I wrote a top-selling humor writing book, Comedy Writing Secrets (3rd ed). I know how to target humor, write one-liners, and perform standup comedy. That’s why I hate the funny I create for my online courses.

As a professor, my job is to educate, not entertain. If I add strong humor to my instruction, students will likely remember the gag than the course concept.

Being too funny also creates the expectation that funny will be the norm. I often rewrite classroom humor to reduce the comic effect and minimize interference with concept retention.

In contrast to humorists, who gauge success by laughter, educators measure humor’s effectiveness by how it promotes learning. Although humor can increase students’ overall enjoyment of the online experience, most of the humor incorporated into a virtual course should serve an instructional purpose. Otherwise, students may view the course and instructor as “fluff.”

When selecting or preparing humor for an online course, the most crucial consideration is the humor’s educational purpose. As a pedagogical device, humor can promote various objectives, such as to increase student interest and attention, facilitate the student-teacher relationship, provide students with a “mental break,” or advance the understanding and retention of a concept.

When I’m writing or performing humor, I have one and only one concern. Is this funny? Before I add humor to my instruction, I ask an entirely different question. “Will this promote learning?”

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