Ideas for VERY dry content

May 07, 2015

Hello - I'm very new to e-learning and the Articulate programs.  I've used Studio to build my first e-learning module, and just got Storyline.  I have now been tasked to create an e-learning module for a very dry subject with a lot of text about our company's financial process.  Any ideas of how to start?

29 Replies
Simon Blair

Hi Jen,

There's a lot of great content in the E-Learning Heroes community. I recommend searching for "boring" or "compliance" to find some ideas on how you can liven up dry topics.

I'd also recommend focusing your course on what people need to do. As much as possible, keep the background information outside the course or in bonus content.



Tristan Hunt

I'll second what Simon has recommended.

Something I have just done for a process was to break it down into the small steps, then create graphics to represent each step and put them into a flow diagram with numbers along side. The learner would then click on each number to find out what happens at this stage of the process.

If you don't have too many steps this can be useful to break a lot of content into manageable chunks.



Mohammad  Hassam

I agree with Tristan and Simon, you need to analyze the content and then break it different topics. Make sure the each topic has some attraction in it or anything makes more engaging or interactive, for example, try using the graph and flow charts in it where each and every component of the graph will be self-explanatory. 

Concise content is the key in this course and do voiceover in it especially when you trying to explain graph and flow charts.

Color schemes play a vital role here because as I can understand the audience of yours will be those people who work in the finance department. Make sure you use selected colors. Check this out.

Hope it Helps!


Michelle Leon

I agree with what everyone said above about chunking the information down into bite-size pieces. And depending on the information, I find it very helpful to have an example that you refer to throughout each step of the module.

For example, I just created a module on Incident Investigation. I started off by giving an example of a real incident that occurred in our company, then I proceeded to describe the steps of the investigation while walking them through what we did to investigation the actual incident. Applying the information as they learn it can be a very powerful tool and connects those dots for them. 

John Nixdorf

Do an informal needs assessment with whomever you're developing the course for:


  • What can go wrong/where do people get this wrong?
  • What mistakes do people make/can people make?
  • What are some examples of things that have gone wrong recently that could be cured by training?
  • Stories of when things went wrong/went right in the past?
  • Where can people get more information and help?
  • What training does the audience say they need?
  • What training does management say the audience needs?
  • What are the major gaps between actual and desired performance?
  • If we only accomplish three training goals for this project, what would they be?

"Module" implies something the participant can complete in one sitting, which would be 30-60 minutes. Aim to address as many of the issues you identified by asking questions as possible in that window.

Michelle Leon

Another thing I've found extremely impactful is to start with a true story in the beginning. I tell a story of an incident where things went wrong and how it all could have been prevented if that person had the information included in the module. For me, it's safety-type stuff. For you, if it's financial information, you can probably provide what can go wrong if they don't have the information you're providing.

Jerson  Campos

You could do " A day in the life of a transaction/bill/account"  or whatever financial process that goes through your company. You can anthropomorph a transaction as it experiences the process it goes through your system. This will add a character that your users can make an emotional attachment to.  And if you have quizzes or interactions, this transaction can get lost in the system with an image of a sad and depressed character if the user fails.  

Take a look at a similar technique used to antropomorph a bill going through congress.

Andrew Winner

Have you thought about mapping the process? If you can find a good graphic designer, you can create an actual map of the financial process (this is step 1, this is step 2, etc.). Then, at each step, you can prompt the user to click into that process and learn more via videos/images/text/audio. 

That might be a little challenging if you're new to the tool, but it could be a cool way to visualize the process and give users a good sense of the overall process at a glance. 

Good luck!! 

Dave Bull

Most of the material I get given is dry....very dry :(

But it's up to me to make it as interesting and engaging as possible, sometimes it's hard to do but it can be done....

I try to add in some for of interaction every 4-5 slides, a couple of self-assessment questions at the end of every section and if possible add content from YouTube

Put yourself in the position of the learner and try to stimulate as many sense as possible

It doesn't always work but all we can do is try :)

John Jamison

Hey Jen, first of all, welcome to the adventure of eLearning!

As for the content, one way we bring some life into less than exciting content is to explore how that content actually appears and is interacted with in "real world" practice. We begin by collecting as many stories as we can about times the content was actually applied...looking for both good and not-so good examples of how things went. We take those individual stories and begin weaving our own, larger story, that eventually becomes the learning activity itself.

We've taken this approach with things like mortgage regulations (want to talk about dull?), policies around replacing heavy equipment (yawn), and yet another course on workplace harassment. Beginning with stories of actual use is our first step towards creating experience-based activities that work for us.

