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Make 'Em Laugh: 4 Ways to Create e-Learning Courses with Humor

by Ann Iverson, instructional designer | @iverson_ann

Everyone wants to laugh. Our inherent desire for humor leads us to share YouTube videos of laughing babies and frowning cats, and use acronyms like LOL in our text messages. But humor does not belong in serious e-learning courses, right? Well, think again. Making people laugh has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, improve productivity and motivate employees. Humor can even increase learner retention of concepts and situations that might otherwise be easily forgotten.

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76 Trombones and the Dangers of the Think Method for e-Learning

by , Instructional Designer 

As a director and producer of live theater, I have a certain love for the classics, the big showy musicals from Americana’s past where everyone in town happens to participate in a dance number and then end by going about their business. I like the big numbers. I like the ridiculous leaps of faith and plot silliness that we all just accept as truth because, hey, it’s a musical. You just go with the flow.

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Be a Superhero with SAM

GUEST BLOGGER:
Molly Murnane, Learning Consultant, Humana | @MollyMurnaneID

Summer and superhero movies have always gone hand-in-hand with each other, and this season has been no different. There have been so many superhero movies released, that it has been hard to keep up with the prequels, sequels, trilogies and all the other films included in a series. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stories, the drama and courageous protagonists. The films always have a crisis that no one saw coming and only the hero can save the day!

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Be an Advocate for Dumping the Information Dump

by Ann Iverson, instructional designer

Angel Green, senior instructional strategist at Allen Interactions, recently hosted a webinar on Design Thinking for the Instructional Designer that was both informative and inspirational. In it, she stressed the importance of moving beyond a formulaic approach into designing instructional products through creative and empathetic endeavors. An essential success factor for these instructional events is to focus on performance, minimizing content that learners can access easily outside of the learning experience.

For most of my career as an instructional designer, I’ve been an advocate for putting an end to the information dump that many clients believe to be effective. I’ve put myself in the learner’s shoes, dreading the idea of trudging through screens overloaded with information. Over the years, I’ve tried to help decision makers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) understand the importance of minimizing content they consider to be “need-to-know.” While their motivation for holding on tight varies, our goal as instructional designers is to try to move the needle toward the design principles that make for great e-learning.

There are a few common questions that raise a red flag for me, highlighting some of the best needle-moving opportunities with stakeholders. When they ask these questions, I realize there’s a chance to advocate for dumping the information dump. Maybe you recognize these questions as opportunities too:

1. Where are the learning objectives?

Starting a course with bulleted learning objectives was once the standard. When learners see those lists, they get an immediate impression  the course is heavy on content, light on interactivity. Try starting the course with objectives that challenge learners right away. For example, for a fire safety course…

Instead of this:

Upon completion of this course, learners should be able to:

  • Understand how grease fires ignite
  • Recognize a grease fire
  • Identify the steps for putting out a grease fire
  • Know the consequences of using a variety of materials for putting out a grease fire

Try this:

Quick! There’s a grease fire in your kitchen! Grab the right items to put the fire out now.

Defining a “mission objective” for learners upfront gives them an engaging and compelling reason to find the information they need to make the best decisions.

2. Where are the page numbers?

Work with stakeholders to clarify the difference between e-learning and e-reading. Page numbers are for text books, not virtual learning activities. Think about it, you never see page numbers in online games. The path is often nonlinear, so it can’t be measured in screens. The page number is a classic example of setting up learners to believe they’re making progress by clicking through screens of content. But when you immerse learners in a rich, engaging environment, page numbers become irrelevant. Learners are too focused on and engaged in the activity to care about what page they’re on.

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Go Beyond Sizzle & Fizzle: Create Learning that Delights

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards

We’re just a few days away from the Independence Day holiday here in the United States. For most, this is a weekend full of celebration, with parades, barbeques, ice-cold watermelon, family outings, and fireworks. While I enjoy all these things to a degree, I’m sort of neutral about fireworks—I don’t mean the great big civic fireworks shows, but the ones you’re supposed to enjoy in your own yard.

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The Serious eLearning Manifesto: A Multidimensional Tool

GUEST BLOGGER:
Will Thalheimer, consultant and research translator, Work-Learning Research, Inc. | @WillWorkLearn

The Serious eLearning Manifesto is NOT a Jewel. It’s a Multidimensional Tool—if We Know How to Use It.

On the Serious eLearning Manifesto website you can read the endorsement statements of hundreds of elearning professionals throughout the world.

“I proudly endorse the Serious eLearning Manifesto. It is a brilliant document, not to mention a much needed one, that every professional in the Educational Technology arena should be familiar with and support.”

“I endorse the eLearning Manifesto! It is the best set of principles to date.  Bravo!!”

“AWESOME!  I support the Serious eLearning Manifesto and will do my part to live up to the 22 Supporting Principles and pledge to do my best to promote and support Serious eLearning! Thanks for putting this together. I look forward to the future of eLearning!”


Every time I go to the website and read the new endorsements, I get newly inspired. It gives me a great feeling to see how many people are dedicated to building great learning interventions.

Many of the signatories pledge to utilize the 22 principles in their own work and to encourage others to do the same. These sentiments are great, of course. But they are not enough. For e-learning to fulfill its promise, we also need to create second- and third-wave effects.

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Making e-Learning Success Through Failure

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards

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eLearning Design: Raising the Floor (Not Lowering the Roof)

GUEST BLOGGER:
Clark Quinn, executive director, Quinnovation | @Quinnovator

A few weeks ago, my colleagues (Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, and Will Thalheimer) and I launched the Serious eLearning Manifesto. Our goal, fostered by a growing dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in quality coming out of much of learning technology, was to put some rigor into what makes good elearning. So we established eight core values, with 22 principles that define good elearning―when to use it, how to use it, and how to evaluate it. 

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Learner-Centered Design: 3 Quick Ideas for e-Learning

by , instructional writer/designer | @EllenBJohnson


I wish that all e-learning were about ME.

Okay, not me, Ellen—ME, the learner. A world where training is learner-centered is a world one step closer to being free from boring (and therefore ineffective) training. That’s something I think we all hope to see!

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3 Tips for Harnessing the Power of Habit in Your e-Learning

by relationship management assistant

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