Online learning materials developers may shy away from injecting humour into their programmes because one person’s humour may be deeply offensive to others. What starts as an attempt at humour can breach the bounds of political correctness and, far from achieving its learning objective, produces unlooked for adverse consequences for both the programme’s producer and its buyer.
Yet, unless in-house and external online learning developers can anchor their offerings in the humour that underpins the language and culture in which they are working, these programmes will never compete effectively with other calls on learners’ time – including other humour-related methods of learning delivery.
The online learning world seems to need not only people who are steeped and skilled in instructional design skills but also those whose sense of humour allows them to present learning in unusual, interesting and – ultimately – humorous ways.
Buyers should encourage these people to use their skills to the full by demanding ever-higher standards in programme design – not in terms of technology but in the creative treatment of the subject.
Sadly, for the future well-being of online learning, in a contest between price and quality, price tends to win – especially in the current economic climate. For online learning to improve, or even cement, its standing within the hierarchy of blended learning solutions, quality – founded on humour – needs to assert itself.
‘Content’ may be king but ‘context’ is the ‘first among equals’ – the Government in a parliamentary democracy – and ‘comedy’ is the oil which enables the machinery of that government to operate.
As we approach the ‘Season to be jolly’ – as an old Welsh carol reminds us – it’s a good time to remember the value of appropriate humour in helping people to learn.