6 Signs That Your Online Compliance Training Is Causing Cognitive Overload

6 Signs That Your Online Compliance Training Is Causing Cognitive Overload
ra2 studio/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Compliance courses can feel overwhelming because you have to dig into wordy rules and complex interpretations. How do you know when it’s too much for your corporate learners to handle?

6 Signs That Your Compliance Training Can Be Tiring For Your Learners

Think about the basic steps of compliance training. Your learners need to know regulations, preferably word-for-word. They should know what each word means, and what areas it covers. They have to be familiar with what constitutes non-compliance, and how far they can dance on the edge. They need a keen awareness of "gray zones" and which borders can be skirted. And they have to reproduce all this on-demand or risk dire penalties. How can you tell what amount of knowledge is "enough" or where trainees are starting to glaze over? Here are 6 ways to tell if your online compliance training is causing cognitive overload instead of clarifying the confusion.

1. Drop-Off Points

Because (non)compliance can cost a company thousands of dollars –possibly even jail time– compliance training is mandatory. Quitting the course isn’t really an option. But your course analytics can tell you when employees are pondering the possibility. You can identify tests that are retaken most often, showing they’re harder than average. You can spot which units trainees are dragging over, or which chapters take longer to complete. Or mark the exact point where trainees take a hiatus, or "forget" to log in for a while. This all alludes to learning difficulties on that particular topic. Maybe it’s too dense or presented in a way that’s too dry. Consider revising that section then running it past trainees again, gauging and applying their feedback. Simplify and summarize as needed. Also, be proactive in your requests for feedback. Ask questions in a way that permits honest responses.

2. Low Motivation Levels

Throughout the training, seek employees’ thoughts. As above, you could ask what they like about the course, and what they don’t. It’s more crucial to ask pointed questions. For example, at the end of each section, you could ask an open-ended question to see what they remember. Or maybe a lighter quiz with a list of topics, asking them to point out bits that were(n’t) in the chapter. Make it a simple puzzle where they can cross out or drag and drop. At a glance, you should be able to spot the areas that are overlooked by multiple employees. It indicates the topic was ignored, misunderstood, or skipped. They didn’t feel it was important, or it didn’t sink in. You can also ask –casually– about their motivation levels. It can be a pop-up at strategic points and will show you the exact segments that have drained your trainees. Look at those portions of the course, converting them into shorter, lighter, more interactive styles.

3. Heat Map Readings

Incorporating this bit of technology into your course can be immensely helpful. It shows you which parts of the page receive the most attention. It may help you re-organize screen layout, repositioning key data strategically. But it can also show you which parts of your course were skimmed or scanned. Which might be a signal of TMI. Reformat the affected sections, breaking them down to spot lag points. Too much text? Excessive jargon? Miniscule visuals? Audit the troublesome pages to identify the point and reason for overload, then adjust it accordingly. You can increase the resolution of your infographics while minimizing wording. That makes it easier to zoom in, navigate, and consume, while also reducing the content load. You can also make content less dense by incorporating casual language. The statements of compliance can be technical, but explanations and interpretations can be conversational.

4. Missing Certifications

Employees aren’t getting the necessary compliance online training certifications. They are unable to meet the requirements due to cognitive overload. It may simply be a matter of the course design, itself. For example, clutter or irrelevant visuals are preventing them from assimilating the subject matter. Or it might be that there’s an issue with the structure. Long-term certification goals aren’t broken down into manageable milestones. Therefore, employees are unable to track their progress or are confused about what’s expected of them.

5. Falling Behind In Badge Count

If you’ve implemented a gamification strategy, a lack of badges or points is another tell-tale sign of cognitive overload. Employees aren’t able to understand the information during the online compliance training. Thus, they aren’t able to secure the coveted badge or move up the leaderboard. Overload causes them to fall behind their peers, which further diminishes their motivation and drive.

6. Create Quiet Spaces

This is more of a solution than a trouble-shooter but look at your course overview. Evaluate it from visual and contextual standpoints. Are there pages that look too busy? Is there any white space? Are there interludes or study breaks, or are you assuming trainees will incorporate their own "holidays?" They might, but in case they don’t, build them into the course. Each screen should have a single concept, with minimal wording and no distractions. Put a little "break" between chapters, in the form of a quick game, pop quiz, or simulation. These mental refresher breaks also give you the opportunity to poll or assess your employees to ensure they’re soaking up the essentials.


#TMI is generally applied in the context of scandalous, overly-personal data you wish the person hadn’t shared. In an online training setup, cognitive overload is more a case of excessive detail. It weighs down the learner with jargon and redundant content that doesn’t help their path to compliance. How can you tell? They become unmotivated, slow their training progress, and their eyes glaze over. Edit your compliance content to eliminate unnecessary portions and increase breathing space.

Are your LMS reports revealing areas for improvement? If not, it may be time to invest in a new system with advanced analytics that can troubleshoot the pain points. Use our free online directory to find the perfect platform for your online compliance training course.

eBook Release: Homebase
Make work easier. Running a small business has never been harder. Homebase helps with free tools to track time and manage your team.