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    6 Proven Storytelling Techniques to Elevate Your eLearning Content

    Currently, we find ourselves in a new era of eLearning where simply providing content is no longer enough.

    Storytelling has emerged as a powerful tool for conveying information, especially when it comes to dense and technical content. This technique not only enhances knowledge retention but also enables employees to relate to real-life situations.

    In this article, we will delve into six key techniques to start implementing storytelling in your company's eLearning course creation.

    Despite your team dealing with numbers, tables, data, and graphs in their day-to-day, never underestimate their love for stories. In fact, they adore them!

    People naturally gravitate towards “experiences” that stir their emotions. Therefore, they crave training that feels more lively and dynamic, as opposed to being subjected to monotonous screens filled with serious and overwhelming information.


    Below are six storytelling techniques that you can incorporate into your eLearning course design:

    Technique #1: The Learner is the Protagonist

    It’s a well-known fact: we weep during emotional movies, feel joy at a happy ending, and root for the hero while wishing for the villain’s downfall. This happens even though we are not the characters in the books, movies, or TV shows we indulge in. Yet, somehow, we connect with them on a profound level and become engrossed in the storyline. Captivating stories have the power to draw such deep engagement.

    To replicate this level of engagement in your eLearning courses, consider placing the learner in the protagonist’s shoes.

    Here are some actionable tips, along with a real-world example to help guide your eLearning course design for the workplace:

    • Create Exceptional Protagonists: Don’t settle for “ordinary” characters. Remember, protagonists don’t have to be average for learners to relate to them. In fact, your learners are looking to transcend the ordinary, aspiring to be like characters who embody the qualities they dream of possessing—be it intelligence, strength, or a particular skill set. If you do opt for an ordinary character, ensure their journey is one of growth and transformation, serving as a source of inspiration for your learners.

      Example: In a course designed to enhance leadership skills, introduce a protagonist who starts off as a team member but exhibits exceptional problem-solving skills and emotional intelligence. As the course progresses, learners can watch as this character navigates workplace challenges, eventually rising to a leadership position.

    • Provide a Detailed Character Description: Go beyond mere physical characteristics. Share details about the protagonist’s actions, tasks, and challenges, as well as their interests and motivations. This allows learners to connect with the character on an emotional level, seeing parts of themselves in the protagonist’s story.

      Example: Describe how the protagonist feels overwhelmed at times, balancing work and personal life, yet finds innovative ways to manage stress and increase productivity.

    • Ignite Curiosity: Start the story with the protagonist unaware of the journey they are about to embark on. Let them—and by extension, the learner—figure things out as the story unfolds.

      Example: The protagonist is presented with a new project at work, the likes of which they’ve never handled before. As the course progresses, they learn new skills and strategies, mirroring the learning journey of your audience.

    • Introduce Crises: Don’t shy away from putting your protagonist in tough situations. Your learners won’t be able to remain indifferent to the character's problems, especially if they see themselves in the protagonist’s shoes. These moments of crisis also spike curiosity, as learners will be eager to see how the character overcomes these challenges.

      Example: The protagonist faces a major project setback. Use this scenario to teach problem-solving and crisis management skills.

    • Direct Address: Have the protagonist speak directly to the learners, posing and answering questions related to the course topic. This creates a more immersive and engaging learning experience.

      Example: The protagonist turns to the camera and asks the learner, “What would you do in this situation?” followed by a discussion on possible solutions.

    • Personalize the Information: Ensure the events and situations in the story reflect the learners' reality. This creates a stronger connection and makes the learning experience more relatable and effective.

      Example: If your learners are primarily working in a corporate environment, ensure the protagonist’s journey mirrors that setting and the associated challenges.

    Technique #2: Crafting Good-versus-Evil Scenarios

    The timeless tug-of-war between good and evil is a narrative theme that has captivated audiences for centuries. It’s the foundation of countless fairy tales, movies, and comic strips, compelling us to turn page after page or remain glued to the screen until the very last credit rolls. We are inherently drawn to these stories, eager to find out who will emerge victorious in this classic clash of opposites.

    Incorporating good-versus-evil scenarios into your eLearning courses can generate the same level of anticipation and engagement. This technique introduces a palpable tension that keeps learners on the edge of their seats, fully invested in the content.

    For instance, transform a seemingly mundane compliance topic like Business Ethics into a narrative about the powerful impact of making ethical choices in the workplace. Alternatively, instead of naming a course “Food Safety Guidelines,” try something more engaging like “The Deadly Sins and Heavenly Virtues of Food Safety.” Such a simple change in the title can immediately capture learners' attention and kindle their curiosity, encouraging them to dive deeper into the content.

