Home > General eLearning Design, Similarities between Course Design and Magic (!) > The Magic of Instructional Design – Thought #1

The Magic of Instructional Design – Thought #1

As well as an Instructional Designer, I am a close-up magician. I go to other people’s dinners, parties, charity balls and weddings. I am paid for having fun 😀
As an old joke goes – I said to my Dad, “Dad, when I grow up I want to be a magician”, and he replied, “Son, you can’t do both”.

I post regularly on magic forums, (yes, they do exist…), and have noticed many posts sharing similar traits and themes to those posted on eLearning/Instructional Design forums, some of which I would like to investigate over the next few posts. These are personal views and observations; I have not performed any statistical analysis to back them up!

Thought #1> Technical Prowess vs. Performance
Magicians love, (absolutely love – sometimes to the point of obsession), discussing sleights, and how to make them better. It is odd that we achieve mastery of sleights at the point where our audience can see nothing of our abilities! The performance side of magic seems to take a second place.

Many learning forum discussions seem to revolve around the technical side of things, “how to do stuff” rather than “how to present stuff”. The theoretical art of eLearning seems to be of interest to fewer people, posts of this type seem to generate less active interest on forums.

One lesson I have learned from both magic and eLearning/presentation sources, is that it’s not how complicated you make it; it’s how simply you present it. Great magical plots are simple to understand from the spectator’s perspective, (although there may be some complicated antics going on behind the scenes…)

In regards to knowledge transfer of any sort, it’s how simple you make it; how simply you show it, how simply you can explain it, how simply you illustrate it, how simply you tell it, and how simple you make the finding of supplemental information and data – no matter how complicated or technical the actual subject.

One great tool to assist you is the “readability statistics” available in Word; it checks how simple the content text is. If necessary – copy the text from PowerPoint to Word.

Remember the KISS principle, (Keep It Short and Simple), and learn how to utilize it in courses, (although ironically, this principle seems to be too simplistic for many people?)

Let me know if you agree, disagree, or need me to explain anything!

  1. September 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Great post! I like the comparison of two very different, but two very technical things – eLearning and magic.
    I have to agree – keeping eLearning simple and user-friendly does ensure success of the learner. If a program is too technical and difficult to use, it not only limits who can use the program, but also how much information the learner retains.
    To add to that point, I think engagement is also key to both situations. As a magician, you want to engage your audience to keep them interested and wanting more. Engaging content in eLearning is as equally important. Designing an engaging (yet simple) eLearning program keeps the learner interested and focused. Increased engagement leads to greater retention which equals success for all parties involved. Interested to see what else you have “up your sleeve”.


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