mobile learning

Ten Ways to Make E-Learning Fun

The Challenge of Teaching

As Ben Franklin wrote,

Tell me and I forget, teach and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

To put it another way, non-stop lectures weren’t very effective during Franklin’s time. With the competition for attention from the online world, getting and keeping student mind share is new challenge. As a more recent author wrote:

Lecture content passes from the teacher’s notes to the student’s notes without touching the mind of either.

How do we engage minds and make lessons memorable? That’s the ongoing challenge of teaching, no matter whether your students are fifteen or fifty years old.

Brain Changes

Not much information sticks when learners are glazed over in a trance like state! As research shows, brainwaves move from active (beta) to a passive and sleep-like state (alpha) within one minute of watching video.

The good news is that any kind of physical action shakes student minds back into full operation. That change can be triggered as simply as clicking a button. It’s not hard to move from passive content to interactive training that is far more effective.

Simple Interactions

Even the simplest actions are helpful. Clicking NEXT or BACK or responding YES or NO are enough to engage minds and snap the trance. If the question encourages internal conversation and value judgements, it kicks brain function to a higher level of activity and more potent learning:

Multiple choice questions with a single correct choice are a familiar interactive method. Give learners a choice from 4 or 5 potential answers and “all of the above.” In a recent adult learning project for the United States Golf Association, 3 simple multiple choice questions were added throughout 3-4 minute teachings on The Rules of the Game. Video completions went up by more than 300%. Engagement time lifted nearly 500%!

Gamified Learning

Gamification is rapidly emerging as an effective technique to drive learning results. It can mean full bore simulated game experiences. Most often gamified training takes the simpler form of fun, short interactions interspersed throughout the learning material. Here are eight examples that work great.

  • Pro and Con Grid – Participants drag training topics into plus and minus columns, with a 50/50 split. If they drag all the items into the minus side, half of them crawl back to the plus side in an amusing way. The lists give students a preview of what to expect and their reactions are useful for pre-training assessments.

  • Multiple Choice Compound Answer - Five answers with three or more required for a correct response. Users are prompted for more answers when needed.

  • Time Based Multiple Choice – This interactive method is one of our favorite, mirroring popular trivia games found in restaurants and bars. The value of the correct answer starts at 25 points and goes down to 1 over time, so there is an incentive to answer quickly.

It’s great fun with a competitive edge that is perfect for corporate teams. The time pressure ramps up the adrenaline, even if you are playing by yourself.

The online vendor training vendor Quizlet has a few cool methods for timed responses in a match game. Players select a term and then click on the visual match until all the terms disappear. Works well for learners of all ages!

  • Matching Columns – Drag words from the left hand column to their matches on the right. For example match historical characters on the left and their accomplishments on the right.

  • Asynchronous Discussion – Participants discuss an issue or situation in a chat room that is limited to that specific topic. Great for small group team building exercises. Chat posts may be moderated by teachers before shared with the group.

  • Role Playing – During a video role playing scenario, trainees are prompted to give their own response within the dialogue. The video stops and they are prompted, How would you respond in this situation? Using their smart phones, they can answer multiple times with audio and video responses until they have a take that pleases them. In sales and customer services situations, it’s powerful to share the best responses with the group.

  • List Sorting – Users drag and drop phrases from a list to reorder them in a logical sequence or priority. As a variation, drag list items into two columns, for example Sweet and Sour columns.

  • Student Generated Questions – Students create hard questions from the content to stump their peers. Forces learners to dig deeply into the content and learn it well. Helps teachers understand student learning processes and understanding, reveals problem areas.

Think Mobile Fun

Give trainees exactly what they want! That’s adrenaline inducing full-screen mobile experiences that are experienced in short bursts of manic activity. Three minutes is perfect module length. Group training modules into longer lessons for recognizing and certifying accomplishments.

Long and boring lectures are great for inducing sleep but impart little knowledge for today’s digitally distracted generations. It’s easy to take that same content, fold in a bit of interactivity, make it enjoyable and many times more effective.



Randall Tinfow has been producing educational materials for more than 30 years for large companies and educational publishers. Johnson and Johnson, Novartis, the USGA, and the AFRL are recent clients.

Sign up for our newsletter to get our monthly tip sheet. It will help you make your video efforts shine. Or contact us for the latest examples and detailed case studies.



Sign up for Training Tips, our monthly newsletter.

* indicates required