Hard-boiled detectives and femme fatales aside, a riveting whodunit has more in common with successful e-learning than you might think. A detective novel begins by posing a question and then builds a story of discovering its answer. Through the examination of clues, the investigator—and perhaps a savvy reader—solves a crime.
Just as a satisfying mystery challenges a sleuth's powers of detection, great e-learning invites learners to apply their knowledge. A few basic rules serve as solid guidelines for both, putting the audience’s memory and smarts to test.
1. BE REAL
Raymond Chandler, who created one of the genre’s most iconic detectives in Phillip Marlowe, put forth the “Ten Commandments of Writing the Detective Novel.” One of the foremost is, “It must be realistic in character, setting, and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.”
When a story’s resolution hinges on reasoning and deduction, the reader must have an understanding of its setting and its workings. Everyone should be drawing from the same pool of knowledge. For Chandler, this means cultivating a consistent sense of realism throughout the novel.
At NogginLabs, we connect with learners by creating custom e-learning that portrays the realities they encounter. Chandler writes, “The poor writer is dishonest without knowing it, and the fairly good one can be dishonest because he doesn’t know what to be honest about.” Our writers, through a combination of research, exploration, and communication, get to the heart of your content. Authenticity is central to everything that we do, meaning your learners encounter realistic and relatable scenarios on the screen.
2. PRESENT MULTIPLE CREDIBLE POSSIBILITIES
The term “red herring” in detective fiction refers to a clue meant to mislead or distract investigators and readers, just as a literal herring can throw hounds off the scent. The thing is, a good distractor can’t be any old stinky fish. The story needs a variety of suspects and motives to tantalize readers with convincing alternatives to the real solution.
We’ve previously discussed the importance of strong distractors in e-learning. By using “varying degrees of correctness” in our e-learning, we present learners with options that are partially right—but still off the mark. We integrate commonly held misconceptions to challenge your learners’ assumptions. We give wrong answers the right way.
That being said, we’re not afraid to get a little tricky, either. Mystery author P.D. James states that one can present clues with “deceptive cunning but essential fairness.” A training experience, like a good mystery, should never be an open-and-shut case.
3. PLAY FAIR
Speaking of fairness, if there's one thing that seems to be a universally accepted truth of detective fiction, it’s that one must approach the story and its reader with a sense of “fair play.” S.S. Van Dine, in his “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories,” has three separate edicts that address it:
The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.
No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.
The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it.
Chandler echoes the sentiment in his “Ten Commandments” when he states, “The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.” P.D. James asserts, “By the end of the book, the reader should have been able to arrive at the real situation from the clues inserted into the novel.” In a genre full of skullduggery and secrets, why is playing fair with the reader so important?
No one likes to feel duped. A great detective story, like quality training, is not a game of gotcha. At NogginLabs, we give our learners room to fail, but the goal is to lead them to success. We present learners with clear objectives and well-defined choices. Guided feedback accompanies wrong answers to help get learners back on track. The goal is to provide all the information learners need to help them find the solution.
WHAT CAN NOGGINLABS SOLVE FOR YOU?
Once you’ve identified what change you want to instill in your learners, our instructional technology puts them on the path to achieving it. P.D. James says, "I always know the end of the mystery before I begin to write, ” and almost every author of detective fiction will tell you same. This is what we refer to at NogginLabs as defining your success.
We’ll never underestimate your learners. We know, just like the dogged private investigators and amateur sleuths of detective fiction, that even their biggest missteps will help them to uncover the right solution. Authentic scenarios, challenging choices, and a sense of fair play create an engaging experience that gets results.