Is it possible to inject humour in this situation? I can see a real quandary developing, when the ID tries to add some levity to a course authored by one person and taught by another. Humour is, first of all, subjective. Where the ID sees a joke, the SME draws a blank and the instructor and students are just puzzled, humour is counterproductive.
And yet, and yet... humour (and I'm not necessarily talking about Big Yuk humour - sometimes just a gentle reminder that the world does not need to take itself quite so seriously!) does go such a long way in making life easier, it would be a shame to not use it.
Are there sometimes opportunities for using interactive humour - say, in mnemonics, turning an acronym into an absurd phrase, then challenging students to come up with their own silly versions? Or using puns (not so good if teaching ESL students).
Or as has been suggested, maybe emoticons come into their own here. Are theselittle smiley-faces universally recognized? Would a student in, say, Sao Paulo, recognize an a wink-and-nudge emoticon used by somebody in San Diego?
Would there be any benefit in having a conference that was dedicated to the lighter side of a subject? It seems to me that one indication that a student "gets" something is when he or she can crack a joke about it.
(Of course, as ID, you would have long since signed off on the project, so you wouldn't necessarily see the results of any effort to lighten things up, hence would have no benchmark to measure its success. More's the pity!)