We’ve all seen courses littered with the same stale stock photos. When our brains recognize these tired decorations time and time again, they tend to tune them out.

Admit it—you’ve slept through your fair share of boring eLearning courses.

But now, take a look at these stock photos. Look familiar…but slightly different?

Unfinished Business Unfinished Business

What made you stop and take notice of these images? Well, Vince Vaughn of course.

These images were part of a marketing campaign for Vaughn’s new movie Unfinished Business, and they’re hilarious because they show Vaughn and the other stars of the movie in these well-recognized business stock photos.

This shake up made you stop and take notice. Now, while these images are for editorial use only, the concept they exemplify remains the same: When you offer something funny, unexpected, and unique, it makes an impact on your memory.

We can take this same line of thinking and incorporate it into an eLearning scenario.

Humor in an eLearning Course

Studies show that laughing has a positive impact on the learning experience. So when we can tie in elements of humor that are relevant to the coursework, students are more likely to remember the material.

This is a concept demonstrated in these stock images. Having the cast of Unfinished Business appear in these business stock photos is relevant to the subject of the movie.

Here’s an example in the eLearning environment. We designed an award-winning HIPAA Privacy Compliance course years ago, and learners that took it still remember aspects of the course. Not because HIPAA is still forefront in their minds, but because the course was relevant and funny. Relating the need for patient privacy was conveyed to the audience by putting them in the shoes of someone that had a “near-fatal nose-picking incident” and how they would feel if that information spread around their office. Using storytelling techniques that put learners in the moment and made them laugh was what helped make this information stick, even years later.

When you can add a dash of comedy into eLearning courses that might otherwise be dull, that little light in the learner’s brain flickers on. They smirk. They give an internal chuckle. The point is—they pause, and then they remember. That little piece of humor sticks out in their minds and helps them hang on to the topic your course was teaching.

Drawing the Line

It’s important to remember that humor in an eLearning course is best in small doses. You’re not going for the laugh out loud kind of jokes—it’s more subtle, like what we see in the Unfinished Business images.

Keep in mind that your puns and humor shouldn’t distract from the material itself, but instead should complement and reinforce the subject matter.

Try not to make far-out jokes that reference little known characters or pop culture references, as these will only confuse your learner. The last thing you want to do is make the learner get off course from the subject at hand.

You also need to be careful not to offend your learners. Using inappropriate topics in courses runs many risks, and should be avoided. You can’t afford to make your learners uncomfortable, just because you’re trying to play amateur comedian.

Sprinkle in little dashes of funny that surprise and delight your audience. Offer something unexpected. And above all, remember to keep it relevant.