Home > General eLearning Design, Instructional Design - General > How to Tell eLearning Stories #3

How to Tell eLearning Stories #3

This post follows on from 2 earlier posts I made on storytelling at http://sluguk.co.uk  – http://wp.me/p2icJ3-z and http://wp.me/p2icJ3-3a

Today’s ID world is full of “newnesss”, new technology, and new design techniques.

Into this world of constant change I want to introduce something that may be “new” to you, which I own, and which may be VERY useful.

It’s been around since 1928.

I own a small, fading hardback book with yellowing pages. It is entitled “More Stories and How to Tell Them” (Elizabeth Clark, University of London Press, first printed 1928, reprinted 1930, 1937, 1941, 1948).

It contains 13 stories, with stirring and ripping titles such as “The Hay Pluckers of Lochem” and “The Tale of Peter Peregrine Patch”, and more romantic-sounding tales such as “The Little Silver Bell” and “The Talkative Sparrow”.

What all these stories have in common is that they have a “Comments” section at the end, which provides directions on HOW the story should be told.

We have the product, (in my case Articulate Storyline), we have the learning skills (as we call ourselves “Instructional Designers” we obviously know something about adult learning principles – don’t we???), and we even have 296 PowerPoint slides, which represent everything we need to tell the learner. By the way, that last one was not true….

We may have “data”, but we need to turn it into “learning”. How can we tell a story that makes sense if we do not know how to tell a story?

I want to go through the introduction to this book, and over a few posts see just how relevant the “Instructional elements” are in terms of storytelling. Let us think of ourselves as “storytellers” rather than, (or at least as well as) “instructional designers”.

1>     “…it is drawn from personal experience, and I do hope that it may do a little to smooth the path of some of us who feel that the way of the Story-Teller is, at times, a very thorny one…”

 

Yep! Felt that one many times when trying to explain to an SME that page after page of statistics on the features of Product X is actually something that people need to FIND, not REGURGITATE FROM MEMORY. By the way, it may not actually be relevant to the story. I’m not sure I ever remember exactly how big the hare and the tortoise were, or for how long the hare slept, but I remember the moral of the story. Still 10/10 for relevancy.

 

2>     “…storytelling is a comfortable thing…”…the story brings with it rest and solace, refreshment and relaxation…”…”…as the children listen, all else is forgotten…”

 

Hmm. I am not sure that all eLearning should be “comfortable”; I think the addition of some mental frisson and unresolved emotional tension is a good thing, but then the resolution to that should create comfort. Stories use this technique, think of “…and I’ll huff, and I’ll puff…and I’ll BLOW your house down…” It is alright in the end, and this resolves the tension. How do we create eLearning so that “…all else is forgotten…”? How do you stop people turning off and doing email? You do so by making it so compelling and personal that it MATTERS. You use branching to offer streams within a course. You offer scenarios that are based on REALITY, and you need to check this with your intended audience, NOT just the course commissioners. Still completely relevant.

3>     “…as we listen, we learn. We see visions, we dream dreams…

 

I would argue that listening, as opposed to “hearing” is what we should strive for in eLearning (those with voiceovers anyway…), so still 100% relevant. Seeing visions, and dreaming dreams – that’s what eLearning is all about!

4>     “…But it is an axiom of all successful story-telling that “it always takes two to enjoy a story”, the inference being that one of the two must be the Story-teller. And unless the Story-teller finds happiness in telling, the audience is not likely to find comfort in listening…”

How many times have you heard a drone, on and on and on and on about a subject? No vocal tones, no silence (!), no emotion. Or a “story” told with sounds in the back of the track, which say “this was not important to do quietly…”. Once again, 1928 had it right.

So WHY is this little book so important to me? It reminds me that the “classic” skills do not change. Just because we have changed our METHODS of communication, we cannot lose the base skills that sit UNDERNEATH the communication.

Have a think. How many of these skills do you look at when creating a course? More analysis of storytelling skills from this little book next time. Bye until then.

Bruce

http://www.pperf.co.uk – “eLearning Made Simpler”

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