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Bringing Sexy Back to Your Compliance eLearning Courses

I was at LinkedIn when I came across this post by Paul W., Managing Director at Wright Solutions: “People hate compliance training, they don’t remember it and they don’t take it seriously!”

What do you think?

I have to agree with Paul! Is this the students' fault? No! It's our fault! Most compliance eLearning courses can be sooo boring, the topics presented are just “common-sense” or too repetitive, and learners only take the course because they “have to” – not because they are expected to learn anything useful.

eLearning professionals know this, but why is that we keep immersing learners in hours of regulatory torpor?  Why can we develop courses that engage our audience in the same way their favorite book or TV series traps them?

I think the book The Age of Slide Stuffing has the answer: “We’ve forgotten to tell stories; we’ve learnt to stuff slides”.  

In this age of lightning-fast communication and varied media, we are bombarded with messages from all quarters. How many of these stick with us? How many move us? You have to admit that although many messages pack in oodles of wow factor, courtesy of technology, not many inspire you. That's because they fail to connect with you emotionally.

As an instructional designer, you should care. After all, you want your courses to help your audience.

The solution? Weave storytelling into your compliance eLearning courses to make them resonate with your audience's hearts. Yes, stories can enrich and make memorable even dull, drab, and complex technical subject matter. Teaching through stories and metaphors is the best way to hook your time-crunched adult audience and keep them engaged till the end. 


START HERE! Check out these helpful storytelling tips to make your compliance courses less boring and more sexy:

Tip #1: Details. Details. Details. Watch out for 'em.

Details make a story alive. Details add a touch of realism to a scenario or character and enable the audience to visualize a scene in their mind's eyes. This creates more engagement and keeps them interested in what is coming next.

"The woman walked down the street." Uh huh! So what!

Now consider this sentence with some details added to it. "It is seven in the evening and a middle-aged woman in a gray suit walked down the street with a spring in her steps and a big green bag in her hand." When you describe the woman in this way, you immediately make your audience interested in the character. You set in motion a chain of thoughts in their heads.

Why is she happy? It is evening and she is in formal wear, so she is probably returning from office. Could it be that she has got a promotion or a raise? What's in her bag? Gifts for her loved ones?

When you add details in a story, you also prompt the audience to go into a reflective mode. They not only notice the details but also try to interpret these. This engages more of their gray cells and facilitates deeper learning.

Tip #2: Cut to the Chase

Your learners are hard pressed for their time. You have a budget to keep in mind. Resources are limited. So be economical when creating your course and setting up the storyline. Do not linger on irrelevant details; move on to the next screen or module quickly. Brevity not only keeps up the suspense but also gives the learners the assuring feeling that they are going forward in the course. Besides, the present generation of Web users (your learners comprise this group) demand instant satisfaction and quick solutions; on an average, they stay on a Web page for about 15 seconds.

Tip #3: Start with a Bang, End with a Flourish

Writers enjoy creative licenses when they crafts stories, but they still need to maintain a strong flow throughout the story. Every impactful story has a solid beginning, an engaging middle, and a thought-provoking end that lingers with the audience. Breaking your story into these three distinct parts ensures you can keep track of the critical events and weave them into a tight-knit unit that keeps up the suspense without overwhelming the learners with too much fast-paced action.

Write a beginning that grabs the eyeball of the learners and hooks them right away. Start with a powerful statement or a scenario that shocks the learners or whets their curiosity and makes them want to learn more. Reserve the mid-section to impart the most important teach while continuing to maintain the engagement levels. Wrap up your story by reiterating the critical pointers, stirring the audience into action, or poking them to ponder over a question.

Weave the magic of words, pauses, and punctuation and create appropriate scenarios that provide the necessary drama in these three sections of your story. 

Tip #4: Surprise

We love surprises. The dull and the hackneyed drive us away.

A cat curled up on the sofa in the living room looks cute. You will exclaim a delighted aww and probably even stroke it. But you will then carry on with whatever you were doing. A baby elephant pacing about the floor in the living room will make you drop whatever you were doing and stare and stare at it. Then you will, of course, want to know how did the animal come to be there and what it intends to do next. The incident will stick with you for a long time.

Throw in a surprise or two in the course from time to time to keep the learners engaged and wondering what do you have in store for them next. Weave in a twist in the plot. Make your character spring a surprise with an unexpected comment or action. When the learners realize your course is anything but routine, they will pay more attention to it.

Tip #5: Write in First Person

A golden rule of creating engaging eLearning courses is to step into the shoes of the learner and think like him. This is how you can create plots, build scenarios, and make the characters walk, talk, and act in a way the learners can relate to. The best way to do this is to write in the first person. Few things are as boring as corporate-speak.

Think yourself as the one who is playing out the story. This mindset helps you weave sense into the events in the story, invoke the past experiences of your learners, and pan out the scenario such that it ties in with their expectations. When you delve into the psyche of your learners, you can craft stories that they can readily relate to.

Tip #6: Look Beyond Facts. Create IMPACT

Your corporate adult learners have had enough of facts, especially those in financial and technical sectors. You cannot impress them any more by drowning them in facts, numbers, and charts. Your results-driven audience wants to know how sitting through your course will help them back at their workplaces. Their motivation for wanting to take your course is in its impact.

So start your course by showing the impact it will have on the learners' lives. Create a realistic scenario, set the mood, and transport the learners to there. Whisk their emotions and give a jolt to their sensibilities. Move them with the experience, so they feel compelled to take your course. Plant seeds of doubts in their minds, so they are compelled to look for solutions in your course. In short, create an impact but not just with dry facts.

storytelling for instructional designers


Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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