Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making Learning Fun!

This month’s LCBQ is “How do you make e-learning fun?” 
I begin with a quote by British novelist, Arnold Bennett who said, "There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul."
I believe this quote sums up all the reasons why we should include emotions – not just fun - into our learning interventions – e-learning or any learning for that matter.

But before I explore the idea of including fun in learning, it is important for me to share that poorly designed learning with lots of fun is never a good learning object. Point being, including fun does not lead to a powerful learning impact, if all other design principles are not adhered to. Also, all types of learning need not always be fun. Other emotions should be explored and included that allow the designer to teach the subject in the most sensitive and realistic manner.
Assuming that we have the right subject and the correct instructional design principles in place, fun can be the missing ingredient that our audience looks for. But we need to appreciate that everyone's idea of fun may be different. Perhaps, in this post, I am focussed on 'engaging my audience' and therefore attempting to make the training fun for them.

Here are my top 5 methods of creating engagement and ensuring fun in the training I design and deliver. Since much has been written about these topics and none needs explanation, I share my views here using quotes that sum up the methods brilliantly!

1)   Use stories. "Thought flows in terms of stories -- stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories." - Frank Smith

2)   Use emotions. “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre.” - Gail Godwin

3)   Make learners do activities. "What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand." – Confucius

4)   Make learners think. “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.”  - Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"

5)   Motivate and inspire learners. "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." - William Arthur Ward
There are many tools and technologies available to an e-learning designer that can help implement these methods. Scenario-based learning, Gaming, Second life, Web 2.0 tools are all options that can be utilized effectively.

In my opinion, making any learning fun is more about the use of underlying instructional strategies than the front-facing tool. Yes, it can perhaps be a little more challenging in e-learning than in face-to-face instruction, but it is possible!