Finding the Drama: Adding Value to Source Content

We all know by now– hopefully! – that what makes for an engaging and interesting e-learning program is not screen after boring screen of text bullets. 

But sometimes, this is just what you’re handed. Let’s say your Subject Matter Expert hands you a PowerPoint deck or Word document – there’s always a risk that you’ll simply regurgitate that source content. After all, you’re busy, you’ve got a tight deadline, and it’s just plain easier that way. 

But think about the people who will be sitting down in front of their computers to take your e-learning program. Have mercy on them and find a way to add some value to that content in an imaginative way. Here are two tips to get you started:



Find the drama

OK, so it’s a program about the new fair lending laws and the content is dry and boring. But step back and think about WHY these laws came into being in the first place: because people just like you and me were being negatively affected by bad practices. Tell the story from their point of view and give it some emotion. When we find the human side of the content, we’ll usually find a story that people will connect with.

Narrate the content

Don’t let the Subject Matter Expert just hand you their deck, pat it, and lovingly say “it’s all there, now go to it.” Instead, schedule a good chunk of time with them to have them narrate the content to you. And don’t just let them read the slides out loud to you – have them tell you the story of those slides. Chances are, they’ll use plain, conversational language to explain key concepts, while sharing stories and examples to illustrate points.  

If you’re a fast typist, transcribe everything they’re saying. Otherwise, record the conversation so you can go back later and pick out the juicy nuggets. 

Take that transcript and turn it into your e-learning script. That’s the real voice of the expert.  We always aim to have a conversation with the learner – this tip gets you at least part of the way there.

Tell it well – say less

Good dramatists know you don’t share all the detail to tell a story. You find the narrative arc and you hang the points around it. Whether you’re creating a scenario with key mistakes and consequences, or sharing an experts’ horror story of what went wrong and how they recovered (or didn’t) – remember: write less, skip the dull bits, get to the reveal. Compression is everything.

We’ve got lots of other top tips for spicing up your e-learning content and adding value in our Top Tips library. What are your tips? Please share them in our eLearning Professionals LinkedIn Group.