CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

Article Alert: Using Humor in Online Classes

Posted by Cathy Kelley on July 2, 2007

One of the Quality Assurance values for online classes (fdu-qa.wikispaces.com) is establishing a sense of “co-presence,” or helping students feel that they are not alone in the online environment. One way to make the instructor more “real” to the students is by the judicious use of humor.

A recent article describes how the use of humor helped psychology students become more engaged with an online class. Compared to another section of the same class without the addition of humor, the students in the humor-enhanced section participated in class discussions more frequently and were more likely to answer other students’ questions in an online discussion board. Grades did not vary between the sections, however.

For a discussion of the use of humor in online classes, see

Schatz, M.A. & LoSchaivo, F.M. (2006). Bringing Life to Online Instruction with Humor. Radical Pedagogy, 8(2). Available: http://radicalpedagogy.icaap.org/content/issue8_2/shatz.html

I found this article via a link posted in TLT Infobits, an e-mail newsletter published by the University of North Carolina’s ITS Teaching and Learning division. TLT Infobits presents links to many articles of interest to instructors in higher education, especially those making extensive use of technology or teaching online.

You can subscribe to TLT Infobits by using the subscription form available at:



3 Responses to “Article Alert: Using Humor in Online Classes”

  1. I didn’t finish this article. I like the idea of humor, but I’m not very good at it. I don’t know if that’s an improvable situation. However, more examples might help me discover a hitherto unexplored vein of humor in my approach to literature.

  2. Cathy Kelley said

    Thanks for the comment, Jack! You know, humor isn’t for everybody. I’m not great at it myself – not because I’m humorless but because students often don’t understand my odd sense of humor (especially in writing). Humor is just one of the many approaches that some might consider using to help connect with students. And it certainly won’t work for everybody.

  3. Gloria Reinish said

    Some yers ago, on an April 1 quiz, I added an “extra credit” problem, as follows: “State and prove the Lirpaloof Theorem”. Unfortunately, very few students realized that “Lirpaloof” was “April Fool” spelled backwards. Along the same lines, Howard Silver used to give April Fool’s Day quizzes with puns and other funny questions. I haven’t tried any of these in WEB courses, mainly for fear that the students won’t get the joke and will instead be confused.

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