Have you ever been to a training class, seminar presentation, or workshop and left so hard your jaws hurt? Some enjoy being entertained while trained yet others feel humor is a waste of time that would be better spent on dispensing information.
So what is the role of humor and fun in a learning environment?
"Entertaining" and "Engaging" are partners. Unless the audience is entertained to a degree they will not be engaged. The facilitator needs to be careful to find the proper blend - which is audience specific.
Success depends on knowing your stuff - in your heart and mind. If you are held hostage to a PowerPoint or well memorized talk, you will have failure.
Keep in tune with the cultures of your audience. They will be engaged based on humor targeted on the culture of their profession, culture of their job classification, generational culture, or union/non-union cultures.
In the case of online training this becomes more difficult as many online programs as sold as canned and cannot be customized.In these cases a moderate amount of generic humor is appropriate. However if a client will be running a large number of participants through the online class it would make the program much more successful if it is customized.
I once attended a seminar presentation during which Connie Pedesta played with the audience emotion during her entire 90 minutes. In the words of the Broadway critic, "she made me laugh and she made me cry". My jaws hurt for an entire week. Four years later I remember the points she made and the illustration of those points through entertainment. Who spoke before Podesta? I honestly cannot remember the speaker of the topic.But Connie taught by engaging her audience by entertaining them.