What's the most boring content you've worked with—and how did you spice it up?

Apr 20, 2015

Ask any e-learning designer/developer for one thing they'd like to change about their job and often you'll hear, "I wish I didn't have to work with such dry/boring content."

I believe that, no matter the topic, there's always room to make something dull a little more engaging. So tell us: What's the most boring content you've worked with—and how did you spice it up?

24 Replies
Bob S

Federal banking regulations.... kill me now.

How it was spiced up.... A panel of "expert" characters, each with their own profile and approach to their job. The new learner had to decide which one to listen to and follow their advice for any given situation. Some of the results included....  lost customers, being named in a FinCen investigation, job loss, or even jail time (fun graphic!).

The trick was to make things less predictable by having the experts sometimes appear sorta right, but with their own slant that that could lead to issues. For example..... One of them always favored providing the best customer service. Good right?  Well, except when good service included making allowances that unknowingly violated regulations! Additional variety was introduced by having the experts say things like  "I'm not positive on this one, but I was told by XYZ that..." or "I think I remember reading that....".

The characters were easy (just head shots with a few different expresssions) the work was in the branching logic and scripting some wrong answers that seemed as if they could be right.

Cary Glenn

There are two that come to mind. One was a course on a government rule for an electric utility call center. The other was on how different parts of a company could interact with each other (some parts were regulated by the government, some parts weren't). In both cases I used cartoon type characters and scenarios to demonstrate what could happen if the rules weren't followed.

Stacy W

I'm currently working on a course about procedures for operating a compressor station. Most of the content is presented in a step-by-step fashion. (In our company, the tasks of writing the courses and designing the courses are two separate jobs, so I must note that I did not write this content.) I set the course up as if you are working through a manual to accommodate the step-by-step nature of the content. I was really struggling with the knowledge checks at the end of the objectives, though. Today I decided to make the knowledge checks into a series of scenarios with the idea that the learner is training my two avatars and has to pose questions to them and then choose who responds appropriately. I'm hoping it will work out well. Anything has to be better than a drag and drop list of "Put the steps in the correct order..."!

David Swaddle

Inspired by the theme of this discussion, and with a desire to make the world a better place, I've chosen "Spicing Up Boring Content" as the theme of this month's Sydney eLearning and Instructional Design MeetUp.

It would be great to see some more of the Articulate community there, especially if you've got some before and after work to share.

Karin Pfister

I am working on an Accounting course which is content heavy/ text heavy. We have created a character "The Accountant" and trying to spice things up a bit with videos, interactives and tutorials inside the storyline. I like the idea of having a few Accountant "experts" where the user has to choose who is giving the most accurate advice... still thinking on this one. Very challenging job ahead!!


Richard Harknett

I have worked on IT Security content and Compliance content (anti-bribery etc). Both were presented as a bunch of policy documents with a "put these online for us so we can track who has done it..." - you know, the usual SME engagement! ;-)

We had to work hard with the SMEs to make them realise that we can add value to the content and not just recreate it in a different format. For the It security we turned it into a scenario based on 24hours to save your business where they have to complete a number of scenarios in the different subject areas such as learning how to create a strong password. We used a cute blocky character based on an old 8-bit computer game to guide them through and had a link out to a password strength checker for them to try.

For the compiance it was based on a number of different offices and different scenarios where the users had to decide which was the best action to take. We also included a buzzer game as reinfocement at the end where they had to "press" the correct "buzzer" to match the definitions to the answers. Users really enjoyed it.

We had to get our cleaning staff who do not normally use IT to take it too so it had to be very accessible. The quote from one manager really made our week: "I must add that Maureen totally enjoyed the course, and was so happy to learn new things, her excitement at getting the answers correct was priceless."

David Swaddle

Hi Bob. I'm running an ID MeetUp in Sydney on 26th May.

Any chance that I could get a couple of screenshots and a tiny bit more description to show your example to the crowd? I have another banking example that's very different and I think that adding yours to the mix will really help stir some ideas.

It's a NFP community event and you'll be credited as the designer. You'll be helping to chip away at the dull eLearning iceberg!

Andrew Winner

Code of Ethics. I'm working on a series of scenarios -- you are presented with a situation and based on your knowledge of the code, you choose an answer. You get feedback on the choice you made and have the ability to open up the relevant section of the code in a new window. 

Also considering commissioning a whiteboard animation to introduce the code and outline the main components + where to turn if you ever have questions, which is really the most important takeaway. 

Midi Prefix

In the middle of a Hazard spotting activity (for health and safety), a fire breaks out based on which hazards have been cleaned up, and some randomisation, you then have to select the correct extinguisher for the type of fire, Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the trigger, and Sweep over the fire (PASS) the selection of the extinguisher is timed, and an alarm goes off to keep you on your toes.

Narayanan Shankar

Hi Richard

I am helping a company to develop skills on identifying compliance breaches  (anti-money laundering, financing of terrorism) and am looking to build an e-learning module to help persons with little computer skills to understand and assist in compliance. I am familiar with building very basic ppt presentations but not much more. Are you a free lancing? I am based in Singapore and am willing to pay for the services to create e-learning modules based on the content I can provide.


Rick Henderson

I haven't done too many elearning modules yet, but I did create one which includes a character to explain things, though the rest of the videos include my voice over. Typically, the material is just provided as videos and not in an elearning format:


Hey, turns out that was created in Articulate!

I teach the university computer labs and produce content for the students to watch before lab, but I'd love to know more ideas for some lecture material on things like how RAM works, networking, data storage (hard drives and USB drives etc). or how to make spreadsheets more interesting :)

My thoughts are "superheroes" :)

Snehal .

I had worked on a course to provide application training. The audience was completely new to the application and not much aware of how useful it could be for them. The objective was to encourage them to start using the application. We included lot of ‘show me’ and ‘try me’ activities. And to spice it up, we linked all of those to their day-to-day work situations, so they can relate to it easily. We provided situations and demonstrated how this application would make their life easier. It received a good feedback from client.     

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