How Short Can Your Compliance Training Be?

Short compliance training
The modern workplace presents a whole host of demands on your time. Between meetings, phone calls, emails – and the odd metaphorical fire to put out – it can feel like a tall order to find the time to complete those occasional – but vital – compliance courses.But it’s not only our time that’s becoming limited – our ability to concentrate is also starting to wane. In the Internet-enabled world where smartphones, social media, and hyperlinks are constantly beckoning for our attention, concentration spans are getting shorter and shorter.

Indeed, according to a recent study carried out by Microsoft, since the year 2000 the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.

“Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership.”
― Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

So, what if you’re developing a compliance course or program for your organization – how do you manage competing demands on a person’s time and attention? The answer may be simpler than you thought – make it short and sweet! How short can you make your compliance training while also ensuring that it is relevant, engaging and impactful? Let’s examine some compliance training best practices.

Keep Course Duration under 25 Minutes

One straightforward way of ensuring your employees have the time to complete compliance courses is by making them as concise as possible. According to Interactive Services’ own research in this area, the ideal course duration should be between 20 and 25 minutes. Developing shorter compliance courses has several benefits.

  • Focus: It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to maintain focus for long periods of time. By developing courses of 25 minutes duration or less, you can help learners avoid the risk of missing critical pieces of information due to fading concentration.
  • Retention: Keeping course durations low means you can break large subject areas into more manageable, closely-related chunks, thereby enabling better long-term retention of information.
  • Ease of access: Short bursts of training are more impactful, as they allow staff to delve quickly through topics without having to wade through lengthy, broader courses to find a specific piece of information.
  • Learning on the go: With more and more employees completing courses on smartphones and tablets, protracted courses are simply no longer ideal. Employees can easily undertake short courses on their own mobile device while traveling or during downtime.

The Interactive Compliance Training (ICT) Model

Interactive Services has been at the forefront of developing e-learning solutions for over 25years and, in that time, we have developed our own training model to help keep courses as short and engaging as possible. The Interactive Compliance Training (ICT) model promotes the 60:90:5 approach: an interaction every 60 seconds, videos no longer than 90 seconds, and a maximum topic duration of five minutes.

  • Include an interaction every 60 seconds: The main reason for this is that it makes the learner engage with the course content and prevents them from passively consuming and quickly forgetting it. These interactions can be limited, such as multiple-choice questions to check for understanding, or quite complex, such as analyzing a scenario and answering related open-ended questions.
  • Ensure videos don’t exceed 90 seconds: Even the most elaborate 3D simulations or sophisticated animations may cause the learner to lose focus if they go on for too long – especially if they go off topic or include too much information. 90 seconds is an optimal duration as it allows you to explore one concept fully while forcing you to stick to the point.
  • Keep topics to five minutes: 25 minutes might seem like a short time for compliance course duration; sometimes even this can be difficult to factor into a busy schedule. That’s why micro-learning is becoming an increasingly popular trend in e-learning. Micro-learning involves delivering standalone bite-sized topics – ideally five minutes long or less – that fit in as part of a longer course. The advantages of this are that it avoids information overload and facilitates the successful completion of lengthier compliance courses. But just remember: even though a topic may be limited to five minutes, you still need to include the essential “Teach – Show – Do” components: teach the key concepts, show how a process/task is carried out using examples, and get learners to do them.


Keep in mind that the best practices described above are only meant to be used as guidelines – not “written-in-stone” rules that you must doggedly follow. Each course is different, and, depending on the industry sector, e.g. Finance, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Technology, etc., courses may as a requirement end up being a few hours long. But whatever the duration, make sure that you try to keep your compliance courses as short as possible, use the time well, and make them relevant to the learner’s role.