Enjoy the eLearning ride!


ImagiLearning, Inc. 

Chris Wall

I like Michelle Leon's response! Mainly because that's what I was gonna say!

There's a lot to it, though.

Well-written stories do a lot of things besides just engage your audience. If you can demonstrate that you get the audience's challenges in this regard, you could garner a lot of buy-in from people who need to feel as though the training channel empathizes with their plight. In other words, it gives you a lot of credibility.

Bob S

This topic of boring content comes up often for many of us in the field. As outlined above the solutions generally revolve around three key steps.  What I will add is that those three steps be taken in this particular order....

  1. Focus on what you want them to DO, not everything SMEs think they need to KNOW.
  2. Be relentless in completely removing, or attach as reference only, EVERYTHING that is not minimally required for the what the learner must be able to DO after the training (see #1).   This includes focusing only on the 80% situations , not the once in a blue moon situations they won't remember anyways without a job aid/reference.
  3. Then (and only then), look for fun, interactive, graphical, creative ways to deliver what remains.


Hope this helps!


Simon CW Ku

I haven't gone through all the comments, so pardon me if someone has already said this.

Perhaps you can try to build the process into a journey and tell a story from the point of view of a 'dollar character'. What the 'dollar' bumps into during the process and how it got split up into different accounts, etc.


Virpi Oinonen

I turn boring, abstract and complex training into comics and/or series of cartoons. The key to bring financial/legal stuff alive is to come up with a story  (some good suggestions in this thread on how to do that) and then come up with a visual metaphor. The problem with abstract information like finance is that you can't take a photo of it - it doesn't "exist" in real life. Hence the visual metaphor that brings it to life. Here's a piece I did as part of a management training course.

Me and my colleagues do this type of work all the time (turn complex information into fun visual stories), feel free to drop me a line if you need more ideas:

John Nixdorf

Just finished visiting Virpi's site, and tracking it through to a presentation she made about Yammer ( It is all very worth visiting and taking a look at. If you've been involved with training for any length of time, you can appreciate how unusual it is to see anything like this that's so really fresh and worthwhile. HT to Virpi for sharing.

Virpi Oinonen

Thanks John! I know it can be difficult to find illustrations/visuals that go beyond the obvious. Finance and other dry topics desperately need this type of treatment - especially when you're communicating with a non-expert audience who might find the topic intimidating (although I've noticed that everybody appreciates visuals like this - including senior managers). The only people who seem to sometimes have a problem with illustrations are the brand police (*ahem*, brand guardians). 

Chris Wall

Kathi... I don't think video and animation are at all essential to good online training. In fact, I often find that people rely on that too much and do to their training materials what George Lucas did to the Star Wars prequels.

Focus on the basics. Bells and whistles are no substitute for a solid foundation.

Rino Krux

What helped for us trying to get "boring" (compliance) content on an interesting basis:

  • Is to keep the information based on the essentials only, create a discussion with your manager afterwards. This allows not much more loss on time (discussions can be part of teammeetings). This process is quite effective, but support from management and communication is needed for a smooth transition.
  • Gamify content: I had the opportunity to join in on a project where new rules and regulations were put into a game. This game had a leaderboard which allowed users to compete with eachother. The first part on regulations were mandatory, but the leaderboard game was optional. We saw huge number in people trying to beat the highest score. This structure does not always work however. so use with caution.
Chris Wall

I think one of the other things you can do, and this flips out a lot of folks, is ask a multiple-choice question before you deliver your content. Let's say we're in the middle of a (very dry) process, and we want to set up the next step.

I like to sort of review what we've done so far and where we're going, and ask them what they think might come next. Something along these lines:

"OK, remember, we're trying to make sure we execute the XYZ process correctly, and, when we're done, our output will be this... So far, we've done X and Y, but, before we can get to Z, what do you think we need to do?"

Then I have a multiple choice question with lots of good feedback to ensure they understand now only why the wrong answers were incorrect, but explaining why the correct choice was the correct choice. If someone gets the question correct, they get reinforced for being clever (or, granted, a lucky guesser), and if they get it wrong, they get feedback on their thinking.

Either way, though, I've already asked them to think critically about what's next, not just in terms of getting the right answer, but to consider the logic behind what we're doing.

Lots of folks think it's unfair to ask questions like this before you deliver the content, but I've found that if you get a question wrong, you're eager to find out why.