What’s in a name?

Far be it from me to question one of the greatest writers our country has produced, but I’m not entirely sure I agree with Shakespeare’s declaration (via Juliet) that “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Yes, admittedly a course on the finer points of health and safety is likely to be limited in its entertainment value whatever name you give it. And yes, just because you conjure up a (perhaps misleadingly) exciting course title doesn’t mean that you’ll convince your learners that they want, rather than need, to get to grips with the ins and outs of information retention.

But, as we all know, first impressions count. This applies to people (it takes the average person only a matter of seconds to make a whole series of judgements on meeting someone new) and to technology (it can take less than a second for an internet browser to make up their mind about the quality of a website). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that it also applies to training courses.

It’s important, then, to take a bit of time to think about the title you give to your training course. Whether it’s an online course or a classroom session, put yourself in the shoes of the learner signing up or logging into the LMS. If they see a course titled “Risk Assessment”, what are they likely to think? In all probability, they’ll reluctantly sign up for or access the training, expecting yet another dreary, slightly patronising, not-at-all-relevant-to-my-every-day-work glorified PowerPoint presentation. And even if what they get is far better than that, the chances are it’s that impression that will stick with them.

On the other hand, imagine they see an induction course called “Welcome to our world” rather than “Company induction” or a compliance course called “Fighting fraud” instead of “Anti money laundering”, their interest may be piqued just enough for them to (however momentarily) want to find out more.

Of course, it’s important to strike the right balance between the slightly unexpected and the just plain obscure – you’re not writing cryptic crossword clues, after all, and it needs to be clear what the course is about. But equally, a chain is no stronger than its weakest link – neglect the course title and you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage, having to prove yourself to the learner before they’ve even given your course a chance. A little extra thought when naming your course means that you might avoid the words “dreary” and “irrelevant” ever entering their heads. And later, when they look back on the course, with any luck they’ll remember it as the one that was a pleasant surprise.

About the author

Stephanie Dedhar - Instructional designer
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