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Since I was little I have loved the movie theatre experience. The buttery smell of popcorn, the loud explode-y sounds that my living room could never replicate, and the spectacle of a giant screen with moving pictures on it. Apart from thousands of hours of entertainment, the movie theatre has also given me some perspective on how to make a good eLearning course.

Have a “snack”

As the dancing candy bars will tell you, no trip to the cinema is complete until we all go to the lobby and get ourselves a treat. Even if I hadn’t been conditioned by years of pre-movie junk food commercials, I know I could always go for something sweet or salty to nibble on while watching a movie. It’s the ultimate escape. Not only are my mind and eyes stimulated, but so are my tastebuds. Some of my greatest movie memories have to do with the concessions I was munching on at the time. The sweet taste of chocolate permeates my memory of many a trip to the cinema. It almost becomes part of the story of my movie-going experience. Having had more of my brain stimulated by an extra little bit of sensory input.

eLearning can also benefit from providing an unobtrusive sensory plaything to your brain. Something as simple as music or a game can suffice. A tune or activity that drives things forward without overwhelming the learner does more for a learner than you might think.

Connect with your target audience

Not every movie is for every person. Surprise, surprise: people have different tastes and sensibilities. Say you have two theaters right next door to each other. One is screening the most sappy, lovey-dovey romance movie ever made. The other is showing a super violent and gritty action thriller–a movie with a high body count. Now say that right before both movies began, someone switched the film reels so the action junkies are watching the love story and the hopeless romantics are watching bullets and explosions. Do you think that, in general, these moviegoers will be happy with the evening’s entertainment. Probably not, because these two film genres are marketed at different demographics.

You need to know who will be taking the eLearning course you’re designing if you want it to have any sort of impact. Presumably, someone who is in the mood for an action flick has had some exposure to the genre before, and will be more receptive to the quirks and tropes of your typical action movie. So screenwriters will write the script with those people in mind. The people taking your eLearning course are probably taking it because it is relevant to them. Different fields are exposed to different jargon and concepts. A chemical engineer is going to expect different lingo than a construction worker, so even if there is overlap in the things they need to learn, it’s going to be presented in totally different ways.

Doesn’t overstay your welcome

Did you ever see the third Lord of the Rings movie? It was a glorious cinematic event that ended one of the most ambitious film projects in recent years, with amazing special effects and brilliant cinematography. Except one thing: it didn’t know when to end. The audience has seen an entire story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. But then there’s more. Okay that was weird, but it looks like their wrapping up for real this time. Wait no, there’s still more to go. How long is this!?

Film is very subjective and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t mind spending a little extra time in Middle Earth. But to many, this triple ending stood out as an odd stumble in an otherwise very good movie.

When making an eLearning course, have a clear objective in mind. Plot it out beforehand to make sure the sequence of information in your lesson plan follows a natural and comfortable progression, so you don’t leave your learners guessing when they’ll finish.

Worth it

Sometimes, we go to the movies expecting to be swept off our feet, only to stay firmly rooted to the ground. “I paid my hard-earned cash for this load of garbage?” we say, walking out of the theater halfway through the first act. The filmmakers had no passion for their work. This was clearly just a paycheck for everyone involved.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but as evidenced by the lower-end movies that come out of Hollywood, it cannot be overstated: if you’re going to make something, make something good. If you’re reading this, that probably means making good eLearning. Don’t waste your learners’ time. Make sure each facet of your course is helping and not hindering the process.

Did we miss any cinematic tricks that help you design good eLearning? Share in the comments below!


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