Less Is More: 3 Ways to Streamline Course Content

    

The old saying "less is more" can be applied to a lot of things—from perfume and cologne to spices and seasonings to architecture (depending on your aesthetic).

But what about compliance training?

My colleague Harper Wells recently wrote a post on how, under the latest DOJ guidance, more training doesn't necessarily equate to better training or more effective training. In most cases, it results in the opposite.

This is especially true when it comes to crafting course content. Oftentimes you can do more with less. With that in mind, here are three things to consider when developing or reviewing course content.


1) use fewer words 

I'll be the first to admit it, when I take a training (or even receive an email) that has a bunch of long, technical paragraphs, I tend to zone out and start scrolling. Most learners today are the same way.

So why not:

  • Leverage bullet points to present ideas
  • Use short phrases instead of always using complete sentences
  • Do most of the teaching through immersive activities, so learners are actively engaging with the material
  • Use audio and video strategically to diversify how learners are interacting with the course content

2) LOOK for places to condense and consolidate 

Are there topic areas that can be taught together? Is too much time being spent on legal standards or background context that isn't applicable to learners' day-to-day actions and responsibilities? These are opportunities to streamline content.

My team recently refreshed our Off-the-Shelf Anti-Corruption suite. By rescoping the courses and simplifying content where we could, we were able to make the courses roughly 20% shorter than they had been previously.

Did we lose anything by condensing and consolidating? No, not when it comes to the most important takeaways for this topic area. These new Anti-Corruption courses are more cohesive and easier to remain focused on. A course that learners actually pay attention to will be more effective at changing behavior in the long run.

3) Prioritize learning objectives 

This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. Prioritizing learning objectives requires you to take a closer look at what you're testing on or what situations you're asking learners to apply their knowledge to.

As an example, when I first started writing courses, we always tested on the consequences of acting improperly (for example, "What might the company experience as a result of this violation?"). Don't get me wrong, it's still important for learners to know that their actions can have very costly consequences. But what's gained by asking learners to identify the specific consequences? Does it show where behavior risks lie? I'd argue it doesn't. Does it show where meaningful knowledge gaps exist? Again, I'd say no. So why test on it? By contrast, it would be more meaningful to assess whether learners know when and how to report concerns or suspected misconduct.

By prioritizing learning objectives—and not just testing on everything—you're focusing learners' attention on the parts of the topic area that are most important. This in turn gives you meaningful insight into where someone might make the wrong decision and why.

DO MORE WITH LESS

Creating a bigger impact with less content is a dream come true for content creators. And learners appreciate it as well, which makes it even more rewarding.

Now, if I can just figure out how to do more with less on my next home renovation project…

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