Adaptive learning: the era of huge compliance e-learning catalogues is over

March 10, 2016

In the past two decades, the compliance function has witnessed many changes to the compliance programme. Investigations are now done electronically, codes of conduct are more comprehensive and easier to understand, compliance audits and checks are regular occurrences, and nearly every Fortune 500 company has a chief compliance officer. These attributes were not commonplace at the turn of the millennium.

Despite all these changes to the compliance function, there is one small corner that has gone untouched: training. While some videos are now in high definition, the approach to online training is still the same. Typically, companies invest heavily in entire course catalogues where dozens or hundreds of courses are purchased along with licences for each employee for each course.

Traditional e-learning doesn’t change much for each user, if at all. Most courses are supplied to companies on a per-topic basis (e.g. anti-bribery and corruption basics, how to avoid conflicts of interest, workplace harassment). As each of these courses is rolled out to users, the content is identical. The on-screen text is all the same, the pictures and graphics are the same, the audio narration (if any) is the same, the questions are the same, the guidelines are the same, the consequences are the same … everything is the same for every user. While this provides a great level of consistency of information for the employee population, the usefulness of that information is not universal.

Take for example the topic of anti-bribery and corruption – one of the most crucial topics to teach employees due to the high risk and consequences for misconduct. There are subtle differences with the laws of each country that could affect the behaviours of an employee. Similarly, certain subtopics within bribery and corruption could be more useful to some employees but almost irrelevant to others. Making employees sit through content that is irrelevant to their tasks and responsibilities can cast aspersions on the entire training programme and, in turn, the company’s entire compliance function. Yet this is the type of online training that most corporations roll out for their workforce.

The logistics behind managing the tangled web of courses is also a huge time suck for compliance professionals. Hours upon hours are wasted figuring out who needs to take which courses, in which language and at what time, and making sure that nobody gets lost in the shuffle. The headaches of dealing with a faulty and broken learning management system (LMS) can delay training, cause confusion or, at times, be an embarrassment to the compliance function. As training goes out to 100 percent of the company (including board members and key executives), a small technical glitch can be seen by everyone and reflects poorly on compliance professionals and the training vendors they employ.

There is a solution to these problems though: adaptive training.

Adaptive training is e-learning courses that change based on the attributes of each individual user that takes a course. The content is selected by the learners during the course or is preselected by an administrator, so it is tailored to that specific individual’s job role, responsibilities, actions, expectations, risks and consequences.

This means that an employee will only need to take one single course each year to be trained on all of their compliance-related topics. The time and resources saved by both employees and course administrators is astronomical.

The concept of adaptive courses in the corporate setting is important because the workforce population is bored with traditional training.

By using adaptive training a company can see a number of clear benefits, such as a focus on relevant topics for each user that perfectly fits their location, operations, responsibilities and day-to-day activities. It also saves a company time and money by having a single course replace multiple traditional courses. If a single adaptive training course can save roughly three hours of training time per user, over the course of a year the time savings can add up substantially across thousands of employees.

This is not a new concept – adaptive content is something that universities and schools have been using for quite some time. The thinking is that each person has a specific set of roles and, in turn, risks that need to be accounted for in each course. While some concepts, activities, tutorials, case studies, images and other elements are effective for one audience, they may not work as well with others.

For example, Lucy is in sales and needs to take courses related to bribery, conflicts of interest, accurate records, antitrust and other high-risk topics. With traditional training she would need to take half a dozen or more courses. Meanwhile, Clark works on the assembly line and needs to know about workplace safety, harassment, discrimination and code of conduct. Both Lucy and Clark would have unique and very different training curriculums that need to be accounted for by an administrator, taking time and costing significant fees for multiple course licences. With adaptive training, Lucy and Clark would both be enrolled in the same single course that adapts to their roles in the company and only gives them the information pertinent to their jobs.

Adaptive learning is not a simple series of branching paths that users can take as they navigate through the intricacies of a particular topic. A key element of the adaptive learning process is the advanced LMS – that is, the platform by which the rest of the course is made possible.

The LMS is able to shuffle content on the fly as dictated by user experiences, answers provided in the course or administrative direction. While the user experience is best determined by the genuine knowledge, roles, activities and capabilities of the employees themselves, there are safeguards in place to ensure that some content is seen and competencies demonstrated by employees.

Adaptive training bucks the trend of being subjected to long courses that cover a wide spread of topics and subtopics on a given subject. Using adaptive training cuts out unnecessary content for users and focuses only on material that is relevant for them.

Employees are getting smarter when it comes to compliance training, and those in charge of training need to adapt for it to be effective. Adaptive course training spells the end for traditional training methods, but the beginning of a new era in online e-learning.

Previous Article
Five things to expect from modern compliance training
Five things to expect from modern compliance training

Some things are just expected when you buy a new car. For example, if the car doesn’t come with a CD player...

Next Article
Give your compliance training programme a leading edge
Give your compliance training programme a leading edge

In its Guidelines for Federal Prosecution of Corporations, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) st...