What The TV Show “Cops” Can Teach Us About Designing Addictive Training Experiences


Okay, allow me to begin off by admitting that I have not done an exhaustive evaluation of the show’s exact formula. At the podcast, we learn that part of the show’s formula would be to incorporate a chase scene before the first break. This approach reminded me of how, to grab a student’s attention, I try to incorporate a “hook” in the onset of my classes. Plus it got me thinking about the longevity and success of “Cops,” and also what additional mental practices we can learn from the show and apply to courseware design.
As a caveat, this article is not about fixing controversies connected to the show, of. If that interests you, check out the podcast “Headlong: Running out of Cops.”
Okay, for Those that want the headline testicles, here you go:
Do not just lecture, find ways to entertain
Tell tales
Lead with a “hook” to start building student interest and motivation
Use cliffhangers as a plot device for the stories
Handle the load by designing sections
For a relatable anecdote, references, and more information, keep reading.
Don’t Just Lecture
It might be contended that the most important formula of “Cops” was to entertain as well as inform. Although maybe not all training curriculums endeavor to educate education, including an element of entertainment is a well-known and efficient approach. In reality, there is a name for it, “edutainment.” Educational-entertainment’s assumption would be to educate while being entertained. Edusys says, “[edutainment has] a positive and attractive impact on drawing at the interest of students toward schooling.” ETEC510 says, “[edutainment] may also lead to increased motivation and thinking abilities.”
Though edutainment has its own critics, in my experience, striking the proper balance between entertainment and education improves your chances of raising motivation and interest. As people, we have been “edutaining” for centuries. Before we could compose, we used songs, poetry, and dance as a way to tell stories to explain natural phenomena and truths of their gods, and likewise, “Cops” used this as a method to educate us integrity, values, and culture. A few of the most common edutainment apparatus are virtual worlds simulations, cartoons, and gambling; nonetheless, my favorite–and frequently most inexpensive option–is storytelling.
The objective of the course was to increase security awareness, improve security culture, and promote SMS participation. Previous attempts to fulfill those objectives had minimal impact along with a lackluster reception in the students, therefore, this time, the stakes and expectations to “fix” this problem were even greater.
After finishing the first draft of the script, although the content was technically accurate and complete, I knew something was not working. I had used all kinds of instructional methods to produce the content engaging–that the script was first written in a conversational tone, so the content was appropriately chunked, along with the data hierarchy was sound–but despite all this, the course was, well, horribly dull. I needed to make a large change.
Tell If, Relevant, Exciting, And Possible, Emotionally-Charged Stories
Recent studies have shown that using emotion as an instructional condition within the learning material can elicit positive feelings in students that subsequently facilitate the learning process (Heidig et al., 2012). Although the outcomes of their study have been more toward the negative and positive associations with multimedia–aesthetic design, load time–they determined that a student’s psychological state had a bigger impact in their intrinsic motivation, for example, motivation to continue working with the substance. They’re not alone for this decision.
A thorough article written about the influences of emotion on memory and learning reasoned, “Substantial evidence has shown that psychological events are remembered more clearly, correctly, and for longer periods of time than neutral events.” But, there’s an artwork in designing meaningful and impactful tales in your own training. Too frequently, the tales come across as sticky or are not pertinent.
Here are some ideas you can use right away: maintain your stories short, applicable, and realistic — eLearning Industry already has a great deal of great articles on that subject — without going into too much detail about designing storytelling into training. When at all possible, whether they are negatively or positively affected, find a means to elicit emotions.
Interviewing Prospective Learners
Although, as a person new to the subject, I did know what we were trying to educate, I did not really “get it” I began interviewing staff at all levels of a flight department: ramp workers, care technicians, flight attendants, pilots, anybody that was able to talk to me. These discussions proved to be valuable.
Everybody had a story about risks and security affected their job to tell. From something as simple as an extension cord laid across a doorway (tripping hazard) along with a leaky hangar roof (slipping hazards) to the multitude of those risks and hazards that follow complex aviation systems, procedures, and infrastructures. Their stories helped me to understand the requirement for everybody’s participation and the value of the SMS. I knew that to motivate learners to participate with training, these stories needed to be included in the program.
Fight With A “Hook” To Start Building Learner Interest And Motivation
As the podcast highlights, a part of the “Cops” formula included showing a chase before the first commercial break. The chase, typically among the show’s very exciting elements, is an efficient way to pull the audiences. As part of the education of the show, the viewer wants to see how the scene will play out. Will the suspect be captured? Does the city stay safe? When designing your training, ask yourself, what is your “chase scene”? What part of your articles would you use to elicit excitement?
For instance, for compliance training, tell a story about a time when failure to comply led to an arrest, prosecution, fees that are punitive, or conclusion. Alternatively, tell a story that highlights a large win for your business, industry, or a person –improved sales, increased security, etc.. Either way, find a story with a thrilling result that hits home the significance and relevance of training.

Points: do not tell the entire story upfront. Leave them with a cliffhanger, where the narrative unfolds in addition to the improvement of the program. “Cops” utilizes this apparatus in every episode, each one revealing 3-4 distinct segments, jumping back and forth between them. The only way to see how every story turns out would be to remain “tuned”
Case-Based Interactive Challenge
At the beginning of the SMS eLearning program, I used a few of those tales that I learned from the frontline personnel to make a case-based interactive challenge. The student was instantly emerged to a real-life situation –through the lens of a care tech, they needed to help purge an in-flight freight aircraft with the emergency–and in strategic points, the narrative stopped to allow them an opportunity to answer inquiries and influence the way the story could unfold.
Using this approach provided 3 advantages that are immediate:
Increasing interest and motivation through the encounter of a relevant and tense story
By providing the student some agency over the outcome activating prior knowledge

Have you designed your training? This approach can be quite successful, taking the students through the entire arc of a learning journey if done correctly. This approach may also be time-consuming and very difficult. Trying to find one narrative that may address the intricacies of some subjects may be too convoluted or hard to discover. In only 22 minutes, “Cops” takes us through the arc 3-4 short, overlapping, and emotionally-charged stories.
As “Cops” does, make sure that your content is appropriately chunked. Chunking is a way to training style where data is divided into smaller, more readily digestible pieces and arranged into meaningful groups. It’s an instructional strategy that believes our brain capacity to process information that is new and, finally, work it to memory.
Have you designed edutainment in your training? Please share approaches and your experience with us!
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