Whether it’s a popular movie, TV show, or YouTube video, they’re all about connecting with our emotions. Some aim to make you cry, others to make you laugh. Either way, it’s this emotion that forms the connection with the media we embrace the most. In fact, that’s the single common ingredient of viral videos.

So why don’t we use any of these same tactics in our eLearning courses? Unfortunately, too many designers are content with the same tired approach. #boring

So let’s look at some various emotions, and how you could utilize them in your course to amp up the engagement level.


In most cases, fear is bad. But in certain cases, when learners get the anxious feeling that there is something to lose, it can enhance their motivation and help them to really focus.

Example: Suppose you’re creating an eLearning course that reviews HR policies, and the material is, shall we say…dry as a desert. Incorporating a tense moment, such as, “Hurry…you have two minutes to run around the office and find the violations before the inspector gets here!” can make the material more stimulating. The fear of failure is typically missing in eLearning courses. But the nervous energy of  finding the last violations as the timer counts down can be priceless for the trainee.


In most cases, you probably wouldn’t place sadness at the top of your list for inclusion in an eLearning course. However, this emotion can be a very powerful sentiment, especially in scenarios that require an emotional response to certain situations.

Example: Suppose you are building an eLearning course that focuses on customer service within the mortgage industry. Your trainees need to learn how to consistently interact with customers in a variety of trying situations. A common situation your employees could be faced with is a family who’s losing their home due to foreclosure. You obviously want these staff to respond with compassion (which is related to sadness). This could be trained by presenting unfortunate situations and demonstrating appropriate reactions. By connecting with emotional scenarios, it will help the appropriate call-handling tactics to resonate with learners.


Disgust probably seems like an odd choice to include in eLearning, but when you’re looking to curb negative behaviors, getting your learners to feel disgusted can certainly draw their attention.

Example: Suppose you’re creating a course for food service staff on sanitation. It’s important to show why this is so important to their every day work, so evoking some disgust in this context can bring those germs to life. For instance, you could use visuals of various bacteria and mold resulting from neglect in the kitchen. A few nasty pictures, combined with some statistics, will go a long way toward driving home the message.


You may feel that most of us have enough disappointment in our lives, but connecting people with something they could (or already did) miss out on is powerful. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a huge motivator for many people.

Example: Suppose you’re creating a course for sales people on writing a detailed and appropriate Statement of Work for each of their prospective sales. You could include the downside (lost profits for the company) that result if reps don’t document, and thus charge for,  everything the client needs. But to really make the connection, you could also point out the lost sales commissions those reps should have gotten, had things been correctly documented. When your course points out how much thinner the reps’ wallets are than they should be, they’re sure to start paying attention.


SO many people complain about their job, or the company they work for. But people like to believe in things, support a cause, or feel pride. Why not find opportunities in your course to connect people with the good the company does, or the good they could do in their role?

Example: Look beyond profit margins and day-to-day responsibilities. Most companies do good for someone, whether that’s providing assistance to at risk single mothers or creating software tools to help small businesses prosper. Look for success stories within your industry and let employees feel a part of it. We all grow more vested when we feel like we’re a part of something bigger.

Emotions and eLearning

Think about some of the strongest memories you have. They’re undoubtedly connected to some strong emotion. Some positive, and others negative. These are the connections we make as people and what causes such strong mental connections.

So, why not leverage this powerful tool in your eLearning courses? Not only will this help to solidify their connection to the material, but it’ll make a huge difference in learners recalling and adopting what you’re trying to teach them.

Need help infusing some emotion into your next course? Let’s work on a project together!