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How To Improve Influence Of Storytelling In eLearning

Why is storytelling in eLearning ideal for training in the new learning environment?

Learner engagement is a key element of any eLearning program. With so many employees now working remotely, with different professional and personal priorities, getting them involved in eLearning is often a challenge. Although storytelling is less widely used in eLearning, it is great for training in this new learning paradigm. Storytelling as an eLearning tool, especially if the plot is job related, helps learners relate to the content.

Given that a significant portion of the workforce now works remotely, a neat plot also helps learners become familiar with the various virtual characters (manager, supervisor, boss, subordinate) and roles (sales, technical support, customer service) in their Network to connect organization. More importantly, given the new reality of remote working, trainers can use strategically designed, story-based learning to train learners in both real and hypothetical situations that many of them (employees) are likely to encounter when they (at some point) return personal work.

How does story-based learning connect emotionally with learners and help drive behavior change?

Traditional narrative-based training typically guides learners through content such as compliance standards, policies and procedures, and safety regulations to make learners aware of what is right and what is not.

However, this is a rather impersonal approach to training. In contrast, using storytelling in eLearning takes a different approach:

  • It encourages virtual learners to “live” what they are learning, creating a sense of participation in the curriculum.
  • By weaving a story into learning content, trainers build an emotional bond between learners and characters (protagonists, antagonists, main characters, supporting characters).
  • Once that emotional bond is established between the characters in the story – for example, between a supervisor and a new member of the team – it is easier to encourage behavior change through story-based learning.

For example, reading a 10-page PowerPoint presentation on “Why You Shouldn’t Leave Your Device On Overnight” has less of an impact on behavior change than a story-based approach: “Meet Bob … who is on vacation for the disabled because a colleague left the machine on overnight and injured Bob the next morning. “If the storytelling exercise forces the learner to see the workplace through Bob’s eyes, the more likely he or she will empathize with (and even sympathize with) Bob’s situation.

Empathy is an emotion that leads to behavior change – and that is the power that storytelling has!

Storytelling in eLearning: 4 Strategies to Further Improve Its Impact

Here are 4 strategies for using storytelling in eLearning:

1. Microlearning

Today’s workplace is shaped by employees who wear multiple hats, multitask, and work on the go. With little time to get a lot done, micro-learning – bite-sized content – is a great help with storytelling.

Use case: To do this, use short snippets of micro content instead of using multiple slides or pages of content to introduce plots and key characters. Save time and keep learners busy.

2. Gamification

The key theme of using storytelling games in eLearning is to make learning fun and interesting for distant learners. At the same time, it also plays with the learner’s emotions and curiosity to delve deeper into an evolving game-based story.

Use case: Use milestone unlocks as part of your game design to encourage eLearners to complete part of the tutorial and move on to the next phase (chapter) in the plot of the story. Including clues and breadcrumbs in the game can also help virtual learners unfold learning plans to advance the action (curriculum).

3. Scenario-based learning

Use story-based learning to build your stories based on real workplace scenarios [1] helps in several ways. First, it helps virtual learners relate to the plot or key characters. Relationship often promotes retention. More importantly, by introducing multiple versions of a scenario, trainers can help learners build skills for dealing with variants of a resolution.

Use case: Use different workplace situations (scenarios) to train learners on how to think on their feet and how to use critical thinking to resolve the situation. For example, in one scenario, Bob (a manager) needs to tell Jack (an IT technician) that he is being fired. In another scenario, Jack walks in with his resignation and Bob has to try to convince him to keep going. How will the story end? What will the resolution be in each case? This allows you to offer real-world scenarios to learners to help them improve their critical thinking in the workplace.

4. Branch simulations

When it comes to using storytelling as part of an eLearning experience, branch simulations [2] are a great tool to encourage learners to practice making decisions virtually. It also encourages eLearners to make alternative decisions, influence the outcome of a story, and weigh the consequences of those alternative actions in a safe environment.

Use case: As part of a storyline that describes how a technical support assistant uses product knowledge to diagnose and fix a problem, branching simulations can work well to train learners in troubleshooting and solving skills. The learner must decide whether the problem is hardware or software related. If it’s a software problem, the story-based learning script might put it on a separate branch: Operating system software? Firmware? Application? If you discover that it is a hardware problem, it may lead the learner to a branch where troubleshooting is done using another script: Power? Display? Uncommon noises?

Let me share three examples of different corporate training needs that illustrate how you can increase the engagement ratio and impact of content through story-based learning.

Example 1: Course on Sustainability in Business

This is an example of a Storyline 360 ​​course with a modern user interface that offers a storytelling approach in addition to scenario-based learning.

  • The aim of this course is to make employees aware of the importance of a sustainable business strategy that cares about the environment, basic human rights and how individuals can collectively take responsibility for a balanced ecosystem.
  • The course shows a story of four characters who went through challenges related to the concept of sustainability and how to deal with a specific focus area. They guide the learner through various case studies, recommendations and activities that reflect their experiences so that the learner understands the different aspects of sustainability in companies.

Example 2: Course on Writing Effective Storyboards

This is an example of a mobile first course that uses the narration of a character named “Nina” who is an instructional designer. The entire course follows their journey, as it teaches learners the skills necessary to create effective storyboards.

  • In this story, she first prepares for an interview for the position of Instructional Designer, takes part in the interview and, after the selection, starts working for the company.
  • A common thread is used to guide learning through the module – Nina’s Journey – which is very understandable for the intended audience. In doing so, the learner understands what storyboards are and various tips and best practices for creating effective storyboards.

How to improve the impact of storytelling in eLearning

Example 3: Conflicts of Interest course

This is an example of a story-based approach to learning where the learner becomes part of the story. They then interact with two characters and answer their questions about the topics presented.

  • The learner is the expert that the other characters reach.
  • To fulfill this mandate, the learner can learn the other characters and help them by applying their understanding.

How to improve the impact of storytelling in eLearning

Farewell Thoughts

With so many employees working and learning remotely, taking a less-used, story-based approach to eLearning helps in two ways:

  • First, it engages the learners on an emotional level by using stories to connect them to the learning content.
  • More importantly, storytelling in eLearning helps predict employee behavior changes by helping learners relate to the desired behavior modeled by the characters in the story.

I hope this article provides the insight you need to use storytelling approaches to engage learners and create learning experiences. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, please contact me.


[1] 6 Intelligent approaches to bring real experiences into online training with scenario-based learning

[2] Branching simulations

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