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eLearning Political Debates

A new political election season is underway in the United States and that can only mean one thing: we are about to suffer from an endless barrage of attack ads, gaffes, and debates.

Regardless of your own political views, you’ve probably had some kind of exposure to the bizarre circus of humanity that is the political process. As each election cycle begins anew, the cast of characters involved may change, but the game they play is usually quite the same. With enough life experience, an observant viewer will be able to see that it’s usually the same old mistakes that get candidates on both sides of the aisle in trouble with the press.

There are many ways that one can lose credibility, both in politics and, of course, in the world of eLearning. Here are some common mistakes that people in both industries make that you’d be well-served to avoid.

Poor Body Language

On many occasions, candidates have unwittingly given the impression that they either don’t care about the issue at hand or that they are too weak to deal with it, most notably being the very first televised debate between JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960. Having just gone through knee surgery, refusing makeup for the camera, and continuously darting his eyes back and forth, Nixon seemed nervous and shifty, something that conveyed untrustworthiness to many Americans.

For eLearning courses that include live people (or even cutout people in some cases), it’s important to pick an actor who knows what they’re talking about.  If an instructor looks uneasy and unsure, how are we supposed to trust what they have to say about anything?

Not Keeping Your Facts Straight

Lots of candidates have made the mistake over the years of taking a swing at their opponent with an invalid argument based on false information. There isn’t much that is more embarrassing than confidently proclaiming some nugget of information only to be proven wrong. It’s also highly damaging to your ethos as an eLearning professional.

Triple check all information you use in a course, because apart from undermining your course, a false claim misleads your learners, propagating myths, rumors, and hearsay.

Not Having a Plan of Attack

A pickup football game is a situation where it’s probably safe to wing it and hope for the best. A presidential debate, on the other hand, is not. A common mistake of political candidates is to be overconfident in their improv skills and step into the ring woefully unprepared. That’s how you get yourself hurt.

For eLearning, having a plan is also crucial. You don’t want to be a rambling professor who just selects a topic and pontificates about it for an hour, meandering from one fact to the next, hoping you cover everything by the end of your allotted time. Write a script or a storyboard and stick to it. Make sure that each lesson meets both its own goals and those of the overall course.

Irrelevant tangents

It’s always frustrating when a candidate won’t dignify a direct question with a direct answer.

“Mr. Jones, could you please address the fact that you are currently under investigation for murder charges?”

“Let me answer that question by pointing out a flaw in my opponent’s economic plan…”

Arrgh! It was a simple question, Mr. Jones! Are you or are you not a cold-blooded murderer? You can’t sidestep it forever! But I digress. No need for me to get this angry at a fictional candidate.

It’s important to be direct with people in life, not just in eLearning or political debates. If you dodge every question given to you, people will stop trusting what you have to say. By the same token, if your argument is constantly veering off course into irrelevant tangent stories, you might end up being a fun person to talk to, but you’re forgetting the real purpose of your argument. Be sure that any story or concept you bring up is pertinent to the larger scope of what you are trying to say. Otherwise, you risk becoming too casual in a situation where concrete goals really matter.

If you find any additional correlations between the political process specific to the Presidential primary process, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your feedback!

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