2,000 Year Old E-Learning Technique

Instructional designers are constantly being challenged to create something that is not only engaging and entertaining, but ultimately something that is effective. Sadly, this can cause us to become lazy, relying too heavily upon flashy tools and gimmicks instead of (more importantly) the distribution of the message. The most successful designers in our field leverage the tools at their disposal to enhance their learning, but only after effectively implementing an ancient technique, one developed long before computers.

No matter what topic you are creating training content for, this technique can be used in some capacity to improve the retention of your course content. One thing we learn early on as instructional designers is that content cannot change, but the way it is presented can certainly be deliberately planned. What better teacher for message delivery than Aristotle.

Many of you may recall learning about Aristotle’s appeals, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. For a quick reminder, the three are defined as follows:

Ethos: The source’s credibility and/or the speaker’s authority
Logos: The logic used to support a claim
Pathos: The emotional or motivational appeals (vivid, emotional language)

The best e-Learning today (or any training for that matter) effectively leverages a combination of these areas in some capacity. For instance, anyone creating an online training program needs to effectively establish credibility of the trainer or training organization, an strategic use of Ethos.

The good news is that many of these appeals are already present for any training topic, all you have to do is bring them to the foreground whenever you are trying to drive home a point. For example, many companies upgrade their logistics software. Ask them why, and they’ll provide you a laundry list of reasons, usually pertaining to the bottom line of the organization, how it is necessary to remain competitive, and ultimately essential for their survival.

Within these reasons are Logos and Pathos appeals that can be brought forward – something that we as instructional designers can leverage when creating our training. Opening the training with a short video clip of the CEO is a great way to establish credibility (Ethos). Better yet, have him or her detail a couple supporting facts and statistical benefits for the training at hand (both Ethos and Logos). Do you see what I’m doing here? I used a tool (video) to convey a message in a more impactful way. I enhanced the learning with the tool, but didn’t rely on it entirely.

There’s no need to get all philosophical when creating your e-learning, it’s just helpful to keep basic human nature in mind. I find that Aristotle’s appeals summarize these basic tendencies pretty well, but it might not resonate with you, and that’s okay. Whatever your method, remember to rely on your abilities and skills as an Instructional Designer more than the tool.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

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