Compliance, LMS and Content – Boring You Bet, Then again..

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I’m going on a limb here, but I suspect that either at some point this year or latter of last year, many of you had to complete some compliance training.  And I surmise, that after you completed it and signed off or validated with an assessment or read some documents and digitally verified, you never went back again.

I don’t blame you for that at all, because it is usually boring, dull, stale and proof that courses and various pieces of content rate right up there with going to the dentist (unless that is your type of thing and enjoy it).

But before I dive into why it is usually horrible, the first place to focus on is the Learning Management System.

Facts are more relevant than..

In the past two weeks, I have talked to folks who when asked upon or discuss a LMS, let me know that it was created for compliance and regulatory.

I’m sorry to disappoint, but it wasn’t. 

LMS: The beginning

A LMS was created to enable learners (students, employees, customers) to take courses to enable them to be more successful in whatever – whether it was their job, their classes or the products (of those providing training courses to customers). 

It was designed to two ways : either on-premise (on your own servers) or in the cloud (which back then was referred to sitting on the vendor’s servers).

The power of it all was the tracking and analytics. 

It wasn’t about compliance or meeting regulations it was about training – let me repeat that – training.  At the education level, learning.  And here is the super key of it all – Online.  Yes, online learning (where the term e-learning was first initiated).

The other powers of that thing called a LMS were

  • Offers personal and professional development

Many people may be unaware but the number one reason employees leave a company is lack of professional development.  Yeah some folks bolt for the money or hating their boss, but research states “professional development”.

Sadly, the PD angle is disappearing among many customers (not the learners per se) and that is the real shame.

  You want to provide your employees with specific courses and content to their job – sure, but let’s not forget helping them outside of the job – offering them online courses in Excel, Word or some non-technical topic. 

The reason many people balk at this – is that fear that they will lose the employee, because they gain additional knowledge. I always respond – so you want stupid employees rather than people who acquire the new skills, synthesize them and build upon them? 

I stated the above because it comes back to why WBT (web based training) was created (with additional factors below) and why a LMS first came into play. 

  • Enabled people go back as many times as they wanted to learn the information – acquire the knowledge and build upon that. Want to focus on section 7 – go for it.  Want to go back 3,000 times, absolutely.
  • Enabled people to learn on their pace and not the instructor’s pace
  • Allowed people to make mistakes and learn from them – many people are so terrified in a classroom setting to ask questions or if they ask afraid that if it is wrong the instructor or whomever will ridicule them
  • Provided a real time learning experience, which goes back to anytime learning. Want to focus on XB at 3 a.m., no problem.
  • Acquire information and build it.
  • Non-linear learning/training – focus on what you want to learn

Now tell me where is compliance in this whole equation?  Yeah you may had courses and documents to read, but as it relates to a LMS, it wasn’t about compliance, nor regulatory.

The Standards of Compliance Features

I should note that not every system offers compliance, let alone robust compliance and still many – heck vast majority of systems are still geared towards training and learning as the key priories and not courses/content tied specifically to compliance.  

Many systems who offer compliance tend to include the standard features

  • Audit Trails
  • Workflows
  • Mapping to specific job roles
  • Tracking of OJT training
  • More are adding CFR 21 Part 11

The first two are what I find the most often seen when it comes to compliance.  And yes, I left out the robust features, because well, it really does vary from vendor to vendor (overall speaking).

Who’s to blame for the compliance content?

There is not one area that really is to blame for why compliance content is about as fun as watching the grass outside of my office window grow.

That said, there are plenty of places to explore

  • 3rd party authoring tools – The reason they took off is that anyone can create a course and many people focus on PowerPoint or some version of it when creating a course.  I’m not faulting those who do it, but the way you build a course when dealing with compliance content, has changed due to many of these tools.
  • Creating a course in general, whether you use a tool or not – it has become for many a lost art when creating a course.  The goal is to focus on the key information, the right information and stick that in the course.  It is not about shoving all the information, let alone the document into the course.
  • Course aggregators/marketplaces that sell compliance courses. I rarely find one that I go “ooh, ahh..this is going to be fun to take”.  Nope, I usually find dull and so boring. 

