Story-Based Learning: Which Storytelling Strategy To Choose?

01/09/2018

As a little girl, I remember asking my dad to read me bedtime stories from my book of fairy tales. The years have rolled by, and now I find myself reading out loud to my four-year-old nephew; the only difference is that he owns a Kindle instead of a book. And yeah, he prefers superheroes to fairies. This got me reflecting on the generation gap. But I was glad to note that though paperbacks have been replaced by eBooks and superheroes are preferred to fairies, the art of storytelling has not lost its charm.

Storytelling is an effective form of communication and, as Instructional Designers and training managers, we can utilize story-based online learning to strike a chord with learners. Stories have this amazing power to heal, inspire, teach, and resolve. Here is some information on the different kinds of strategies that can be applied to story-based online learning and how this can help eLearning.

1. Keep It Real With Real-Life Stories

Stories included in your eLearning course do not have to be imaginary always. Real-life stories have that ring of truth to them that no amount of coaching can achieve. A war story can provide an instant connection with learners going through the online learning. An anecdote can be used as an attention grabber, icebreaker, or to build the context to the training content in your eLearning course.

Real-life incidents can be quoted in eLearning courses on compliance training or health and safety training. Let’s assume you are imparting online training on data protection and privacy, as part of the compliance training program. If you simply provide instructions on why learners should follow data protection rules and regulations, it will not grab their attention. Try a story-based strategy that cites real-life incidents and you will be able to connect with learners instantly.

2. Make Learning Fun With Illustrated Stories

Illustrations succeed in adding an informal style to story-based online learning programs. Graphics and images recreate a comic strip, and this can bring the much-needed relief in a content-heavy training program, yet manage to convey the message effectively. Illustrations can be used to simplify a complex learning concept.

For example, charts or tree diagrams make it easier for learners to understand, as well as recollect a concept. Online training programs on sales, marketing, or soft skills can benefit from illustrations as a storytelling strategy. Illustrations can be accompanied by audio for a stronger impact.

3. Boost Interactivity With Game-Based Stories

Game-based storytelling is quite complex, as stories are woven into a game. Games can have rules, goals, and different levels. This works well, especially for kinesthetic learners who learn best by doing. A story can provide a backdrop for the game and take the learner through different levels. This strategy in your story-based online learning program can take interactivity a notch higher. Game-based storytelling can prove to be very effective when you need to teach skills, improve problem-solving, risk-taking, and risk assessment. You could try this approach in an online leadership training program.

4. Engage Learners With Animated Stories

Animated stories offer a rich and powerful way to tackle real-world conflicts and explain complex topics. Complicated topics can be clarified with a combination of images, audio, text, and movement in an animated story. Let’s assume that you are trying to teach the concept of firewalls in computer networks. You could weave an animated story that shows an intruder trying to break a brick wall, and then explain the necessity of a firewall in computer networks.

Animations can be used to focus training on specific information or provide training reinforcement. That is why animated stories are a good strategy to use in microlearning, where you need to deliver bite-sized modules focused on one learning objective. Since animated stories make learning engaging and interactive, they work well for a variety of training programs and are quite popular in new hire onboarding, soft skills training, and employee development programs.

5. Deliver Inspirational Training With Open-Ended Stories

If you want a more interactive approach to your story-based online learning program, try open-ended stories. Open-ended stories can create a setting, narrate a plot, but the ending is left open. An interactive assessment follows the story, and learners’ responses are evaluated. This actually promotes a collaborative learning experience.

Open-ended stories are a powerful influencing tool and can be used in blended learning environments for topics such as leadership training. The beginning and the body of the story should be compelling enough, only then will learners be involved in analyzing how the story will end. Open-ended stories instill curiosity and motivate the learner to keep going. Not only does an open-ended story deliver an engaging learning experience but also gauges learners’ understanding of the training content.

So, a story-based online learning program can help in the following ways:

  • Provide an emotional connection with learners.
  • Promote effective understanding.
  • Boost recollection of training content.

A story-based online learning program might be just what you need to present heavy content in a refreshing and interesting way.

By Ayesha Habeeb Omer, Ph.D

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