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Four ways that Hollywood can help us connect with learners


Written by Karthik Subramanian

As an e-learning designer, there are many things I love about Hollywood! Here I’ve put together four ways to help you bring a touch of tinsel-town to your training…

1. Adaptation is really about storytelling

Life of Pi is a good example. It’s a great book which lost none of its impact as a film. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Life of Pi four out of four stars, referring to it as ‘a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery.’

Just like Life of Pi, great e-learning content should inspire learners to find out more about where it came from. After watching the movie, Barack Obama went on to read Life of Pi and wrote to the author, Yann Martel, to tell him it was ‘an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.’

Both Ebert and Obama agree that Life of Pi is truly magical because of its storytelling – and a great story is the key to adapting any content into e-learning. But forgetting about God, miracles and tigers for one moment, can Hollywood help us transform a dull health and safety manual into an exciting e-learning course? Yes, it can! And here’s how…

2. ‘Go Hollywood’ with your scenarios

Hollywood teaches us that bringing a dry subject to life is all about engaging scenarios. Think about Simon Gruber’s crazy tasks for John McClane in Die Hard with a Vengeance. They really make health and safety into exciting stuff! Hollywood knows all too well that true engagement means putting the audience ‘in the story’ and involving us emotionally in the characters’ decisions.

Here’s an example. If you’re creating an assessment on what type of fire extinguisher should be used in an emergency, try ‘going Hollywood’. Depict a room on fire with other flammable objects near it and a timer ticking as the options appear on screen. You’ll find that the learner’s response is a little more ‘John McClane’ than usual!

3. Break it up and branch it out

Hollywood never tells us everything in one go – so stay away from lots of text and use shorter ‘scenes’ instead. Long paragraphs explaining a process should be broken into screens with characters and conversations between them. Star Wars would’ve been pretty boring if the whole film consisted of the rolling text at the beginning!

In fact, using branching scenarios actually allows us e-learning designers to do better than Hollywood.  We all know any bombs planted in the start of a movie will be disarmed at the end by the protagonist; but imagine if we could ‘play’ the movie again to see a different situation unfold and witness how it’s handled.

With branching, we can hold the learner’s focus by introducing a situation and giving them a chance to handle it in their own way (supplying guidance only when they need it!). So e-learning should really be more like Run Lola Run – each run starts from the same situation but develops differently to produce a different outcome.

4. Roll out a red carpet of rewards

There’s one last thing thatHollywood can teach us. What is it that drives Bond or Ethan Hunt to do their tasks so heroically (and precisely)? It’s the accolade they get in the end! We should do the same with unique scores, medals and leaderboards. We all secretly enjoy a little slice of the red carpet. Make your learners put in that extra effort to take the limelight!

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