The Power of Storytelling in eLearning


“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
-Rudyard Kipling.

Have you heard that storytelling increases the effectiveness of a learning experience? Have you ever been listening to a speaker and as soon as they started telling a story felt your attention being captured? Storytelling is powerful and as humans we crave a good story!

Think about when you are reading a really good book, when it is so good that you are transported to another world and in that moment forget reality around you. When you are reading a book you generally don’t forget the plot or the most important parts of the story so why should it be different for learning outcomes?

Stories have been around long before recorded history, starting as cave paintings and progressing to the Hollywood movies of today (Big Fish Presentations, 2012). Stories have always been a fascination of mankind (Big Fish Presentations, 2012) and it makes sense to incorporate them into our learning solutions.

Some of my most memorable learning experiences have been through storytelling. Facts and explanations of processes are useful but the way to really capture my attention is through a great story.

I attended a facilitator course and it was there where I had an experience that made me understand first-hand the power of a story. I attended the course with my notepad and pens prepared to write as many notes as possible so I could read over and memorise the learnings (I am the queen of structure). To my surprise when I walked into the room the chairs were set up in a circle and no notepads or pens where required. We were just going to ‘talk’. The facilitator introduced herself and begun the day by telling her story. The story had emotion, showed vulnerability, had highs and lows and the whole room was silent as they listened intently to what she had to say. From that one story, I learnt more than what I could have ever learnt from a list of facts or processes. It was then that I became determined to understand the psychology behind our connection as humans to storytelling and how to incorporate it into the learning solutions that we create.

This blog will explore how storytelling is useful for learning and provides practical ways to implement it into your learning solutions.

So, why is story telling effective in learning and how can you implement it?

Taps into our Emotion

When you think about your favourite memories, you will notice that it wasn’t necessarily what happened but how it made you feel that made it memorable, the same goes for learning. If you make your learner ‘feel’ something and tap into their emotions, you will increase their engagement and capture their attention.

Practical Application: Transform the learning content into a story that will tap into your learner’s emotions. E.g. if you are creating a learning course for a fireman in training, you could structure the content into a story about a house fire and a family in need of saving. Once the learner has passed the course you could show the emotion on the families faces as they are pulled to safety.

Makes Knowledge Meaningful

Rather than just presenting your learner with a list of facts, make it meaningful! It is important that a learner understands why they are learning information as well as where it originated from. Imagine that someone gave you information on how to use a machine though it’s a machine that you have never seen or never intending on using. How motivated would you be to learn about it? On the other hand, if you were studying psychology, excited and determined to become a psychologist at the end of your degree, your motivation for learning knowledge to pass an exam would be a lot higher.

Practical Application: Begin your learning solution with an explanation of how the learner will benefit from the learning. This could potentially be done through telling a story about what could potentially happen if the learner doesn’t complete the learning or a success story for what can be achieved if they do. E.g. If you are creating an induction module you could incorporate staff testimonials of how the induction content supported them in their first week.

The Learner can Identify with the Content


If the learner feels like they are part of the story or identify as the main character in the story they are more likely to care (Malamed, 2011) and pay attention to the content.

Practical Application: Design your learning solution so that it is through the eyes of the learner. Provide the learner with opportunities to make decisions that will affect their progress in the course. Use language like, ‘You have just walked into a storage shed’, and ‘What would you like to do next?’.


People Share Stories

Want to create a learning culture where your learners are motivated to teach and learn from each other? It is natural for us as humans to tell stories and share our own stories with each other. If the learning content you create is transformed into a great story there is a chance that your learner will share that story with others.

What stories have stuck with you throughout your life? Have you had a learning experience that had a great story? We would love to hear your experiences. We hope that this blog added value to you and we look forward to continuing to discover how stories can complement learning solutions into the future.

A little bit about the author...

"I am Hannah and I am passionate about how we can create effective and fun learning experiences. I believe that if you create enjoyment and social connection through learning, learning outcomes can sky rocket! The world is changing and becoming more and more digital by the day. We need to harness this and see what's possible!".


                                                        References

Big Fish Presentations. (2012). A Very Brief History of Storytelling. Retrieved from: http://bigfishpresentations.com/2012/02/28/a-very-brief-history-of-storytelling/

Malamed, C. (2011). Why You Need To Use Storytelling For Learning. Retrieved from: http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning2-0/why-you-need-to-use-storytelling-for-learning

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