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What Kylie Minogue taught me about motivation and structure in elearning

I recently went to see Kylie Minogue in concert for the first time. She was extraordinary. I came away full of emotion and excitement, and the feeling that I was one of the lucky few who was there to experience THAT particular gig, because no way could all of her concerts feel so unique.

I started to think that perhaps this can teach us something about motivation and structure in elearning.

Walking away from the venue, I started to think about exactly why this was such a great concert.  After all, it’s always good to hear the songs you cherish being played live by the person who created them.  But I think there was a little more going on that evening.

Kylie connected with each and every member of the 20,000 people strong audience.  The chatter in between songs seemed natural, unrehearsed, from the heart and totally specific to that evening.  The background films featured billboards stating “Kylie Minogue London Tonight”.  The confetti cannons weren’t kept quiet until the final encore – there was a barrage of streamers, confetti explosions, falling rose petals and more lasers than I’ve ever seen, all deployed just for us.

All of this didn’t fail to hit the spot.  On that night everyone there felt special.  Everyone felt that the concert was a one-of-a-kind event that was exceptional because there was a certain magic in the air that night (even though Kylie did a gig the day before and went on to do many live performances thereafter).Alright. There’s a point to this, dear reader, I promise.

I don’t believe the concert was a one-off.  I believe the people who go to see her in concert tonight will feel the same and so will tomorrow’s concertgoers, because Kylie is extremely good at her job and what she does as a performer.

Let’s not forget she’s working, not having fun.  Her performance is a precisely choreographed, planned, and rehearsed production that costs hundreds of thousands to put on each night.

But, she makes it about her audience, not herself.  The set is designed and its trickery deployed for the benefit of the crowd, not the glorification of Ms Minogue.  It’s the same with her performance.  She’s giving the impression everything is natural and spontaneous.  Tonight’s gig is the only one that matters.

And I think we could use a bit of Kylie in our elearning.  I’m starting by moving to Ramsay Street and dating Jason Donovan.So, how does she do this, and what does this have to do with elearning?

Let’s look at what made the performance great (i.e. better than ‘good’):

  • She doesn’t make it about herself – she doesn’t seek glory.
  • She wants to do the best thing for her audience.
  • Staging and effects are used to keep the audience’s attention, not to aggrandise the artist.
  • Her interactions are tailored precisely to what the audience needs at each moment in the set.
  • She guides the audience through the show and sets the mood and the scene in ways that prepare the audience for the next song, the next section, and the big finale.
  • The audience feels like they connect with her on a personal level, even though Kylie doesn’t know them, and they don’t know her.

We can relate all this to the elearning we create. Our learning reaches many people, sometimes tens of thousands of them. It takes learners time to work through a course, they will feel differently at different points in the set (okay, the learning), and you’ll use a range of devices at your disposal to keep their attention. And, if you’re worth your salt, you’ll want your learners to remember what you created for them and remember it fondly so your messages stay with them.Don’t seek to glorify yourself in the learning you design. Write for your learners.

Work on your content and create a shape to the learning that will hold their interest:

  • Use personal language – address learners directly.
  • Draw them in at the beginning – grab their attention.
  • Create your learning so topics build on previous topics.
  • Make sure there are highlights throughout. For example, little stories, neat interactions or activities will do the trick. It doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary to be interesting.
  • Finish big – don’t leave them with the lasting impression of a dreary quiz they had to repeat twice to pass – make them feel like they have achieved something! An outro animation, a completion badge or a nice ‘Thank you’ page can go a long way.
  • Make them feel like they want more – get them to buy the tshirt. Point out the next steps and where they can find out more.
  • And while you’re doing all this, MAKE IT LOOK EASY.
  • Make it look as if it’s the most natural, simple thing you’ve ever done, and you did it just for each and every single learner out there!

No. Because not every one of us is Kylie (though a lot of us may wish we were) and not every one of us is Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys. But, when you look back over the courses you’ve designed, you’ll see there’s a progression. You’ll take the good bits and drop the bits you weren’t so happy with. And then, as you think of increasingly better activities, stories and interactions, your set will become filled with more and more hits. And when your audience has seen all there is to see, they’ll feel like you did it for them, not for yourself.

learning design
modern learner

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