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Are you having fun yet? 4 tips for engaging training

Posted Sep 01 2009 4:00pm
Several months ago we posted a job for a new curriculum director. We asked people to submit a sample of work based on some content we made available to them. It was a way, we thought, to get a look at how a wide variety of people would develop a course from the same content material.

The results were very eye-opening. Some of the people with the strongest résumé’s submitted samples that could only be described as boring. They incorporated the content, yes. They were laid out in a simple, clear way. But they lacked the element that I have come to believe is as important for learning as good quality content: they didn’t capture either my imagination or my emotions. And they certainly wouldn’t be called “fun!”

When Learning Solutions magazine ( elearningguild.com ) printed an article titled “Edge and Emotion – What e-Learning Programs are Missing,” I thought, “YES - finally!”

The author notes that e-learning is more abundant than ever, and faster to develop, as well. But he asks, “Are we designing that content so that learners are pulled in and engaged in the first few seconds?”

As the article continues, I find myself agreeing, again and again. If we don’t get the attention of the individual, we’ll never really connect and teach. If we don’t feel passionate about a topic, we won’t transmit a feeling of passion to our audience.

Here’s what I gleaned from this article, combined with my own e-Learning experience. You can apply it to analyzing your own e-learning options or to developing powerful classroom-based training – the principles are the same
  1. Discover your passion. You might have a topic you need to cover in training – find an aspect of that topic that really lights your fire. Any subject can be boring – but I also believe that, with a little digging, any subject can be interesting too. Find the angle that interests you before you start – you’re more likely to develop an engaging, interesting training program as the result.
  2. Use visuals that grab. Do you frequently train with powerpoints? Remove the words and bulleted text – you’re going to deliver that part anyway. Use the entire screen for an image that grabs the imagination and emotion of the viewer. Use images of real people, real places whenever you can. Look for something other than placid, smiling people –images can evoke powerful emotion.
  3. Ask a question or pose a dilemma. Either approach can grab attention and get people invested in learning the answer.
  4. If you’ve got a group, even a small group, get their participation in the topic. Ask real questions, and get participant’s answers. Try asking people which answer would be right – and make both options right in certain situations. A fun exercise we used to do in small group training was to pose a question and ask everyone who would answer one way to stand on one side of the room; everyone answering the other way stands on the other side of the room. Undecided can stand in the middle. That’s a great start to opening a discussion and dialogue on a topic.
To me, learning is the process of discovering answers to questions that make a difference in my life. It can be exciting, fun and rewarding – but only if it first grabs my attention and interest.
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