    Below are actionable tips and a real-world example to help you effectively integrate good-versus-evil scenarios into your eLearning course design for the workplace:

    1. Introduce a Hero and an Antagonist: Every good-versus-evil story needs a protagonist (the hero) and an antagonist (the enemy). The hero should embody the values and behaviors you wish to promote, while the antagonist represents the negative forces or challenges the learners might face.

      Example: In a course on workplace ethics, create a character who consistently makes ethical decisions and stands up for what is right, even when it's difficult. Pit this hero against an antagonist who tries to cut corners and engage in unethical behavior.

    2. Create a Relatable Enemy: Ensure that the antagonist in your story represents a real-life problem or challenge that learners are likely to encounter in their work environment.

      Example: If the course is about cybersecurity, the antagonist could be a sophisticated hacker trying to breach the company’s security systems.

    3. Place the Hero in Jeopardy: Introduce a crisis or a significant problem that poses a serious threat to the hero. This scenario should serve as a pivotal moment in the story, challenging the protagonist and, by extension, the learner, to find a solution.

      Example: In a conflict resolution course, create a scenario where the protagonist must navigate a tense situation between two team members, with the potential to significantly impact team morale and productivity.

    Technique #3: Presenting a Choice Between Winning and Losing

    In scenarios where the outcome hinges between winning and losing, we naturally become more alert, attentive, and ready to take action. Sound familiar?

    In every story, just as in life, conflicts and crises require individuals to gather information, weigh their options, and make decisive moves. When a protagonist faces potential loss or victory, learners immediately connect with the situation. They understand that their decisions and actions will play a crucial role in determining the story’s direction. They empathize with the protagonist’s plight and cheer them on, creating a high level of engagement with the learning material.

    To amplify this sense of involvement, consider implementing the following strategies:

    1. Create Relatable Situational Crises: Design scenarios that resonate with your audience. Place the main character at risk of losing something of great importance to them, such as a significant business deal.

      Example: In a course for sales professionals, create a storyline where the protagonist is on the verge of closing a major deal, only for things to take an unexpected turn.

    2. Clearly Define the Stakes: Make sure learners understand exactly what is at risk. Clearly articulate what the protagonist stands to gain or lose based on their decisions. For example, if they fail to meet their sales quota, they might lose their job; if they exceed it, they could get a promotion.

      Example: Design a scenario where the protagonist’s job is on the line, depending on whether or not they can secure a pivotal client for the company.

    3. Allow the Protagonist to Experience Loss: At some point in the story, let the main character face defeat or a significant setback. This not only adds realism to the narrative but also underscores the importance of making wise decisions.

      Example: Create a module titled “How Would You Respond to a Lost Deal?” where learners navigate a situation in which a deal they’ve invested substantial time and resources in falls through. Allow them to feel the loss, reflect on what went wrong, and consider how they might handle similar situations in the future.

    Also read: 4 Types of Immersive Scenarios: When and How to Use Them in eLearning

    Technique #4: Goal-Setting 

    Adult corporate learners are driven by objectives; they dedicate their time and energy to achieving their personal and professional goals. To design an eLearning course that resonates with them and maintains their engagement, you need to align your content with their aspirations.

    The secret is to keep the goal front and center throughout the entire course, ensuring they never lose sight of it.

    Actionable Tips:

    1. Clarify the Goal: Make the learning objectives as transparent as possible. To add a sense of urgency, increase the stakes by introducing significant consequences if the goal isn't met.

      Example: In a course on time management, clearly state that the goal is to help learners find an extra hour in their workday. Highlight the positive impacts of achieving this goal, and outline the potential setbacks if they fail.

    2. Emphasize the Impact of Decisions: Remind learners that their choices and actions directly influence the outcome. A clear and compelling end goal helps maintain focus and purpose throughout the learning experience.

    3. Provide Feedback on Choices: After decision points or interactive elements, offer feedback that guides learners toward the goal. Celebrate their progress with positive messages or provide constructive criticism to help them course-correct.

      Example: In an interactive scenario dealing with conflict resolution, provide immediate feedback on the learner’s choices, indicating whether their decision has de-escalated the conflict or made the situation worse.

    4. Utilize Gamification and Storytelling: When dealing with complex situations, such as managing a difficult customer, combine gamification and storytelling for maximum impact. Transform the overarching goal (e.g., achieving customer satisfaction) into a journey, complete with challenges and setbacks, to make the learning experience more engaging and realistic.

