Need to Entertain Learners?

Feb 22, 2011

Just curious if anyone has any thoughts on, among other things, "entertaining learners" in their courses as a technique to help get them to learn.

Good to do?  Avoid?  Situational?  Cultural?  What do you think?

If you use it, is it deliberate, part of your "natural style? or  . . . .?

Kind of an off-shoot question from these two great threads in the new forums:

Also probably related to this discussion of using humor in the "old forums":

5 Replies
Dave Neuweiler

Gerry, I think it's instructive to think back to the time when training was largely presented by facilitators. You know... the stand-up-in-front-of-a-group-of-trainees type training. I recall good facilitaors who kept the course on topic, and kept people's interest by being (for lack of a better term) ENGAGING. Whether the facilitator used humor, body language, pointed but open-ended questions to draw learners into the lesson -- it didn't matter. The trainees went away with new skills, and had a reasonbly good time while they were acquiring them. And sometimes it was hard to get 'em out of the training room because they wanted to stay and discuss the lesson with their peers and the instructor.

On the other hand, there were not-so-good facilitators. Boring. Ineffectual. Putting people to sleep. You get the picture.

Ss how does this apply to e-learning?  Well, I think the basic premise of being ENGAGING still applies. But as e-learning developers we're somewhat handicapped.

We can apply a bit of humor in e-learning, and we can build scenarios that simulate a question-and-answer session. But we can't observe our audience live and make mid-course adjustments to our facilitation techniques. We have to set up our e-learning to preach to the lowest common denominator in the target audience, and set the course on autopilot.

So what to do? Do the best you can, given the handicap that we bear. And I'm sure you'll agree... that ain't always easy.

Best Regards,


Andy Bowyer

In many cases, I think this relates to the "tone" you want to adopt at the outset of the course.  Which, at the end of the day, goes back to the approach taken at the conceptual level.

Could you use humor to, for example, enlighten electricians to use proper grounding techniques to prevent electrocution?  Say...use images of people with hair like Don King or Phyllis Diller to demonstrate improperly grounded circuits?

Sometimes a good chuckle can be more, in my opinion, reinforcing than scaring someone half to death.

Conversely, of course, you shouldn't bring too much levity into a serious topic as you may run the risk of losing the severity of actions -vs- consequences.

But...on that front....what defines entertainment?

Thought provoking question!

David Anderson

Karl Kapp has a post today on elearning engagement: Does Your E-learning have an Interest Curve. Referencing the book The Art of Game Design, he applies gaming "interest curves" to elearning design. 

Thought this was interesting:

[quote] Once the initial hook is “set” the next step is to settle down to business. If the learning experience is well-crafted, the learner’s interest will continually rise, temporarily peeking at different points. Finally, at the end, there is the “climax” and the learning is then over. [/quote]


Are you designing courses with clear, climactic finales (10-question assessment doesn't count)?

Are climactic endings necessary in info-based courses ( screencasts, compliance manuals built as courses)? 

Anyway, thought it was cool this this thread was talking about the same thing.

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