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The educational context of online courses changes humor expectations. Students assume teachers will be scholarly and serious. Yet, everyone, educators included, expects online classes to be ungodly boring and tedious.

The lower humor threshold for online education benefits teachers in several ways. Simpler forms of humor that would “bomb” in a comedy venue will work in the virtual classroom. That includes wordplay humor, such as pun and oxymorons. Teachers can also successfully use clever observations or quotes.

Lame is never comedic friendly. That’s because audiences expect funny and pay to laugh. Smirks don’t cut it when trying to be professionally funny.

I just wrote a book on reverse psychology. I decided not to read it.

On a comedic scale, the above gag is horrible. In an educational setting, however, the marginal wordplay joke might get a moan or a smirk. And that’s the goal of most education humor – to get a reaction.

Adding humor to instruction, even lame humor, can earn significantly brownie points for the teacher. Students will perceive the instructor as striving to make the class more interesting.

Lame will always be lame, and instructors need to be careful not to overdo lame. Yet, the occasional use of simple forms of humor will nudge students to consider the course and teacher more positively.


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