The Difference Between Adaptive & Linear Compliance Training


Adaptive Learning in Compliance Training

In a survey by Deloitte, half of responding compliance professionals said that employees’ completion of a training course was a measurement their organizations used to gauge the effectiveness of their compliance programs.

The finding is surprising, to say the least. Compliance officers across a myriad of industries know that employees completing compliance training and actually learning and applying the principles of that training are two different things. Not surprisingly, only 32 percent of respondents in the same survey feel more than somewhat confident that their programs are working …

Many companies that use online compliance training employ linear courses to teach their workers—a Point A-to-Point B approach interspersed with quizzes that provides all the necessary information and, often, checks the box that training was attempted and completed. However, more and more organizations are recognizing the value of an adaptive approach to training to maximize learning impact. Here’s a look at how the two strategies differ to help you decide which might work best for your organization.


Linear Compliance Training, Explained

Linear compliance training is the most common online training organizations use and employees encounter. This “traditional” one-size-fits-all approach is straightforward: An employee progresses through the course, slide by slide or item by item, in a predetermined order that generally doesn’t change—hence the “linear” description of this kind of training. Little deviation occurs during the course; quiz questions might be included throughout the training, but even if users answer incorrectly, they are given another opportunity on the same question to guess again or are simply shown the right response, perhaps with a one-sentence explanation backing up the answer. The ultimate goal of linear compliance training is to display a trove of information; whether the employee absorbs that information is less of a priority.


Adaptive Compliance Training, Explained

Adaptive compliance training creates more opportunity for the user to interact with the course—and for the course to interact right back. Though it is a digital experience, it aims to mimic live learning and focuses on deep personalization and learning by doing. For example, course content dynamically adapts to the employee’s role and performance. Employees who cannot show the course that they can effectively apply the information are given bite-sized coaching and made to practice with additional dilemmas to ensure they attain mastery. Adaptive training is tailored to the individual employee and can even carry over from training session to training session. In this way, each user experiences training unique to them and builds critical decision-making skills aligned with the company’s values and compliance practices. Those who display mastery of a particular concept can also progress through a training session more quickly.


Stronger Results

Linear online training can be effective to teach something short and simple that needs memorization. Compliance training is rarely characterized by any of these adjectives, and you can run the risk of employees not paying attention during training, not internalizing how the information applies to them specifically, or putting the course on a second screen and clicking periodically just to get it over with.

Adaptive training differs from a linear approach in terms of engagement, effectiveness, and short- and long-term retention of the vital concepts being taught or reinforced. Some benefits of adaptive online compliance training include:

  • Employees who need more training receive it: Linear training offers the same course to everybody, whether they grasp the concepts immediately or are hopelessly lost. Adaptive training does the opposite: adapts the training time and journey based on the user’s interactions with the course. If someone demonstrates strong knowledge as they navigate each critical topic, the training adjusts to move them forward quickly so as not to bore the user. If users are obviously struggling, the training provides extra coaching and practice, taking them on a different path to ensure mastery before moving on to the next topic.

  • More learning by doing: Because adaptive training is more interactive and simulation-based, users are immersed in an experience that directly applies to them and their performance. Knowledge retention increases because the compliance training is relevant to the employee in a way that often can’t be duplicated in a linear course, and there is a time reward built in for engaging with attention.

  • Added insight: A user could go through a linear training course, score perfectly on any testing within, spend what you might consider a sufficient amount of time on each slide or video … and still come away having not learned anything about staying compliant. However, the data would tell you that this user completed the course and is now “trained.” Adaptive training forces deeper interaction with the training—interaction that compliance officers can measure, analyze, and incorporate into future strategy along with getting a quantifiable way to prove mastery. If, for example, the course sees certain employees are struggling with a basic anti-harassment guideline, their training automatically adjusts during the course until the misconceptions are corrected, and subsequent sessions can be further amended to strengthen their mindset. Their managers can also be alerted that this is a problem area and should be carefully monitored.

Adopting Adaptive

Organizations conditioned to expect a certain kind of online training might wonder how they can seamlessly switch to an adaptive approach. Employees who were satisfied breezing through linear training may be surprised (albeit pleasantly surprised) that they can’t just click through a course by putting it on the second screen and be done with it. Moreover, some companies might not know where to begin with designing compliance training that offers a depth of options and outcomes. You don’t need to buy a new platform or build custom solutions. 

Partnering with an expert in adaptive learning to provide or customize online adaptive courses gives compliance officers confidence that the training delivered to employees is accurate, inspiring, and impactful. You’ll never look at training the same way, and hopefully, neither will your workers. And, most importantly, you’ll reduce risk and save your employees valuable revenue-generating time.

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