Compliance Training, does it always = boring?

Hello All,

I have a really great opportunity to build some courses for our faculty and staff.  However, the most recent request is one that requires a lot of compliance rules, Title IX/Sexual Harassment training.

Any ideas to help would be greatly appreciated.  I am not allowed to use any kind of characters at all.  I have been asked to incorporate some interactions, but am at a loss.

Thanks for your help.

18 Replies
Julie Stelter

Hi Shelby,

What about a scenario-based course? Putting the compliance training in actual harassment situations can lessen the "bore" factor while improving learning. You could use full images of campus and classroom settings in the background with the situation and choices in the foreground.

Happy New Year!

Cary Glenn

I agree with Julie, your best bet would be to go with a scenario-based course. Any related documents, such as standards and laws, can be attached to the resources button.

I have to ask why the powers that be will not allow you to use characters at all? To me that is like getting a taxi to take you somewhere but not allowing them to use any gasoline. It can work (the driver could push the cab) but it will take longer and not be very efficient.

Shelby Morris

Thanks Cary.  I agree to.  

The powers that be are backed by the Feds.  We are able to use characters, but have to use an equal amount of male/female representation.  If we use too many women or men figures, even shadows, then we could get some unwanted feedback.  So, the powers that be (SME's) said no to characters.

Thanks again!

Steve Flowers

If your audience and stakeholders are anything like mine, I'd guess these are good assumptions:

  • The compliance part of the "training" [yes, quotes intentional as these are typically not designed for behavior change but more for risk reduction] contributes to a component of legal bulwark, creating an expectation to which accountability may be attached.
  • Most compliance "training" is based on some existing policy and law that rarely changes.
  • Most folks in the audience have been exposed to the same information in the past (at every required cycle), a few are brand new and haven't been exposed.
  • Compliance modules are typically one-and-done in accordance with the regulatory requirement. A single event once a year, once every three years, or once. Follow-ups and activities attached to the topic, outside of that event, are rare.

Here are a few things we've thought about and a few we've tested:

  1. Start with the agreement. When you open a new piece of software, right up front you're presented with an end user license agreement (EULA). Why not get it out of the way and be honest about it right at the front-end of the module. Sure, this seems counter-intuitive to a learning experience but isn't this really what the legal folks are looking for? Masked under a training event, a conveyer belt of information is used to shield organizations from the conduct excuse "you never told me I wasn't supposed to [enter dumb behavior here]" By leading with the bulwark and getting it out of the way, you can move on to really addressing behaviors. Some orgs aren't comfortable with this approach, but it's what most of them really want. Low chances of behavior change with a single event and a string of info. Them's the breaks.
  2. Put the assessment up front. If there's an assessment, put it up front to give the folks that already have a handle on "what you need to know" a chance to demonstrate it. This also provides an opportunity to tailor based on objective the course completion requirements. Do OK on objectives 1 and 2 in the assessment but bomb 3 through 5? You only need to complete those sections.
  3. Consider making it into a conversation. I love this fun model from Jellyvision that adapts to responses based on answers to questions.,,
  4. Extend the single event with chains of follow-on activities and marketing messages. Open a channel for feedback and use questions and comments to start new conversations. Ask folks to have conversations in their workplace and create shareable artifacts. Expose the measures of success to the whole organization. By moving beyond a single encapsulated "compliance training" event to a chain or campaign, the chances of adjusting behavior and creating a positive cultural signal increase dramatically.


Cody Salinas

Hi, Shelby.

I'm also in a highly-regulated industry, and we're required by many of our clients to develop and administer compliance-based courses.

One thing I recommend for inherently boring courses is to make it visually appealing and stimulating with a good use of white space. In many of my courses, I make use of colorful pallet and stay away from bulleted lists. 

I agree with Julie and Cary with respect to developing scenario-based content. In one of my courses, I created five examples with Yes/No/Unsure paths. The learner listens to a conversation (or reads content), is asked a related question (sometimes intentionally ambiguous), and the learner's choice produces the right, wrong, or "grey area" answer.

Ultimately, your learners won't hate the compliance-based training if you can make it as relatable and applicable as possible. I remember going through mandatory California harassment training every two years, and I dreaded it because of how unrealistic the scenarios were. Granted, the examples the course used were derived from real-life situations, but the absurdity and extremity of each essentially rendered the scenarios fairly bogus in most employees' eyes.

Daniel Brigham

Hi, Shelby:

Some quick thoughts that weren't mentioned above:

  • Keep the training as short as possible.
  • Where applicable, highlight the nasty things that happen when employees don't follow the more important policies. This'll help highlight a topic's importance.
  • Allow the learner to move through the training in any manner they wish.
  • (+1 for Steve's suggestion to put the assessment at the beginning)
Silvia Ascoli


I work for a credit union and we have lots of compliance and regulation types of training required every year.

We have started using simple images(actual pictures) in our training presentations to best describe the topic. By using the images and less words, it has kept our audience interests and attention.

If you are interested in using pictures, there is a great website (it's free) where you can create your presentation and upload it to PowerPoint. Here is the website if you are interested:

Good luck :-)


Pierre Sosa

I wonder if this might be an opportunity to do a "personality survey", where people discover something about their humor style and openness, have it explained to them how this might not comply with certain situations, then walked through some of the training (maybe with different branches based on their "type").

Bob S


So this might not be a popular answer here, but...  Have you considered buying instead of building this particular type of "training"?

 Personally, this is the one area we've always bought instead of created our own. Many organizations find it easier, more legally defensible, etc to simply purchase the mandatory topics such as harassment; especially if they do business in multiple states/regions, etc as tracking all of the varying legal requirements can be daunting. 

This would also free your valuable time and creativity to work other courses that actually change culture and/or improve performance.


Steve Flowers

That's actually a pretty great suggestion, Bob.

Or if you work for an industry association or government agency, there might be something you could use from another partner. We used to run an "Off the Shelf" content assessment to produce a matrix that included an evaluation (positives and negatives) and cost before building. We couldn't always afford it, but sometimes there were gems in the partner off the shelf items that didn't cost a thing. If it costs less to accomplish the same thing, that's good business.

Plus... the wheelbarrow effect. Everything you build, you have to sustain or allow to die. Teams can only carry around but so much commitment in their work wheelbarrow.