It's Time To Agree To Disagree: 5 Reasons To Spark Controversy Among Your eLearning Audience

5 Reasons To Spark Controversy Among Your eLearning Audience
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Summary: Controversy often gets a bad rep, but eLearning designers can actually use it to their advantage to engage learners and get them emotionally involved in the process.

Why Healthy Arguments Should Be Part Of The Learning Experience

Creating eLearning controversy might seem counterintuitive if you're striving to bring everyone together and improve remote collaboration. However, as Ronald Reagan once said, "Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means." Stirring up a bit of controlled controversy in your virtual classroom or VILT session isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to transformational eLearning experiences and valuable life lessons. Here are 5 reasons why you might want to encourage disagreements among your online learning audience to spark healthy debate and delve deeper into the subject matter.

5 Reasons To Encourage eLearning Controversy In Your Online Classroom

1. Empower Learners To Explore The Subject From Another Perspective

Sometimes we humans can get stuck in our own minds, and it's challenging to see things from someone else's point of view. Sparking controversy in eLearning prompts people to step outside of their comfort zones and evaluate topics or problems from different angles. For instance, another learner makes a valid point that challenges their assumptions and encourages them to delve deeper into a subtopic or approach they'd never considered. Maybe there's an innovative way to solve the problem they hadn't considered or an interesting fact that sends them down the lifelong learning rabbit hole (in the best possible way).

2. Build Conflict Resolution Skills

It's one thing to have a productive debate that lets everyone delve into different viewpoints and quite another to start an all-out war in your online course. That's where conflict resolution skills enter the mix. Learners must be able to express themselves without offending others. More importantly, they need to know how to handle their emotions and keep them in check so as to prevent full-fledged arguments. For example, another learner may not agree with their opinion and make an offhanded remark. Are they able to diffuse the situation and have a healthy dialogue with the person? By doing so, they not only build interpersonal skills but help the other learner evaluate their own behaviors and actions. Why did the person who caused the offense think that it was necessary to make the remark, and are there limiting beliefs they need to examine?

3. Foster Emotional Connectivity

Even a somewhat heated argument can make learners feel more connected to the content and emotionally invested in the training process. If they feel strongly about a particular viewpoint, they're more likely to participate in the conversation and take ownership of their opinions. For example, they have to state their case as to why they adhere to a certain theory versus another. The learning experience itself is then tied to these more extreme (hopefully positive) emotions, making the subject matter virtually unforgettable.

4. Grab And Hold Learners' Attention

Most of us have taken courses that had us yawning a few minutes into the first module. In many cases, this is because we were sitting on the sidelines instead of diving into the topic headfirst. Reading manuals or watching slideshows has nothing on productive arguments that make the subject relatable and meaningful. For instance, pose a question that you know might be slightly divisive or make a statement that's based on misinformation to stir up eLearning controversy. Then invite your learners to share their thoughts about the truths and misconceptions that surround it.

5. Cultivate Empathy And Authenticity

Learners who are able to evaluate the topic from every angle and see things from a different perspective are more likely to empathize with their peers. They also have the opportunity to be their authentic selves, given that you've created a learning environment where all opinions and ideas are valued. People may not agree with everything they say, but they still respect one another and don't shy away from challenging assumptions in a tactful way.

Wrapping Up

This might be sparking controversy on a smaller and more localized scale. However, it can have a lasting impact on your learning audience if you provide them with a supportive space where everyone's ideas and opinions are valued. You should have some ground rules in place to ensure that your in-class debates go smoothly, such as setting a time limit for everyone to share their perspective to prevent one person from stealing the show. If you're looking for an outsourcing partner to help you create content that engages your online learners, check out our list of the top content providers for custom eLearning.