When asked about his learning preferences, Winston Churchill famously answered, “personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught”. Even today, Churchill’s answer reflects how a lot of us view learning and development.
The idea of starting an eLearning course probably doesn’t make you smile (cue the dulcet tones of Charlie Brown’s teacher) . This is because the majority of course creators don’t fully realize the physical, professional, and educational importance of fun.
This article will help you understand the benefits of fun, explore what fun might mean for different audiences, and suggest a few ways that content developers can make their instructional strategies fun for everyone.
The Science Behind Learning Engagement and Fun
Benefits of Fun: Learning doesn’t happen overnight. It requires repetition, motivation, and dedication. But how can we expect learners to stay motivated if course content is boring?
If a learning experience is fun, it will help learners stay curious and want to participate. Here are some scientific examples of how fun can help learners retain information, boost endorphins, and take risks:
- Fun Increases Retention: R.L. Garner published a study in 2006, titled Humor in Pedagogy: How Ha-Ha Can Lead to Aha!. The study found that students retained information more easily when the lecturer added appropriate and topic-related jokes into their course.
- Fun Boosts Dopamine: Neurologist and educator Judy Willis has spent her life examining how fun experiences increase levels of dopamine, and in turn, promote learning. Increased dopamine improves attention spans, memory storage, comprehension, and high-level thinking.
- Fun Inspires Us: In a study titled Does fun promote learning? The relationship between fun in the workplace and informal learning, Michael Tews found employees are more likely to go outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves if their work environment is fun.
While fun is an important part of learning engagement, course creators should know their boundaries and consider the preferences and personalities of their audience.
The Connection Between Humor and Learning Engagement
Education over Entertainment: Be wary of making your course too fun-centered, as it might distract learners from the main message of the lesson. Learners don’t necessarily want a stand-up comedian instructing their course. What they want is a course that uses humor and fun to enhance the learning process, not overtake it.
To ensure the fun elements of your course are appropriate and clear, make your content personalized and get to know your audience beforehand.
This means taking into consideration the audience’s age, interests, and personal goals. Before including a joke or fun element in your course, make sure it is:
- Age-appropriate: If you have an older audience, try to stay away from the latest pop-culture references and avoid slang. Look to more classic cultural icons that span across generations.
- Not sarcastic: In an eLearning course, humor should not be confusing or incredibly nuanced. Avoid dry humor and sarcasm and it might be lost on some learners.
- Inclusive: Make sure that your jokes never denigrate or disrespect your audience. Stay inclusive when creating an eLearning course and avoid topics that might be uncomfortable or insulting for some learners.
Now that you know what to look out for when creating a humorous, fun eLearning course, here are some design suggestions for making content refreshing and joyful
Tools For Content Developers and Learners
Video and Animation: Learners want to be visually stimulated. Rather than seeing videos as a laborious chore, try looking at them as opportunities to inject fun, charisma, and branding into eLearning courses.
Cartoon-style animations bring humor and levity to even the driest of topics. In an article published in Teaching of Psychology, psychology professors Mark Shatz and Frank LoSchiavo discovered that students logged into their course more often when they inserted the following things into their course:
- Self-deprecating jokes: By letting learners know that even the instructor isn’t perfect, it will help them learn from their mistakes instead of being ashamed of them.
- Topic-related cartoons: Cartoons bring out the inner-child in all of us. By showing learners simple, colorful visuals they won’t be as intimidated by complex topics.
- Top 10 lists: Lists are a great way to relay information to learners. They are easy to read, succinct, and visually appealing.
At the end of each cartoon, try including a quick quiz to gauge how much the learner retained. Offer them the opportunity to choose where they go next through interactive decision-based layouts.
Course Design That’s Fun and Memorable
At WeLearn, we know fun isn’t about aimless thrill-seeking. For fun to be educationally and professionally beneficial, it needs to be relevant, appropriate, and simple.
Has your company or organization prioritized fun in their workforce development efforts? What does fun look like for you, and how would you like to see it incorporated into an eLearning course? Share your thoughts and experiences with us here at WeLearn, where together we learn.