Sometimes I see safety courses that offer interactivity, and yeah I’ve seen courses that have some video angle or person angle where one person asks a question and then you select the responses and so forth.

That’s fun for about five minutes and for many people it never gets to the fun part.

  • Custom/3rd party developers.  There isn’t one common design or approach and here’s the thing – I’ve seen pricey courses that are yucky and have seen inexpensive courses that are solid. 

The advantage for a custom course is that you can take the regulatory/compliance information that is required and include your specific information or company policy that is needed as part of the course.  

This is also true if you create a course via a 3rd party authoring tool or some other way.

When it comes to course marketplaces though, everyone gets the same thing – the same information and so forth.  If the course vendor offers a customization component (and it is never free), some customers (again, not learners) will do it.  

Compliance Training/Learning Courses Online and Why People hate it

Mention compliance courses to employees, managers or whomever and see their faces turn from smiles to frowns.

It is like when you were a child and your parent said, eat your peas and liver and you said to yourself, maybe I can hide it in my mashed potatoes – and where is the dog?  Liver created fear and desperation – compliance training courses do the same thing.

How do many people go about compliance courses and content – if online

  • Read the documents. Read the information and sign off that you read it.
  • Take the course, complete the assessment – which by the way you can take as many times as you want – until your pass; and now we have a record of it.  Maybe you have to a digital signature to validate it.  Thank you, see you next year.
  • Require the learner to look at each course page for x number of minutes.  I’ve actually seen this – and what the people did including the senior VP of HR was surf the net, read stuff and then when the time was up, just click the page and move on. Speaking of which,
  • Never read the page and hit click to the next page.  Similar to reading a document, but hey it is a course.

I’m not saying everyone does this, but many many people do and that is what is the big minus when it comes to compliance content and courses.

Some people stick a video online and have people watch it.  I’ve seen videos in a course along with some text.  Yowsa, hold me back, too much fun and thrills are about to take place.

Honestly, I’d rather be waiting six hours at Disneyland to get into a ride that lasts 45 seconds – and by the way it is 100 degrees outside.

Where is it heading?

Not anywhere good I’m afraid.  Sure, people will create engaging courses – but to what level that is a question – and many will still focus on document management and documents.

Mobile wise on the OJT front it is all about checklists and then sign off – best with an on/off synch app. 

From a feature standpoint I could provide a lot of specifics, but I will say this – reports and the level of details and analytics you provide will be stronger.  Workflows – oh yeah, more and more.  I could go on.. but again, I’ll refrain – because I see quite a bit coming down the pipe.

Mapping – mapped to the courses, content related to compliance, mapped to a workflow or other items, including the requirement by compliance officers to sign off or approve compliance content.   Audit trails of course are going to stick around and I think be improved upon.

Bottom Line

Compliance courses and content is the best way to put fear into your employees.  Not fear of losing their job per se, rather the fear of having to take the courses/content and complete it.

You won’t see them after that.

Not until next year.

And so you have to ask yourself, what is the end game for compliance training?

To cover yourself (and thus the company) or to provide training and learning that will better the employee?

I suspect you already know the answer.

I know I do.

(Please note – Compliance training is important. Some readers think that I am against compliance training – I’m not. What I am against is boring compliance training and that LMSs were not created because of compliance/regulatory needs)


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  1. Thanks for this article! I agree and have personally experiences the boring compliance training videos, documents, you name it. Including the timed ones where you have to wait 2 mins to proceed to the next page. And yes, everyone always does something else, until the timer is up. Compliance doesn’t need to be boring. It should be more interactive and relatable. I think more interesting/engaging options would be to just hold a compliance seminar during which compliance ambassadors train factions of employee populations on compliance. Face-to-face, while it may not be a panacea, may be more effective for actual learning. It might also help underline the importance of compliance training to the company beyond being “that thing we have to do every year”. I have also seen approaches with use incentives for completing job training e-modules, like earning company “dollars”. That may work for compliance training if structured properly with appropriate incentives. Lastly and simply, I suppose compliance training developers could be a lot less lazy about the presentation appeal and interactivity of the programs.

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