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Branching Scenarios for Compliance Training: Why They Work

Using branching scenarios for compliance training can be a powerful way to boost engagement and impact. Find out why in part one of our two-part series on branching scenarios (you'll find part 2 here).

Scenario-based learning has long been used to challenge learners to apply knowledge in a realistic context. Whether in the classroom or online, most L&D professionals agree they’re an effective tool in their training toolkit.

Scenarios are often only used in their simplest format: a single multiple choice question that sets out a situation and then asks the learner to make a decision. Feedback details the correct answer and the learner moves on.

But in real life, decisions are rarely that simple.

The rest of this blog will make the case for using a more advanced form of scenario: the branching scenario, and why this can be particularly effective for compliance training.

Branching Scenarios for Compliance Training: A Quick Primer

Before we go any further, it’s worth explaining exactly how a branching scenario works:

In contrast to a standard scenario, a branching scenario sends the learner down different ‘branches’ (or chains of screens) based on the answer they gave to a preceding question. Learners follow a path through a scenario that is directly related to the decisions they have made, rather than being denied progress until they make the right decision, or being sent down a generic path regardless of their answers.

Most branching scenarios will feature a critical path of key decisions that learners will return to as they progress through the scenario.

Branching Scenarios: It’s Not Always Black and White

Branching scenarios provide the flexibility and functionality to cover more complex situations, which are far more likely to result in compliance matters. A list of dos and don’ts is easy to understand for subjects such as health and safety. For example: if there’s a fire, leave the building. If you don’t, there could be grave consequences.

But if your subject matter is something more complex, like conflicts of interest for example, then how employees apply rules and guidance isn’t quite so simple. There are gray areas and nuances that need to be challenged to be understood.

It may not be immediately apparent that a situation is a conflict of interest. This can develop through a series of events or decisions that then results in serious consequences.

A branching scenario has the advantage of being able to portray a realistic series of events. It can demonstrate how someone can end up making potentially life-changing decisions if they aren’t attuned to the nuances and challenges of complex regulations.

Branching Scenarios for Compliance Training: More Engagement

It’s hard to deny that engaging learners in matters of compliance can be challenging (there’s a great podcast on this topic here). Perceptions of compliance training often point to reams of complicated information learners have to consume. This is the definition of a passive, unengaging learning experience.

Of course, sometimes you have to present information to learners, but where you can, you should intersperse passive learning with more active learning. Scenarios are often used in this way to provide those important moments of engagement and challenge.

A single scenario can provide a quick break from a generally passive learning experience. But a fully branching experience can provide an active learning experience from start to finish. This turns the learning experience on its head. Instead of a passive learning experience punctuated by moments of action, you create an active learning experience with short bursts of more passive learning as and when it’s needed.

As an example, we created a financial crime course that places the entire learning within a scenario-based environment. The learner plays an investigator who has to review different types of evidence to assess if fraudulent activity has occurred.

This kind of action-based learning experience is far more engaging as it puts the learner ‘in control’.

Better Results With Branching Scenarios

Greater learner engagement and enjoyment should be goals for any learning intervention. Successfully achieving these objectives is likely to produce better completion rates for your learning. However, you may have wider, more strategic objectives when it comes to compliance training.

Increasingly, achieving long-lasting behavioral change is now the goal for many organizations. This requires taking compliance training beyond a box-ticking exercise and using it to embed a culture of compliance throughout an organization. When learners understand the impact of their behaviors, they’re far more likely to make lasting changes and recognize the importance of a compliance-focused culture.

Branching scenarios, far better than other interactions, can directly demonstrate the consequences that poor decisions can have. By giving the learner power, they see the impact of their decisions.

If you’re targeting lasting change then a branching scenario is a persuasive and powerful device that can prompt learners to challenge their own behaviors and assumptions, particularly when it comes to following important regulations.

Don’t miss the second part of this blog, which will look at the practical considerations in designing effective branching scenarios for compliance training.

Missing out on the benefits of using branching scenarios for compliance training? Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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