Instructional Design

Using Humor In eLearning: What To Do And What To Avoid

humor in eLearning

Many professionals will tell you to avoid humor when designing your eLearning course, as it is a delicate matter: What a learner may find hilarious, another might find upsetting or even deeply offensive. However, there are so many proven benefits of adding a few funny elements to your eLearning projects, that giving it a try is certainly worth it.

In this article, I will show you how to use humor to make your eLearning courses more engaging and memorable, without jeopardizing their quality.

Let’s say you found the perfect way to use humor in your eLearning courses. But how about your stakeholders? What happens if you suggest using a little bit of humor and your client or Subject Matter Expert replies “This course is no laughing matter”?

Well, to persuade them about your idea you can always point out the many benefits of using humor in eLearning. Here are some strong arguments you can use to convince them:

1. Humor is engaging.

A healthy, positive sense of humor engages your audience, as it keeps their attention, helps them relax, and makes them more open to the eLearning course material.

2. Humor humanizes.

Funny elements remind your learners that there are people behind this eLearning course, not robots.

3. Humor boosts both motivation and memory retention.

And this is strict science: Comedy activates the release of dopamine in the brain, and high dopamine levels increase motivation and enhance activity in the long-term memory.

4. Humor increases productivity.

The more upbeat your learners will feel, the more passion they will develop for what they are learning.

Of course, to reap these benefits you need to use humor effectively; there is a very fine line between a funny eLearning course and an offensive eLearning course. In this article, I’ll share all the dos and don’ts of using humor in eLearning, so that you can make sure that the elements of fun and laughter you are adding to your eLearning course help you create truly engaging, inspiring, and memorable eLearning experiences.

5 Effective Ways To Use Humor In eLearning

1. Know your audience.

Being professional with your humor is mandatory. The purpose of your eLearning course is to educate, not entertain; thus elements of humor should be only used to enhance the learning process. To ensure you are appropriate and to the point, get to now your audience before you even begin thinking about jokes.

What are their ages and their professional / educational backgrounds? What are the subjects they are interested in? The more you know about your audience, the more you can relate to them and the more successful your parodies and puns will be.

Also, make absolutely sure that you keep your humor directly connected to the eLearning content; humor that has nothing to do with your eLearning course content simply distracts learners from the subject matter and hinders learning.

2. Pay attention to details.

Details make people connect with a story. They also entice your learners and keep them interested, as generalizations are rarely engaging or amusing.

3. Know where to use humor in eLearning courses.

There are some points in your eLearning course where humor is more effective and its integration becomes more powerful and meaningful. For instance, as humor relieves tension, adding funny elements to a test, after an online assignment, or before an important exam could provide a brief break and reduce stress.

4. Keep jokes relevant.

Humor can be a very valuable learning tool, as long as it is relevant to your eLearning course. If your jokes don’t relate to the topic, no matter how funny they are, your learners will remember the laugh, but not what they should be learning.

5. Ask for a second opinion.

If you are not 100% sure that your jokes support their true purpose, ask a friend or preferably a trusted colleague for their honest opinion. If they tell you that your funny elements aren’t truly funny or, worse, they’re offensive, don’t risk including them into your eLearning course.

What To Avoid When Using Humor In eLearning

1. Don’t be inappropriate.

Humor is very subjective, so be very careful when using it. For example, consider avoiding it when dealing with business etiquette rules or workplace safety issues.

2. Don’t be offensive.

Being aware of cultural differences is key when using humor in eLearning, as relying on common perceptions of stereotypes may prove to be a fatal mistake. This is especially important when localizing your eLearning courses, where different cultures among learners can make a humorous example very offensive in some parts of the world.

3. Don’t repeat yourself.

You know what’s funny? Original jokes. Hearing the same joke twice is never funny, especially when it’s not hilarious in the first place. Avoid repeating yourself and think of alternative “gags” when your learners need to retake an online module.

4. Don’t overdo it.

Overusing humor in your eLearning course will not only distract your learners and make them lose focus on your eLearning course objectives, but also make you seem unprofessional. Forcing a sense of humor, not being selective with jokes, and bombarding your audience with funny elements will only make your deliverable annoying, so make sure that you are being selective when you come up with something that sounds funny.

Now that you know how to use humor in eLearning, you may be interested in learning another way to make sure that your online learners find your next eLearning course interesting, inspiring, and highly engaging.

Read the article 11 Tips To Encourage Positive Attitude In eLearning and discover how encouraging positive attitudes increase the motivation levels of your audience, as it helps them focus and absorb information quicker and more effectively than any other technique!


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