What Works in Real Life, Works in Online Training

What Works in Real Life, Works in Online Training

At heart we are all educators. We see or read interesting tidbits of information and oftentimes our reaction is to forward, tweet, post, snap pictures, and share with the world what we just learned. We want our family, friends, and strangers to be as informed as we now are—but more importantly, we want them to feel what we just felt. Whether a moment of shock or amazement, it’s because of our reaction that we decide to share in the first place. What is the point in sharing something that lacks a strong attention grabber? If it did not command your attention immediately in the first place, then it likely will not be successful with the next person. Establishing a great hook at the start of a lesson or training program instills an insatiable craving for an individual to learn more.

As an adult learner, we desire a feeling of community. We seek a safe environment to learn where we are not judged and have an opportunity to form a sense of identity with others. What we truly desire is to feel connected to one another, which can be challenging in an online learning environment. Facts—even those that influence life or death matters—remain flat, distant, and cold on a computer monitor. Bringing facts to life with real people or real-life events leaves a lasting impression on us. As humans we feel emotion and fear, above all other emotions, leaves an indelible mark.

Flat Facts

Information that lacks an emotional pull results in a sterile learning environment.

General symptoms of a stroke include:

Where is the hook?

Facts Brought to Life

Information is more appealing when you can personalize the facts and make them relatable to the learner.

Here’s an example of how to bring facts to life:

Sunday afternoon, Shelly and her husband John arrived at their local community baseball field to play in a softball game. It was a hot day and players on both sides did their best to stay hydrated. At the bottom of the sixth inning, John falls while running to catch a fly ball. His teammate helps him up but as the game continues John seems unable to concentrate and has trouble following the next play.

A time out is called and Shelly helps John off the field to the dugout. She thinks his symptoms are due to the heat and brings him some cold water. John tries to drink but most of the water spills onto his shirt. Shelly begins to panic. Blake, a friend of John’s, has been watching John since he fell and decides to walk over ask him a few questions.

“Hey John, you’re gonna be alright, I’m just going to ask you a few questions. Can you try smiling?”

John tries to smile but only one side of his face will cooperate.

“Okay, now I want you talk and say something really simple for us.”

John’s speaks but his words are garbled and hard to understand.

“Now I’m going to raise your arms and I want you to hold both of them up when I let them go. Let’s give it a try.”

When Blake releases John’s arms his left arms drops immediately.

Blake turns to Shelly and says that he thinks John is experiencing a stroke. He turns back to John and explains that he’s going to be fine and is calling an ambulance. John nods and leans back on the bench.

As the first impression in the learning experience, we’ve undoubtedly grabbed the learner’s attention. We can imagine ourselves in Shelly’s shoes concerned and nervous at the state of our spouse, or we can picture one of our own loved ones in John’s place. The learner is in a heightened state of emotion and going forward will be more receptive to learning about strokes and its symptoms.

In this video example, we see and experience the actor’s actions and emotions as if they were our own.

Fear may seem excessive as a method to lead into quality instruction but very often the learner lacks a reason to care about information presented in the training. We indirectly demand the learner’s attention and feed a natural curiosity and desire to learn. Whether presented in text—where the learner can use his or her imagination to fill in the details, or in video—where the learner is visually guided through an emotional experience, this form of digital storytelling paints a HSI picture and emotional connection that the learner carries beyond the training.

The hook generates a gut response from the learner who might ask, “What can I do to prevent this situation? How do I make sure that this won’t happen to me or to someone else? What if it were me? What if it were someone I cared about?” Such self-reflective questions act as motivational drivers throughout the learning process. A learner who cares and feels genuine concern for their personal state in relation to the training is an engaged and motivated information seeker.

Designing a great hook is an instructional technique that emphasizes the notion that the learner is not alone. There is a sense of relief in knowing that other people are experiencing the same emotions and wondering the same questions (if I feel this way then others must feel this way too). These types of attention-grabbing hooks make us want to learn, share, and feel connected with others. Humans react based on instinct. It seems only natural that we use those instincts to our advantage as trainers.

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