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4 Boxes to Tick When Using Stories In E-learning Courses

“The right brain is finally being taken seriously,” said Daniel H. Pink, author of the book A Whole New Mind in a CNN interview. What Pink is referring to here is that we are witnessing right-brained skills (creativity and design) becoming far more crucial than the traditional left-brained skills (logic and analysis). Training however (whether online or classroom), often focuses on logic and cognition. While this may be effective to some extent, a wholesome training is one which not only focuses on being logical, but also on being creative, artistic and innovative; in short, delivering courses that are right brain aligned. And this blog looks at how stories in eLearning help achieve this.

One of the major ways of incorporating and facilitating right-brained skills in your training is by embracing the use of stories. Maybe you already have leveraged the benefits of storytelling in eLearning, or maybe you have not. Either way, there are a few things you need to ensure to provide your learners the best learning experience. Let’s see what they are in detail.

4 Ways to Leverage Stories Effectively in eLearning

1. Ensure the Story is Tied to the Real World

Training makes a world of a difference when learners have the opportunity to see a connection between what they are learning and its application at work. In this regard, using stories in eLearning courses helps guarantee learner engagement when the story establishes a relevance to learners’ on-the-job situations. How can you ensure this?

Ensure the content of the story mimics the real-world activities of the learner – be it the storyline or characters. For example, if you want to employ storytelling in an eLearning course on data privacy, ensure the story begins with a complication or a challenge most employees are bound to face in the real world – such as sharing sensitive information with a peer or leaving the desk without locking their computer. These are all actions that employees are likely to be involved in and face at work, aren’t they?

Adding relevant details like these in the story will draw learner attention and make them aware of their actions, thereby making the learning experience meaningful. It is also highly recommended that the characters incorporated in stories be relatable and the setting characteristic of their work environment.

2. Ensure the Story Appeals to Learners’ Emotions

One of the major reasons we use storytelling in an eLearning course—apart from establishing relevance—is to prompt learners to act differently within the workplace; to bring in them a behavioral change. One way to do this is to use storytelling to appeal to their emotions. The right kind of content that focuses on evoking emotions is a must for storytelling to work its magic.

For example, every story incorporated in your course should present a conflict – an opposing opinion – which creates a looming tension in the overall environment. Learners will then have to actively think and come up with an appropriate resolution. When the conflict(s) is resolved with the learner either winning or losing, there is a sense of achievement after triumphing over the obstacle.

A couple of ways you can ensure this:

  • Are the characters and the environment within the story relatable to the learners? Ensure the obstacles the character faces in the story are based on real-world scenarios learners face at work. This way learners can easily identify and put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist of the story much easily.
  • Have realistic characters in the scenario such as their peers so that learners know who are involved or who will be affected by their actions and decisions.

3. Ensure the Story Creates a Sense of Urgency

For stories to be compelling narratives in the courses you deliver, they must provoke a sense of urgency within learners. There are many ways by which you can ensure stories create a sense of urgency:

  • Go beyond simple scenarios and introduce two characters —a protagonist, who is striving to meet a goal, and an antagonist, who has a different goal. For example, create a compelling story in which the protagonist is trying to achieve a goal for which s/he needs to grow and overcome the obstacles within the story. Include an antagonist who is trying to stop the protagonist achieve that goal.
  • Portray immediacy using realistic dialogues. Instead of merely stating ‘You need to know the first-aid procedures to save the person’s life’ try stating, ‘The person is finding it difficult to breath! Quick! What should you do first?’
  • Add a time limit. Instead of giving learners ample time to do a task, create a time constraint. Having said that, ensure you give them enough time and not 5 minutes to complete a 15-minute task.

4. Ensure Narration Does Not Distract Learners

Imagine a story without narration—would be quite dreary, wouldn’t it? Having meaningful narration for the stories in your eLearning courses will add an additional layer of excitement and interest for the learners.

Having said that, it is also important that you see the narration serves an instructional purpose instead of merely having a decorative presence in the course; because if the narration is irrelevant or inappropriate, it will only end up distracting learners. In fact, they might end up paying half as much attention as they would have paid toward the course. Therefore, ensure the narration is only adding up to the engagement factor of the course.

A few questions to ask yourself regarding narration in storytelling:

  • Is the narration in sync with the graphics being shown onscreen or with the story being enacted onscreen?
  • Do you have clear, distinct voices for each character?
  • Are the objects that are being particularly spoken about within the story being highlighted?
  • Is the voice of the narrator professional? Ensure they are not too fast, too slow, or authoritative.

Concluding Remarks

Stories have always been a big part of human lives since time immemorial. To this day, storytelling manages to grab our attention and appeals to our inner-most emotions. Be it our personal lives or training corporate employees – stories can have a huge impact in terms of helping learners retain information and engage with the (course) material to the fullest. Remember what we have discussed in the blog and ensure the stories in your eLearning ticks all the four boxes.

Would you like to know more right brain aptitudes and how they can be addressed in eLearning for a whole brain experience? Then you wouldn’t want to miss this eBook.

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