A rapidly changing legal landscape resulted in immense growth in the Cannabis industry and created an education and skills gap. As this need applied to the entire industry, an e-learning training product was an ideal solution to effectively train nation-wide, with consistent, auditable, and accurate information.
Cannabis Compliance Inc. (CCI) is Canada’s oldest cannabis consulting company. They saw an opportunity to develop compliance training for their clients to help them transition from the medical marijuana governed regime. The legalization of cannabis meant new retail infrastructure, new distribution rules, new licensing rules and a transition to a new legal framework for growers.
CCI wanted to create an elearning instructional product that they could sell to their clients, to train front line customer service staff in the retail cannabis marketplace. CCI hired Spark + Co. for our expertise in developing custom instructional products, for our ability to pull together a project team to execute and deliver the project within a strict timeframe, and for our flexibility to respond quickly to changing circumstances created by the emerging legislation.
As CCI needed to develop the training while the regulations were still being drafted, this created a number of constraints. The first constraint was determining what would actually be in the training. It’s hard to determine the length of a course, the instructional activities, or how long it would take to develop that course when you can’t clearly identify the specific content required (since the new regulations hadn’t been drafted at the time). Using our ingenuity, we researched and drafted initial content, making it easier for the internal experts to vet information.
A second constraint was the limited availability of internal subject matter experts to contribute to the course development. The demand for their expertise was extraordinary as they were required on client work due to the impending legalisation date.
A third constraint was that CCI had selected an LMS (learning management system) but it was not currently operational. We had to get up to speed on the inner workings of the LMS, since every LMS influences the overall course structure and experience. As this was a training product to be sold by CCI, we also needed to pay very close attention to the user experience to keep future support costs down to maximize profitability.
Engage + Analyze
As with all of our projects, in collaboration with CCI, we established guiding principles to help us meet the project goals within the constraints. For example, “What were the trade-offs we could and couldn’t make?” and “What would govern our decisions?”
We ascertained that the timeline was critical and the information had to be precise, ensuring correct interpretation and application of the regulations within the legal framework. We also created a list of non-critical enhancements that could be made post launch. The project could be delivered on time meeting CCI’s objectives, while some value-added features could be included in a later release.
Learning objectives for each program were also established, making sure that the approach focused on the application of the new knowledge acquired by the learner.
The goal of the Retail Consultant custom elearning course was to provide comprehensive and efficient training to staff who require basic knowledge of cannabis, its effects, standard operating procedures and the regulations within the Cannabis Act that they must adhere to.
Instructional + Creative Design
A challenge with compliance oriented courses can be the amount of legalese and do’s + don’ts they contain, so significant focus was placed on creating engaging instructional activities relevant to the compliance information.
It was essential that the learner understand why it was important to learn the information that was in the course. It couldn’t just be because they “had to” – a common challenge with compliance oriented courses. They had to see the importance of their work in the grand scheme of the new legalization. As a result, a number of scenarios were included that showed the potential consequences and personal impact on customers of not following procedures and regulations, rather than solely focusing on the punitive consequences of the legislation.
A Storyboard was created that included
- sequence of content
- narrative writing of the story
- topics and story arc
- activities for each topic to ensure all the learning objectives were covered
Build, Test + Modify
Without any draft regulations to work from, subject matter experts identified likely topic areas and wrote content in each of the identified areas; such as standard operating procedures for retail distribution. A series of modules were outlined along with associated learning activities and content.
As further information became available the structure of the outlined modules needed to change. Some topics were condensed, others expanded and elaborated upon, and a narrative approach was created that followed a new employee through their learning journey.
Part way through the build phase, the development of the regulatory framework was released. The Act would be Federal domain and each Province was responsible for creating its own regulations. Consequently, the approach taken was to focus on the common areas across all Provincial regulations and note exceptions as they occurred. For example, the legal age of consumption was consistent across all provinces except Alberta and Quebec, and in cases where more substantive differences existed, links to specific information on the respective provincial regulations were created.
As the project progressed 3 versions/builds were created which were each reviewed and modified accordingly following feedback from CCI and subject matter experts.
The Retail Consultant online course was successfully delivered and launched on time. As part of the launch Spark + Co. worked with CCI to develop a video highlighting the breadth of information covered, and the interactivity and applied nature of the course to support sales. We provided support in the development of a promotional video sharing screenshots and video excerpts of the course.
The Retail Consultant elearning course was developed in Articulate Storyline and included 4 modules
- Customer Service
- Store Operations
- Product Knowledge
- Effects of Cannabis
The course also includes scenario-based assessment to confirm learning.
As a self-paced course it allows individuals to prepare themselves to work in the rapidly growing industry and allows companies to invest in training for their employees without the added cost of developing it themselves.
CCI has been able to establish a strong position in the marketplace, building on their first mover advantage in the space. After receiving approval from Health Canada for the course they have been able to market and sell the Retail Consultant elearning program to new and existing clients.
“Spark and Co was a lifesaver. They stepped in at the last minute when it seemed as though we weren’t going to be able to complete our curriculum on time. Holly and her team provided guidance and offered out of the box solutions that not only delivered our project on time, but provided us with a product that we are proud of. Their expertise, professionalism and general know-how was a breath of fresh air.”
Shannon Kloet – Director of Training – CANNABIS COMPLIANCE INC.
CCI has been able to establish custom training programs for clients and continues to build out their curriculum, based on their industry insights and expertise. The growing demand for this training provides a solid revenue opportunity for CCI.
During this initial engagement and as a result of the success of the partnership, CCI engaged Spark + Co., to take on the development of five additional custom elearning programs with a total of 13 courses. Each of these additional programs was much larger and more technical in nature than the Retail Consultant course, yet all the courses had the same deadline and were completed on time and on budget.
The additional five programs created were
- Quality Assurance Associate (4 online courses)
- Production Associate (3 online courses)
- Production Manager (4 online courses)
- Master Grower (1 online course)
- Integrated Pest Management (1 online course)