I just watched the slides from Laura Kratochvil’s DevLearn08 presentation The Making of a Blockbuster: Using Cinematic Techniques in eLearning (PDF also available). I need to spend some more time thinking about how I can incorporate these ideas into what I do, but I really like the idea of focusing on emotional impact for online learning. Laura starts with the idea of storytelling, which is a powerful instructional design technique on its own, but goes further by looking at how visuals, motion, audio, and perspective can be woven into that story.

This got me thinking about emotional impact in e-learning. I created a short activity for a facilitator training course recently where participants need to practice using specific verbal skills in response to statements of student resistance. In each situation, participants have to choose what they say to a student who is unhappy for one reason or another. My SME wrote additional responses from the “students”; if participants use the best verbal skill for the situation from the choices given, the students calm down and give a positive response. If participants use a less effective verbal skill, the student responses are still clearly upset, sometimes even escalating the problem further.

To some extent, I think we could have done this with just the text. I probably would have still used the advanced feedback options in Captivate to direct each choice to a separate slide for the response (e.g., answer A goes to slide 5, answer B goes to slide 6, answer C goes to slide 7). I expect that students would have still “gotten it” based on the text responses of the students.

Frustrated woman
Frustrated woman

However, I decided to have some fun with images instead. I found multiple pictures of different people on Clipart.com so I could show a happy or relaxed face in response to the right answers and a frustrated expression for the wrong answers. If you picked an answer from a multiple choice question and saw this woman’s face with a student response, you’d know you chose the wrong answer.

(As a side note, I have to admit that I felt a compulsion to say “That’s right” or “That’s incorrect,” even in a situation like this. I guess I’ve done so many of those that I sometimes feel I have to spell it out for people. Really though, a picture like this should tell you pretty clearly that you should have chosen something else.)

I’m very happy with how this turned out. It tells me that I can incorporate some emotional punch even in a basic multiple choice activity by using brief scenarios with good text and images. This didn’t use all the techniques Laura talked about in her presentation, and I can definitely go further than what I’ve been doing. But it’s a place to start, and a manageable way to get some emotional impact in what I do.

What are you doing to create emotional impact in what you design? Have you done scenarios with compelling characters, where the text is enough to carry it? Are you using images that tell stories? Do you have a great audio technique that creates drama in your courses? I’d love to hear other ideas for getting an emotional response from learners.

5 thoughts on “E-Learning with Emotional Impact

  1. Thanks for the suggestion, Virginia. I have seen some of Siemens’ work on visualization, especially as it relates to pattern recognition and connectivism. There’s definitely some connections here with pathos, as you said, for getting people engaged in learning and motivated to change their behavior.

  2. Most elearning, in a corporate setting especially, uses logos as a means to make a point in the training. In other words, they use facts, figures, and a “logical” reasoning.

    Visual rhetoric, however, uses a combination of logos and pathos (emotion) to engage students. I suggest you google visual rhetoric and look at the resources George Siemans has on elearnspace on visualization to help you incorporate more visual logos and pathos into your designs.

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