Remove the Sting of Compliance Courses: Make Them Short, Succinct, Easy to Learn

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By Ray Jimenez, PhD
Chief Learning Architect

More often than not, compliance courses have received a bad rap and reputation. The main complaint is that compliance courses are just “clicking boxes to meet lawyers’ needs.” As the perception persists, part of the blame is caused by designers, trainers and leaders abandoning the “learning side” of compliance. Consequently, these courses have been relegated to the category of being necessary evils.I am not giving up on compliance courses. From what I know of compliance courses, the intent is to protect peoples’ lives, reduce costs, avoid fraudulence, keep our environments safe and many others. Without good compliance courses, we are all at risk.

Recently, I spoke at the  ATD (Association of Talent Development) Conference in Las Vegas on the topic Micro-Compliance Learning. My goal was to share how to remove the sting of compliance courses by making them short and easier to learn.

Live Demos of Micro-Compliance Lessons

Please play a couple of examples of a micro-lesson. These demos are prototypes only. They address a small but significant section of a large compliance course.

Code Pink – Hospital Compliance Stash the Cash – Banking on Money Laundering

Why and How Micro-Compliance Works

The key principles are:

  1. Shorten compliance courses by focusing on the most important lesson.
  2. The average time of a lesson is 2-3 minutes.
  3. Relegate readings of policies and procedures as reference links. You can still track these readings by using a tracking device when learners scroll the page.
  4. Invest in the lesson story and not in a series of long slideshows about the policies with just text.
  5. Deliver the micro-lessons in smaller bits and pieces, weekly, daily or spaced over time.

Insights Invaluable to Successful Implementation of Micro-Lessons


At the conference, it was interesting to have participants raise challenging questions, yet, at the same time offer answers and solutions.

“What if it is required that learners must read pages?”

The cheaper way is not to put lengthy policies and government rules in long, narrated slideshows. Keep them in PDFs or text that learners could scroll through and still track if learners have done so.

“Is it enough to focus on the story and some important parts of the lessons?”

This approach engages learners and help them to remember better as well as apply ideas at work.

Overloading learners will likely bring results, although, records show they simply clicked through all pages in typically long, very long lessons.

“But our lessons must be learned in 2 hours. Lawyers require this.”

Let learners focus on key ideas, like the examples, then let them do additional activity and readings to consume the hours. By doing this, you are not boring the learners.

“We are required to test for knowledge retention and compliance.”

In most cases this works. However, oftentimes, this encourages the learners “to game” or “cheat” the system. True or false and multiple choice types of tests are clicked repeatedly for a trial and error approach just to complete the test. Asking learners to write something may also help them to reflect their understanding of the lesson. There are authoring ways to provide feedback to learners without having someone track all the answers.

How can you deliver by spacing out lessons?

Learners are busy and would welcome receiving maybe once a day or once a week, a 2-3-minute micro-compliance lesson. Most compliance courses are repeated once a year and to avoid the yearly end rush, advance spaced out lessons are usually convenient.


Compliance courses are often the first line of defense to keep companies compliant. It does not mean, however, we relegate these courses to data dumps and verification of scanning pages. They can be made engaging, short and help learners learn important contributions of compliance courses.

acb81f5317c9882f892f7b6d892badd9_Ray-Jimenez-200-c Ray and HRDQ-U are hosting a webinar July 27 at 2pm ET. Save your seat here!
Ray Jimenez has spent 15 years with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the areas of management consulting and implementation of learning technology solutions.  Currently, Ray is the Chief Learning Strategist for Ray has worked with American Bankers Association, Dollar Tree Stores, U.S. Force, NASA, Blue Cross, Good Will Industries, Pixar Studios, California Institute of Technology and many others.  Ray is the author of 3-Minute e-Learning, Scenario-based eLearning, Micro-Learning Applications and Impacts and Story Impacts- Using Stories and Systems to Impact Performance. Workshop participants describe Ray as “fun”, “engaging”, “technically savvy”, “provocative”, “and inspiring” and “has depth in e-learning experience and innovation solutions.”

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