Instructional Design

The Fine Line Between Fun & Flippancy in eLearning Efforts

You’ve heard it again and again: eLearning needs to be fun to be engaging. But before you build a quiz show around harassment training, you might need to take a breath and think about injecting too much lightheartedness into your program. Hey, it’s all fun and games until someone stops taking your subject matter seriously.

eLearning Should Be Fun…To a Point

There’s a pretty fine line between making eLearning fun and engaging, and making eLearning a joke. To avoid making your training into a punch line, you’ll need to use elements like humor, games and fun judiciously – and in the right places. Use these guidelines to avoid learners who are all “funned” out.

When Fun Doesn’t Work

A good instructional designer knows that while fun elements such as gamification at work and other activities can be engaging, they can also distract from the original message. When your bid for fun and games makes it harder for learners to understand the subject matter, it’s time to do a little sobering up. Avoid human, fun and games when:

  • It’s distracting. Don’t let your brand-centric version of Monopoly derail learners’ understanding. When fun is distracting and takes away from the original objective of the module, it might be too much of a good thing.
  • It’s annoying. Respect your learners’ time. While you might think a five-minute spoof video is hilarious, your time-pressed learners might not be laughing. Don’t waste time trying to squeeze fun in when your learners just want to get it, finish the module and get out.
  • It’s forced. Some topics just aren’t funny. Don’t try and force fun and games into something that doesn’t really lend itself well to a lighthearted approach. When you’re covering serious material, it should receive the respect and decorum necessary for learners to understand the breadth and seriousness as well.

Knowing when to hold back on the humor means you create the right learning atmosphere for your learners. It’s vital that you match the level of seriousness with the topic at hand and avoid too many bells and slide whistles.

Walking the Line

Of course, just because a topic is serious doesn’t mean it must automatically be boring, too. By walking the line between mature humor and obscene silliness, you can still get encourage user engagement without diminishing the tone of the message.

When developing a course, knowing how and where to gauge just how funny you can go may be best left to soft launches, pilot programs and focus groups. You could spend weeks working on a fun game show format, only to find that learners are dropping out halfway through the game because it’s simply too time-consuming.

Before you release a “fun and games” version of your module, whether it fits within the realm of corporate gamification or just an engaging overall strategy, test it on those who will actually be experiencing and completing to program. When the humor becomes distracting white noise compared to the module message, it might be time to head back to the drawing board to tone it down – just a little.

If you’re just exploring e-Learning for the first time, make sure to check out our e-Learning blog for more articles on eLearning strategy and thought leadership.