Design e-learning like comic book author Stan Lee

Writing stories about superheroes, Marvell Comics does it so well. Last week I was enjoying the blockbuster Deadpool and there are six more superhero movies coming out this year. Although I rarely read comics myself, it does trigger my interest. I wanted to know more about the design process behind comics and superheroes. ‘Can I find inspiration for e-learning?’ How do comic book authors like Stan Lee create their superheroes? After some research, I did see some similarities.


When Superman was a baby, his parents sent him to Earth on a spaceship. Spiderman grew up like a normal teenager until he got bitten by a radioactive spider. Captain America was denied by the US Army because he was too weak and sick. Every superhero has a special backstory that captures the attention of the audience.

Behind the existence of an e-learning there is a story too. Tell the learner why the e-learning was developed. Describe how it contributes to their knowledge and skills. A clear, inspiring story provides insight into why e-learning is worth while and motivates learners to get started!


Every superhero has its own superpowers. What is important in creating a powerful e-learning? Most important are the learning goals. Look at learning goals like the healthy, strong body of a superhero. You can make or break an e-learning with learning goals. It’s at the core of your solution and prevents you from taking all kinds of side steps. Keep focussing on the learning goals and nothing else!

Another strength is powerful content. With this we nourish and train the ‘body’ of e-learning. The right diet is important as well as the right quantity. Make sure the information is relevant for the participants, only include information that matches the learning goals. And don’t forget to serve it in chunks! That is better for processing.

Smart and creative, are also features of the superhero. As cunning as Loki is, Thor often outsmarts him. Similarly with e-learning, how does it ensure that the participants do not lose attention and that all content is easy to understand? Atleast not a Powerpoint-like e-learning with a question here and there. You can do better! Interactive exercises, beautiful infographics or stunning visuals in an animation or video. There are tons of possibilities. No yawning, but dropping jaws, that’s what we’re aiming at!


We should not forego an exciting spandex. What matters here? Recognition! Make sure the e-learning is designed in appropriate colors (e.g. in the corporate identity), embroider the correct logo on it and decorate it with the right icons.

Of course, we cannot forget the material. I mean, Batman’s suit doesn’t fall apart after one fight either does it? The e-learning has to work well, no matter how beautiful it is on the outside; the interactive elements function, the links work, the videos play nicely.

But we’re not there yet. We still have the ‘fit’. The suit must be figure hugging. Spiderman had been busy trying and measuring before his costume was a snug fit. In e-learning, it is no different: it must be user-friendly. Think about navigation, pace, help functions and readability. When it works intuitively, it contributes to the learning process. In short, recognition, material and fit, they play an  important part in developing a super-e-learning!

Developing e-learning as a comic book author and looking at e-learning from a different perspective. It’s not something you do everyday. What do you think of this analogy? Does it inspire you to be a super-e-learning developer who deals with cowardly learning goals, monstrously long modules, insane content and repulsive forms of work?



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