Successful Custom eLearning: Top Tips L&D Managers Can Use To Create A Fun Learning Experience

Olena Yakobchuk/
Summary: All good training should have some element of Fun because the sense of mastery that learners develop is a positive, rewarding emotion.

Fun Is A Great Way To Motivate Learners To Take And Finish Courses

At Andy’s company, it’s that time of year—the annual cybersecurity training needs to be updated, and this time the project was assigned to him. He’s excited because he has the budget to improve it, not just do simple updates like usual. Andy has decided to take a boring topic, like cybersecurity training, and make a real impression on the learners. He wants employees to talk about it like a viral video on YouTube. But, where does he start? How does he actually take a boring topic and make it fun?

eBook Release: 7 Better Learning Principles For Custom eLearning
eBook Release
7 Better Learning Principles For Custom eLearning
Convince your stakeholders that it's in the organization’s best interest to produce eLearning that is interactive and focused on the learners' performance

Fun Vs. Funny

Andy is known as a funny guy at the office, so he doesn’t think he’ll have any trouble making cybersecurity more entertaining. He’s decided to start out with one of his favorite jokes: “What is Forrest Gump’s password? It’s ‘1forrest1!’ Any hacker could guess that!”

Oh boy, Andy’s got “Dad jokes.”

He’s forgotten that Fun does not mean the same thing as “funny.” Fun strikes a balance between boring at one extreme and “Send in the Clowns” at the other. Lightheartedness is a great way to describe it—triggering a smile, not a belly-laugh. It’s a pretty simple concept: If custom eLearning is delivered in a way that is “entertaining, amusing, and enjoyable,” it’s easier for learners to relate to, which in turn helps them absorb and retain the information better, and apply it on the job. If you have a dry topic, like Andy’s cybersecurity training, incorporating Fun can transform that content into training that motivates learners to engage with the course, complete it, and even take it again, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory suggests.

How Can Andy Make The Course Fun For Everyone?


Using stories can be a great approach because stories are entertaining, but still, teach valuable concepts. We know that the human brain is wired for stories—in fact, storytelling has been used to teach for thousands of years. One of the strengths of custom eLearning is that it will allow Andy to tell a story interactively.

There are unlimited story-based options to choose from, and he can use just one or combine several to address the objectives of the cybersecurity course. For example:

  • Choose your own adventure: Branching scenario where learners see the consequences of using the same password for every website
  • Help a virtual character make the right decisions to keep his/her information safe
  • A virtual character’s information has been hacked! Help him/her solve the mystery!

The multiple branching paths of "choose your own adventure" would be less efficient and don't align with the learning objectives. With cybersecurity, there is only one goal and that is to keep your data safe. He determines that “help a virtual character succeed” is a good fit—learners will keep their character safe from a hacker who’s trying to steal their identity.


Andy wants to support his story with some interesting graphics to help draw the learners in. Maybe it would be fun to do a “CSI” theme or “Silicon Valley"? Everyone loves those shows—and they are all about technology! Instead, he conjures up a story about a "hacker" because it supports the business goals and learning objectives. The eLearning User Interface (UI) is an opportunity where Andy can introduce Fun. A creative, imaginative UI will increase learners’ interest in the course, whereas a boring UI might lead them to assume that the entire course will be boring, and thus unimportant. Andy chooses to use the UI as an opportunity to create a “hacker” avatar that provides humorous feedback to knowledge checks throughout as well as the introduction and conclusion.

Andy can choose to tell the story of the hacker with video. Video is a popular option to make eLearning more amusing; people spend hours watching online videos for fun—and Andy wants this to go “viral,” right? Once again, multiple options exist: professionally produced videos, informal cellphone footage, motion graphics, and animations, to name a few. Andy could use professional videos—he has used that modality in the past when a course needed to depict real-world interactions between people. For cybersecurity, animated characters seem like a better fit for the upbeat, technology-oriented tone he wants. Furthermore, animation provides Andy with more options than video for what the “hacker” and his or her environment will look like.


Andy has heard so much about “hard fun”—which means turning a course into a learning game that captures the learners’ attention and provides intrinsic rewards for playing. Almost by definition, games are enjoyable and Fun, and Andy wants to leverage them to make everyone love his course!

Here are some game mechanics that Andy is considering:

  • Leaderboard, where learners can compete against each other
  • In-course scoring that allows learners to compete against themselves to achieve a personal best
  • Badges and other items that must be collected to “unlock” further areas of the course
  • Trivia that provides repetition for memorization of facts

So how does he decide which game mechanics to use? The same way he makes other design decisions—by aligning it with his learning objectives and audience. Behaviors and choices that enable learners to “win” the game should be the same behaviors and choices they need to be successful on the job. For example, if the business objective is team building, it would be counterproductive to pit individuals against each other in a competitive game; instead, choose one that rewards learners for cooperation and collaboration. Andy’s audience is diverse, since cybersecurity is important for all employees. There’s not a lot of value in an in-course scoring since the learners won’t attribute the score to intrinsic or extrinsic value. Plus, they’ll have the policy as a PDF file, so there’s no need to memorize information.

He decides to use a game where the learners collect badges that represent the policies and practices that will keep their virtual character safe from the “hacker.” This strategy is something to be carefully planned and be a part of a more iterative design approach. Aligning the objectives and learner personas with game mechanics is a time-consuming task. However, if it is done well, Andy will assure success for his learners to experience fun while engaging in the course. With so many ways to make a custom eLearning course Fun, how do you choose a design strategy? The same way Andy did:

  • Always keep the business purpose and learning objectives of the course in mind.
  • Ensure that your User Interface reflects the tone and topic of the course.
  • Design in-course games to reflect the same behaviors that will bring learners success on the job.

All good training should have some element of Fun because of the sense of mastery that learners develop is a positive, rewarding emotion. And, just imagine an LMS full of courses that learners want to engage in, complete in a timely manner, and in some cases, actually, reengage with the training again and again. Beyond these top tips L&D managers can use to create a fun learning experience, there is an abundance of methodologies to research. Download our eBook 7 Better Learning Principles For Custom eLearning to reach full potential. You can also watch the supporting webinar "Maximize Learning Effectiveness Using The 7 Better Learning Principles" and unlock the full potential of performance-based learning. You can also watch the supporting webinar "Maximize Learning Effectiveness Using The 7 Better Learning Principles" and truly optimize your process.

eBook Release: Cinecraft Productions
Cinecraft Productions
Cinecraft works with some of the world’s most recognizable brands to improve employee performance through the creation of better custom learning solutions.