Making regulation engaging......can it be done?

May 31, 2022

I work as an Instructional Designer in a highly regulated, health related industry.

My latest project is to create an e-learning module that helps people learn how to comply with a complex and detailed set of regulations. It's way more dense than your usual compliance training (e.g. Health & Safety or Data Protection).

I would love to hear your ideas about how you've made your dry subjects come to life without patronising learners.

6 Replies
Christy Tucker

I created training a few years ago for an audience that had to be able to read, understand, and apply regulations and legal decisions. It was a completely different field (advising international students on visas), but I think you could use a similar approach.

The big trick to content like that is figuring out the situations in which people need to make decisions related to the regulations. In isolation, the regulations themselves aren't that meaningful; it's when you're faced with a decision about how to apply it that it matters.

For that specific example, I had a character in a similar role to the learners and a second character who was his mentor. That main character worked through a series of short scenarios/case studies that required interpreting different parts of the regulations. The series of different problems was important, because no single story could show all of the different parts of the regulation we needed to train.

I wrote more about that approach (plus a few other examples) here:

Bianca Woods

Hi Graham,

Making compelling regulations training is definitely tricky. Earlier in my instructional design career, I worked at a bank, so I feel your pain in how challenging it can be to make great e-learning experiences around detailed and complicated regulations.

What my team back then found worked well is much like what Christy Tucker just shared: stories and scenarios. We often started with stories (based on real bank experiences where possible) to help learners see why this content was important and ground how specific regulations played out in their work life. We then used scenarios to give learners guided practice using those rules in common situations at work and then assess their knowledge at the end of the course.

From the learner perspective, this worked fabulously. They found the content more enjoyable than previous content dump courses and were better able to apply it to their actual jobs.

We did sometimes experience pushback, though, with subject matter experts. Some worried that if learners didn't spend all their training time reading the policies verbatim, they wouldn't be as knowledgeable as they needed to be. So you may need to talk through how learning to apply regulations in real-world scenarios is more likely to help people get this content right on the job than memorizing policies without that application context.

For SMEs who have never seen this kind of training and are hesitant to buy in, a single proof of concept story/scenario course (or even just a lesson) may be able to help them see how much this approach can improve on-the-job performance.

Hianna Sabo

Hi Graham, 
In terms of their job, learners only really need to know what they need to do to remain compliant. However, if you're looking for engagement, you might want to explore why these regulations were put in place, to begin with. Perhaps building scenarios that allow the learner to roleplay situations that led to these regulations, will provide them with much-needed interactivity and a history lesson all at once. 
For example, if the topic was "whistle-blower policy" I would build a scenario that lets the learner play as a famous whistleblower and show them the consequences of their actions before a whistleblower policy was put in place. Hope this helps!