Picture of Jef Halverson
Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Jef Halverson - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 5:03 PM


In Chapter 6 of the book Facilitating Online Learning by George Collison, he includes humorous as a moderating strategy tone. He cautions that there is potential for humorous attempts to be misconstrued due to the absence of visual cues that are present when a joke is made face to face. He includes humorous as one of the most inspired tones used and states that this tone can effectively break down barriers. When teaching face to face classes I have often employed humor in presentations and dialogue, but have not done so online. Collison warns that as a moderator the voice selected needs to bring to the surface others’ ideas and not be a vehicle for your own personal expression.

Please draw upon readings and experiences to reflect upon and respond to at least one of the following questions.

1.What techniques have you used to add a humorous tone to your classes?

2.What potential benefits do you perceive from incorporating humor into a course?

3.What potential problems do you perceive from incorporating humor into a course?

4.Which of the six voices identified in Chapter 5 of the book Facilitating Online Learning by George Collison do you see as aligning well with a humorous tone?


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Picture of Christin Hunter
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Christin Hunter - Friday, October 19, 2012, 6:50 PM
Hi Jef,
To be honest, I cannot say I have been able to use humor in an online lesson, but it gives me some food for thought. It gets me thinking about whether or not I can find a lesson that may benefit from throwing in some fun and humor....most of my online content for teaching reading is pretty straightforward and objective, but I like the idea of finding a small lesson that I can infuse some humorous tone into...I will think about how I might accomplish this, and any ideas that might come to mind, please share. And as I am just finishing this post, I am remembering a comic I share with my face to face students about (get this) TONE. It would work well here, so thanks for leading me to thinking about adding it to my online lesson on tone (now with lesson item containing a humorous tone!) I have no idea why I did not think to include this comic in my online class other than I have only taught the class two times online, and I am still working out many,many details.
Christin in FL
Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Jef Halverson - Friday, October 19, 2012, 11:49 PM


Thank you for your feedback. My thought was to set a fun tone and make the course site more interesting to students in an attempt to get more use of and time spent at the site. I have seen material created by instructors where they insert humorous or interesting items into course material that do not relate to the subject matter. That is not my objective. My target is the home site for the course. I relate to you not thinking of adding your comic and the many details that need to be worked out. Constructing courses is very time consuming. I get many thoughts of things that I might add to a course, but there never seems to be the time to do so. If other ideas have come to you, please share.

Jef @ WI

Picture of Monica McQuaid
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Monica McQuaid - Friday, October 19, 2012, 9:22 PM
Personally as a librarian, I use humor all the time. My students love when I read silly books, especially when you use different voices and gestures. Those methods engage my students and cause them to be excited about checking out books. That is my goal in the library.

If I were teaching in a classroom, I would incorporate some humor but always as a way of engaging or capturing their attention. There is a balance of humor and being serious. You can't be "buddies" with your students and still have an effective authority presence in the classroom. Humor does have it's place but you need to find the way it works best for your classroom.

So Jef, would you say that you use humor in your classroom or not as much?
Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Jef Halverson - Friday, October 19, 2012, 11:49 PM


Thank you for sharing your experience and opinion on this. When I have taught in a traditional classroom I have used humor. Although this semester I have some on campus courses due to an unusual situation, my position for the past few years has been entirely online and I will be returning to that. I have been contemplating how to add some fun or interesting components to online courses.I have seen some instructors whose material includes jokes or small cartoons. I am open to anything to make dry material more interesting and humor is an option. Something that I have been thinking about that a librarian might have experience with is a quote of the day. I could set my site up to display a different inspirational or humorous quote to appear each day. We do need to worry about being offensive and things can be more easily misconstrued when read rather than delivered in person. I am looking for something to add an interesting component and hopefully draw additional use to the site. In the UW Stout Campus Life Today email that we receive each day is included a fun fact of the day.This is something similar to what I have thought of. However the fact yesterday was to type a number into google images to view pictures of people putting their heads in refrigerators. This type of silly thing would work well for what I have been thinking. However when I typed the number, in addition to the refrigerator photos, people had posted photos that were pornographic. Something like this makes me cautious. If you have additional thoughts on this or sources from your experience of what you would consider good posting material, please share. Do you have any experience setting something like this up for your use or in assisting an instructor or student in doing so?

Jef @ WI

Picture of Cassandra Gadouas
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Cassandra Gadouas - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 12:26 PM

Monica and Jef, I agree that in a classroom should have some humor, in fact anytime there is a group of people humor is usually a good thing. It is sort of like music, a universal language.Humor is used in therapy as well and you may have heard of laughter therapy, ifnot, here is a quote from one: "I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off," says Steve Wilson,MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter.There are many theories on laughter and why it is a good thing, but for themost part people know that it works to put people more at ease and pull people together so long at it is more of a universal humor and not sarcasm, or laughing at someone, as in Monica's posting, you must be careful and post in good tast and respect.

Picture of Annie Mae Kingston
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Annie Mae Kingston - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 4:25 PM
Jef, I have never taught an on line course and my teaching experience is in community education, mostly somewhat informal groups. I often use humor in my presentations, calling upon family stories to illustrate my point. Fortunately, my family lives far away, so I have been able to get away with using them in my classes without their knowledge. I have been thinking about the importance of developing my on line personality so that I can translate my teaching style from face to face experiences to an on line atmosphere. Fun is important to me...I think it is in my DNA. Of course it is more difficult to interpret humor on line than in person. Without the nuances of body language, it is difficult to translate humor. Still, it is important to making classes interesting, while letting students know you are taking them seriously.
Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Jef Halverson - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 11:12 PM

Annie Mae,

I think that you hit it on point when you mentioned creating an online personality. My experience is that this comes naturally in the classroom. I think that it is something that we need to be conscious of and work towards to establish online. Thank you.

Jef @ WI

Picture of Mark Wenta
Re: Use of humorous tone in an online course
by Mark Wenta - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 7:47 PM

Jef, I use humor a lot in my classroom. For me it's a good way to keep my students on their toes while I present a lesson. I think it keeps their attention because they don't want to miss any little gems (or chunks of coal, as the case may be).

I have a far more difficult time translating humor into text. Most of humor is in the presentation. I think that when many people read, they "hear" it in their heads in a dry monotone delivery. Very good readers are able to add flair and lilt to what they read, which is a big reason that they are good readers (and generally like to read). Those readers, I feel, will catch the humor. The others, generally not, and it will probably seem more like the teachers you mentioned in one of your responses: jokes that seem like extraneous material.

I don't know if there is a remedy for this, unless you a) get better readers or b) accept the risk of being misunderstood.

- Mark from Chippewa Falls