Picked up my coffee at Starbucks today. They’ve changed the system, asking me for my name the, when the drink arrives, it’s written on my cup with a big smiley face drawn next to it. Strange, it makes me smile too. It’s an odd piece of familiarity, a social experience in what is essentially a business transaction. In this case, it works, because i know most of the staff here by name, but if a letter came from my bank or telephone company with a smiley face, i’d find it distinctly strange. An encroachment into my social space.
Within many e-learning solutions, we use a Guide character, intended to accompany you on the journey. Part of their role is to establish commonality and rapport, so that they can support you through the harder parts of the journey. But we need to ensure that the relationship has some sincerity, that it reflects the essentially transactional nature of e-learning, whilst bringing an appropriate level of social engagement. It’s not enough for someone to tell you that they are your friend, they need to act like it for you to believe it. A smiley face is nice, but it takes more than that to be sincere.