Bringing the legalese down to earth

If you ask a crowded room of eLearning designers to describe the most boring content they’ve had to work on recently, the number one answer will probably be compliance training.  It’s not the lawyers’ fault – but we’ve got to do something about it.

Legally mandated, highly regulated and pored over by the lawyers to make sure each word is right, many of us call this type of training “box ticking.” That is, you just need to tick off boxes to prove that people endured the content in order to prove compliance in the event of a lawsuit.

Often, your hands are tied as you look for ways to make the content more compelling, especially if you’re under really tight deadlines and need to get the content out in a matter of weeks or days.

One simple technique you can use is what we call “the translator.”  Can you book end your content with the voice of the layperson?

Start a topic off with a commonly asked question—show a character in the role of employee—asking a question about the content. For instance, “Why is it so important to follow that rule? It doesn’t make sense to me…”  Treat the learner as someone just as smart, and just as time-pressured, as you.

Use the next few screens to run through the content that the legal team requires. Don’t see it as boring – get context for it. Do your best to present that content in appropriate chunks, represented in plain English, and provide opportunities for reflection and synthesis through questions and exercises. What are the situations where this information could make the difference between doing the right thing and ending up in trouble? Now it gets interesting. Go to the interesting places and structure your learning around them. The rest of it is just supporting information. 

End the topic with the same employee answering the question asked at the beginning. “I get it now. We need to follow this rule because if we don’t follow it this could happen...”

By bookending the content with the voice of a layperson, you can distill it down to the key point and represent it in concrete terms that people will actually understand. You’ve ticked the boxes with the content screens in the middle and you’ve provided your audience with easy to understand translations of that material.

For more on using scenarios in eLearning, be sure to check out Cammy Bean’s presentation on Slide Share:

http://www.slideshare.net/cammybean/using-scenarios-in-elearning

Check out our guide to effective compliance eLearning for more.