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Come Friday night, many of us like to treat ourselves and our loved ones to a pleasant night out. And what night out would be complete without the clatter of silverware, good company, and the savory smells of delicious food wafting from the kitchen?

As a frequent diner and former busboy, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of the dining experience. When you’ve had as much restaurant experience as myself, you learn a few things. Certain aspects of the encounter can make or break the night, either leaving the customer content and full or annoyed and still hungry. Many of the things that make your night at a restaurant special can easily be transferred into the learning realm.

1. You can have too much of a good thing.

That delicious chocolate lava bundt cake you scarfed down was delicious, but it’s probably a little too big for just one person. Toss in a scoop of ice cream, and now you’ve got a dessert that will most definitely require teamwork to devour. While we all love good dessert, too much of it will make you feel like you’ve got a lump of molten lead in your belly, and that’s never fun.  That’s why it’s best in moderation.

eLearning can be a very useful and productive tool, but the portions in which you serve it up need to be carefully measured. If you blast your learners with a fire hose every time they ask for water, they are going to be overwhelmed. Serve up information in manageable chunks. That doesn’t mean it can’t be challenging. The whole point of learning is to broaden one’s horizons. But it’s a matter of striking that balance, giving your learners just enough that they can stretch themselves without bursting.

2. Set the right atmosphere

A good restaurant needs a to know what it wants to be. If your stated goal was to be the best Italian restaurant on the block, but you suddenly started selling a few Thai dishes, you’re going to confuse your customers. By the same token, if your eLearning course is an algebra lesson with a pirate theme, you wouldn’t start cracking cowboy jokes just after telling your learners to solve for “R”. Unless you’re objective is to teach people about absurdity, you should go all the way when you set an atmosphere or don’t do it at all.

3. Just the right level of interaction

We’ve all had one of those waiters that is nowhere to be seen. We’re starving and the guy is nowhere to be found. He took our order like 45 minutes ago and we just can’t find that guy! There’s only one other group of people in the restaurant right now, what’s taking him so long?

On the flip side, you have those servers that decide they need to be your best friend for the night. Awkward small talk is stretched to its breaking point, the server has asked to do everything short of massaging your feet, and your ice water is literally getting a topped off while you take a sip.

These servers are easily analogous to the interactions learners have with their courses. You need to give help where needed, but you can’t be overbearing while doing it. Though not everybody can handle just being set loose to learn for themselves, you need to give each learner a certain degree of autonomy. If their hand is being held through every step of the process, nothing is learned. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

4. Establishing ethos

It’s difficult for new restaurants to break out and make a name for themselves. For the most part, it’s a matter of slowly building up a rapport with the people, until suddenly your reputation proceeds you, and the product speaks for itself.

Your training also needs to build a reputation. This doesn’t happen overnight and has to be won by consistently giving people the best eLearning you can muster.

What are your tastiest eLearning tips? What has your unique experience taught you about eLearning? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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