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Why emotional impact in e-learning doesn’t need to be complicated and expensive

This week, Learning Designer Claire Burn shares her thoughts on the importance of emotional impact in e-learning.

I’m a Learning Designer at LEO who worked on the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme for the NHS Leadership Academy. I’d like to talk to you about a very small part of the (very big) programme which I’m really proud of.

You might have already heard about the Brandon Hall winning leadership development programmes we were a part of. We might have mentioned them… Once or twice.

If you haven’t heard about them, have a look at this case study which gives an overview of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Nye Bevan programmes or Andrew Joly’s blog post where he talks about what we’ve learned from our experience of creating such a massive learning architecture. We produced ‘traditional’ e-learning, immersive scenarios, video walls with lots of interviews with experts and personal stories, audio and much more. But the bit I want to talk about is a poem.

This poem was chosen by one of our subject matter experts (SMEs) who had recorded her mother reading it aloud. We were asked to make the text scroll up the screen as learners listened to the audio. Although our budget for this activity was relatively small compared to everything else we were producing, I felt there was more we could do to help make it shine.

I recommended taking key phrases and words from the poem to create a word cloud which animated onto the screen as the audio played. Our SMEs were unsure – this wasn’t what they had envisaged and we weren’t very far into the project so they didn’t know me very well. Members of my team tried to offer assistance by suggesting we perhaps used key words and emotive imagery instead.

As a learning designer there are times when you need to learn to let go and accept another person’s idea is better or more realistic in terms of cost or timescales. In this case, I fought for what I believed was the best – my animated word cloud idea.

Not just because it was my idea. The poem was beautiful and emotive so I felt it was important to focus learners’ attentions on what was being said rather than distract them with images. An animated word cloud kept it simple. I talked through the word cloud with our SMEs to help them understand my reasoning, which really helped to build trust between us.

Some of the activities we created for this programme weren’t as simple. A lot of time and effort went into creating those beautiful, media-rich, immersive scenarios. They definitely had an emotional impact. But so did this small, inexpensive animation. Some of my colleagues told me about how the poem reminded them of their own mothers and it had brought tears to their eyes. One of the programme participants decided to share another poem showing a nurse’s perspective in response.

So why is emotional impact in elearning so important? In his blog series back in 2010, Nick Shackleton Jones talked about how our emotions affect the way our brains process information. If we can attach an emotional response to a piece of information, that information is then easier to remember. I think there’s a lot of sense in that. What has been your most memorable learning experience so far? Can you remember how you felt?

I really care about this stuff. LEO is full of people who also care about this stuff. I care just as much about little stuff like poems as I do about fantastically complex scenarios with video drama. Learning which has an emotional impact doesn’t have to be expensive. We can work with you to figure out the best solution for you and your learners. Talk to us today to find out more or download our latest resource to learn how we can transform learning in your organisation with innovative techniques to help you adapt to change.

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