Laugh and Learn

Should online training be fun? Should it be funny? And, if so, just HOW MUCH funny is okay? Where do you draw the line?

The professional education industry is full of opinions on humor in learning . . . and not all of them are favorable. Some believe that fun and humor distract from an educational message. Others believe that humor can deflect from real issues or problems, or that it can be perceived as lacking the appropriate seriousness. We’ve all had that stodgy manager who thinks fun doesn’t belong at work. It’s work. NO LAUGHING ALLOWED.

But wait . . . there’s another side to this thing.

Humor can help people stay tuned in to what you’re teaching. It can improve your learner’s performance, reduce anxiety, and motivate them to focus on the material that you are presenting. Humor can take a dry and boring subject (um, not Epicor software of course) and make it more relatable, memorable, and retainable. And, let’s face it; those of us creating software training videos need every advantage when it comes to all of this.

With arguments both FOR and AGAINST humor in online training, what do content producers do?

First, if you want to use humor, make sure it’s appropriate. Ask yourself, what am I teaching, and who is my audience? These things can help you decide if being witty is in your best interest. For example, when introducing new users to a computer system, it might work out to demonstrate common pitfalls in a comical way. If your students are snickering at your example when they learn about a problem they may encounter, they might just remember the solution when it happens to them. On the other hand, if you’re teaching a course on general ledger disaster recovery, be mindful that your learner is probably not in the mood for a chuckle. Sometimes, stodgy and serious really IS best.

Second, be sure that your humor makes sense. Don’t add it for the sake of adding it – this isn’t Saturday Night Live. Relate your humor to the training! Since stories are already a solid part of a good training, focus on telling amusing tales as part of the teaching. This way, even if a learner misses the joke, they haven’t wasted their time because you’ve still made an educational point.

Something else to remember if you decide to use humor in your online training . . . set the expectations from the very start! Write the opening sketch so that learners get the message that this course will be fun. Let your learners know that you want them to relax and have a good time. They’ll learn more that way.

Above all, remember that humor is never a replacement for other ingredients in an effective online training course recipe. The quality of your content is key – make sure it’s what the audience expects and needs. Get your pacing just right – don’t rush and don’t drag. Combine audio with visuals in your multimedia segments to ensure better retention. All of these elements are MUST-HAVES in your recipe for a great course. Think of humor as the chocolate in your milk, or the bacon bits on your salad. If it’s right for your audience, it will add color, texture, and a bit of fun to the taste of your training!

Deb Amato