      Example: Break down the goal of “Customer Satisfaction” into smaller, manageable objectives. Award points or badges for each successful interaction, guiding learners through the steps of resolving customer complaints.

    Also read: Five Rules of Engagement All eLearning Designers Should Live By


    Technique #5: Transporting the Learner to Somewhere Else

    Engaging learners' senses is a powerful strategy in eLearning, helping to immerse them in the content and enhance their learning experience.

    Actionable Tips:

    1. Implement the VAKS Model: Address Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Smell senses to create a comprehensive sensory learning environment.

      Visual: Use vibrant images, infographics, and videos. Auditory: Incorporate narrations, music, and sound effects. Kinesthetic: Introduce interactive elements like drag-and-drop activities. Smell: While it might be challenging to incorporate smell in an eLearning setting directly, you can describe scents vividly to help learners imagine them.

    2. Craft an Immersive Experience: Blend various sensory elements to transport learners into the story or scenario.

      Example: For a safety training course, use a 360-degree video to place learners in a virtual environment where they need to identify potential hazards.

    3. Utilize Rich Descriptive Language: Paint a detailed picture of the scenario with words to enhance the sensory experience.

      Example: Instead of saying “the machine is loud,” describe it as “the machine roars, drowning out all other sounds, as its gears grind together.”

    Real-World Application Example:

    Imagine you're designing a course for a workplace on the topic of "Effective Communication in Team Settings."

    • Introduction with a Video: Start with a short film showing a team in a meeting, highlighting both effective and ineffective communication examples. Ensure the video is high-quality and includes clear audio to engage both visual and auditory senses.

    • Immersive Scenario Building: Develop a module where learners virtually step into the shoes of a team member. Use interactive elements like clickable areas in the video to allow them to choose what to say next in a team discussion.

      For kinesthetic learners, these interactions help them feel physically involved, even in a digital space.

    • Descriptive Language and Sensory Details: In scenarios describing team conflicts or communication breakdowns, use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the setting, the tone of voice of different team members, and the tension in the room.

      For example, describe a tense team meeting with phrases like “you can cut the tension with a knife” or “the room is charged with frustration.”

    By applying these strategies, you create an eLearning course that not only educates but also captivates your learners, ensuring they are fully engaged and more likely to retain the information presented.


    Technique #6:  The Cliffhanger

    In eLearning, you can leverage this power of suspense through the use of cliffhangers to maintain engagement and provoke thoughtful reflection.

    Actionable Tips:

    1. Avoid Neat Conclusions: Resist the urge to tie up all loose ends. Leave some questions unanswered and some situations unresolved to spark curiosity and contemplation.

    2. Pose Open-Ended Questions: Encourage learners to think critically by concluding modules or courses with questions that don’t have straightforward answers.

    3. Create a Call to Action: Design cliffhangers that motivate learners to take specific actions or to continue their learning journey beyond the course.

    Real-World Application Example:

    Let’s say you are designing a workplace eLearning course on “Innovative Problem-Solving”.

    • Avoiding Neat Conclusions: Instead of ending the course with a summary of key takeaways, leave the final module open-ended. For example, after presenting a complex problem-solving scenario, don’t provide the solution. Instead, ask learners, “What would you do next?”

    • Posing Open-Ended Questions: Create discussion prompts like, “Can you think of a time when a non-traditional approach solved a problem at work?” Encourage learners to share their responses in a forum or discussion board, fostering a community of continuous learning.

    • Creating a Call to Action: In the final screen of the course, instead of a traditional “Congratulations, you’ve completed the course!” message, pose a challenging question related to the course content and encourage learners to apply what they’ve learned to their real-world work context.

      *For example: “Now that you’ve learned innovative problem-solving techniques, identify a persistent challenge in your work area and apply one of the techniques to propose a solution. Share your experience and results with your team.”

    As we wrap up our journey through innovative eLearning techniques for workplace training, it’s crucial to reflect on the transformative potential these strategies hold.

    These techniques not only captivate the learners' attention but also deeply root the knowledge and skills in their real-world context, ensuring a lasting impact.

    Remember, the ultimate goal is to empower learners, transforming them from passive recipients of information to active, engaged participants in their own learning journey.

    As you implement these techniques, watch as your eLearning courses come alive, fostering a vibrant culture of learning and growth within your workplace.

    Now, it's time to take action and revolutionize your eLearning courses with these powerful storytelling techniques! 



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    Diana Cohen
    Diana Cohen
    Education Writer | eLearning Expert | EdTech Blogger. Creativa, apasionada por mi labor, disruptiva y dinámica para transformar el mundo de la formación empresarial.

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