway which introduces responsibilities relevant to the role, allows practice through relevant scenarios and tailored insight, ending with a summary and optional assessment.

Give learners personalized learning pathways based on their role or the results of an initial assessment at the beginning of the course  - expand diagram 🡕

Flowchart diagram to show optimal learning pathway starting with Role Selection, moving on to a summary of the policy and multiple scenario based learning, with ‘test-out’ options at each stage.

Give learners an optimal pathway with assessment points on the way, provide supportive tutorials if needed to bridge knowledge gaps - expand diagram 🡕

Allow ‘test-outs’

Avoid frustrating learners who already have experience with the topic. Where appropriate, give learners the opportunity to skip ahead by allowing them to test-out and progress earlier in the module or adjust the pathway to help them focus on what is needed. This can save you valuable seat time and keeps learners happy too.  

“Being able to filter out redundant or unnecessary material will help keep learners from being bored or frustrated by compliance. Testing and assessments can help identify the training a learner does or doesn't need.” - Brandon Hall Group 

Give learners the opportunity to test-out at the beginning. Then offer the same assessment at the end for those who did not pass expand diagram 🡕

Make it goal-based

Focus on addressing goals that we know learners face and support the key tasks that they do.  Provoke curiosity and get people thinking by leading with stories in which they apply their situational judgement in a safe environment. Let them analyse a realistic work-related situation and solve the problem. Show how easy it can be to break the rules. Practice with purpose!

We also recommend having a quick route through to key questions and challenges, and where needed, route learners to supporting tutorials or hints and tips before progressing further. For example, it may be appropriate to give learners the option to read the policy upfront and then self-attest that they have done so.  

Self-attestation promotes the accountability of all employees, but a word of caution. Ensure the policy is written in the simplest way possible, so the attestation has the best chance of being genuine (too technical and staff could be tempted to carry out a tick-box exercise).

Give learners the option to read the policy at the start of the course, then offer summary references as part of the learning to reinforce critical compliance points - expand diagram 🡕

Engage with compelling content 

Draw people to and through the content with high-engagement and creative approaches that appeal to their moral compass. This can be done well with audio and film driven scenarios or immersive ‘long reads’ such as those produced by the BBC

Screenshot from an elearning course entitled ‘Sofia’s story’. Graphics image of a women standing at a kitchen sink looking out the window, with introductory text overlaid on top to begin a description of her story
A second screenshot from the elearning course entitled ‘Sofia’s story’. This time a wide shot photographic image of a cruise ship in the blue ocean, the caption explains how Sofia had worked on crusie ships before becoming a lawyer.
A third screenshot from the elearning course entitled ‘Sofia’s story’. This time a video still showing two young girls with the title ‘ Family Life’

Immersive ‘long reads’ like this example we developed with IESO hook learners in with an emotional story about the lead character’s mental wellbeing and seamlessly integrates text with high-impact visuals and drama-led film. The scrolling design, with its minimal navigation, is also reflective of many sites learners experience generally on the web. This means learners can move intuitively through it without getting distracted by a confusing interface.

Long reads such as this draw learners in with stories and help the learning to stick. Yet as important as sticky experiences are, sometimes all you want is a resource.  

The modern learner is distracted and impatient, with only 1% of a typical week available to focus on personal development (‘Building capabilities to deliver on your business strategy’, Bersin by Deloitte). It’s important we make critical, scannable information available at the point of need too. A handy reference guide, a scannable checklist, or a list of top tips.  

Resources like these are convenient and efficient for your employees and preserve valuable time. 

Use evidenced-based design

We leverage measurement tools like data analytics to gain deeper insights about the competency of our learners and the effectiveness of the learning we provide. This is part of a process of continuous improvement: don’t ‘set it and forget it’: keep coming back to what the data is telling you and adjust accordingly. 

Analyse your learners’ journey through the content and their performance, using the data to refine and improve the solution moving forward or take remedial action elsewhere in the business. 

We share more about this in section 9 of our briefing: ‘Data driven design’.

Make it accessible and inclusive

The learning needs to work for those who may be more tech savvy as well as those who may be less so. Accessibility is not an afterthought; it is a primary driver for standards and good UX, and should be considered first. 

Using these principles will help you to take advantage of consumer-based techniques and experiences to increase engagement and impact of your compliance learning.   

Innovate, experiment – find what works  

You know the saying: If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. This is the fun part. Be bold, try things out. Think about your design process, is it really unearthing the real problems you're trying to address? Experiment and test your prototype with real learners and amend before rolling out to the entire business. It is only through innovation and experimentation that we can identify what works and what doesn’t.

“Sometimes when you innovate you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.” - Steve Jobs   

: The models in this article are shown to exemplify our thinking. There are critical areas where employees are legally required to take on specific information and learning. For example, annual renewals of certification to stay current with regulations. Therefore, it is wise to consult governmental guidelines and company policies before you give employees the option to test out.

Check out the next article in this series: Out with the old in with the new, to continue exploring The Kineo view on: Compliance elearning.

If you want to know more about how we create better learning experiences for compliance-based learning, drop us a line to book a free consultation with one of our learning experts.

Compliance elearning

Helping you find your North Star

In this suite of articles on compliance elearning, we take a helicopter view of the compliance landscape, talk you through our latest thinking and research, and share our recommendations for transforming your mandatory training – helping you find your North Star. We hope you find it useful and we welcome your feedback. Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss your own compliance training challenges with one of our team.