While there are some great examples around using emphasis text, white space and reality TV to design engaging e-learning, the reality is even the best-designed courses become predictable at some point. That's why I'm such a big fan of Dr. Oppelbaumer.

A misguided reading of Oppelbaumer's recent work has led me to discover dozens of obscure techniques for gaining attention during e-learning courses. Here are three I can share today.

1. Trick banners

Nothing disrupts a learning experience like a system warning. In much the same way "no toon can resist the old 'shave and a haircut' trick," no user can resist clicking an alert button.

Let's use that to our advantage.


Case study:

Sneak in some compliance updates, upcoming course announcements or even a pop quiz.


Consider mixing up your system messages with more positive banners. The "Congratulations, you're a winner" will be a familiar ad to most corporate learners.

2. Pop-up Banners

Loathed by e-learners yet critical to marketers, banners work at grabbing attention. Course banners aren't something most learners have seen, so click-through rates are guaranteed to be higher for early adopters.


Case study:

Our course begins with a simple yawner on mortgage banking. Everything appears to be normal when, out of nowhere, our banner loads:

3. Emergency Lights

What's the first thing you do when you see flashing lights? You stop what you're doing and pull over. Here we can take a cue from Drudge Report.

Like him or not, nothing signals "breaking news" like the Drudge siren. And that's just what we need to wake a sleeping learner.


Case study:

Here we apply the siren to simple bullet points. Notice how the third bullet grabs your attention? You know there's something important there.

Take things up a notch by designing emergency response pages based on the site:

Final thoughts

These are just a few ideas I've picked up from reading Dr. Oppelbaulmer. While no two e-learning courses are alike, I'm confident these techniques can disrupt any course you build.

Please share your own ideas and insights in the comments below.

Post written by David Anderson