Online Blogucation

Humor Helps in Online Classes

In a traditional classroom, one way that faculty presence is achieved is through the use of humor. Humor use in the classroom contributes to a supportive learning environment, and enhances student attention, recall of information, pleasure in learning, and interest in the subject matter (James). Unfortunately, many online instructors do not make the extra planning and effort needed to make humor happen in their courses.

If you want to use humor to increase your instructor presence in your online class and help create a positive learning environment, then help is on the way. There are several good resources for crafting humor for online classes. Shatz and LoSchaivo provide detailed information on locating or creating humor for online classes, as well as guidelines for incorporating humor into online lectures and exams. The authors suggest that visual humor (such as cartoons, illustrations and photographs) and funny quotes, jokes, examples, word-play, forms of exaggeration, top-10 lists, and so on, can easily be incorporated into online courses. Shatz and LoSchaivo also recommend doing an internet search for your topic and “humor” to find humorous material specific to your discipline. Berk gives guidelines for print and non-print humor forms that can be incorporated into online classes, and also gives numerous examples and web resources. His suggested print forms include humorous course components, course disclaimers, announcements, warnings or cautions, lists, word derivations, foreign word expressions, acronyms and emoticons. Non-print forms include visual and sound effects.

If you want to get students involved in your search for new humorous material, Shatz and LoSchaivo suggest an activity called “The Contributing Editor” where students locate course-related humor and then write a report (extra-credit or for-credit) detailing the source of the material and how the topic relates to the course. Alternately, this material could be shared in a discussion area, such as the Class Lounge. Shatz and LoSchaivo stress the importance of giving guidelines for the student so they know what humor is appropriate for the assignment.

The resources and ideas discussed above should hopefully provide a good place to start with your search for relevant pedagogical humor, and it is worth some time with your favorite internet search engine to find what’s out there for your subject matter. My own search for humorous material for my discipline had me laughing out loud, and I hope this material provides me with new ways to connect with students in my own classes.

– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –
Director of Academic Training & Consulting

This text is taken from this original article: Krovitz, G.E. (2007) Using humor in online classes. Educator’s Voice 8(3), May 9. Accessed at:


Berk, R.A. (2002). Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator. Stylus: Virginia.

James, D. (2004). A need for humor in online classes. College Teaching 52(3), 93-94.

Shatz, M.A. & LoSchaivo, F.M. (2006). Bringing life to online instruction with humor. Radical Pedagogy. Accessed at:

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. “His suggested print forms include humorous course components, course disclaimers, announcements, warnings or cautions, lists, word derivations, foreign word expressions, acronyms and emoticons.”

    I think “warnings and cautions” are apropos. It’s hard to predict how online students will react to humor, considering that they may come from varied backgrounds and they can’t read the instructor’s body language. Personally, I love a humorous touch in any subject, but many people are so literal-minded that they will take humorous comments seriously and possibly be offended.

  2. This material could be shared in a discussion area don’t you think?

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.