Getting Stories Into E-learning

Last time we wrote about the benefits of stories in learning. They're easy to remember, they're compelling, they're great shorthand for real experience, and of course they're authentic, which is maybe the most compelling aspect of all.

So how can you bring stories into your e-learning? Here are some practical tips.

Go to your subject matter experts

The most obvious group of people to provide you with stories is your subject matter experts. The reason they're involved with your e-learning is, presumably, they have the wisdom and hard-learned lessons that come with years of experience performing a role or managing a process.

Rather than just relying on them to validate what you're designing and building, take it further and get them to contribute stories. You can do this via audio, either recording them face-to-face, or if that's not practical, then online recording with Skype and a few plug-ins is very easy. We'll cover the mechanics in a later insight. If video's an option, you could use a webcam to get the point across. If you're keeping it simple, then text it is. The key is to get them talking about real experiences they've had, at a level that will connect with the learning point, and connect with the learner at the right moment (more on that later).

Find the right place for stories

Your subject matter expert has agreed to take part in an audio recording. Great. So what do you want them to talk about? First, make sure you get questions to them in advance, otherwise you'll waste a lot of time searching around for topics that have depth. Make sure the question areas tightly relate to the overall flow and specific learning points of your course. There are three natural places for expert stories:

  • When a story can help to elaborate on a concept, process or theory, and the learner asks for an example.
  • When the learner has made a mistake, and there's a relevant anecdote that can help them to understand why, and how to avoid it.
  • When you don't have the scope to create mistake-driven scenarios, but stories can explain the potential consequences of mistakes, without having to simulate them for the learner.

Ask the right kinds of questions

Work through your draft storyline, script or prototype to find the pain points where a great example from an expert could really assist the learner– base your shortlist of questions on this. For example, in a sales module, you might have SME questions like this:

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn't have rapport with the customer? What happened and what should someone do if they're in that situation?
  • What happens if customers objective to price? Have you been in that situation and how do you overcome it?
  • If someone is struggling to move from features and benefits into proposing a solution, what could they do? How have you handled this situation?

By homing in on specific areas, and asking SMEs to recall their own experiences, you're more likely to tap into their experiences and avoid more general broad explanations of concepts. Stories in learning should have the basic flow of "Here's something tricky that can happen, people have been there before you, here's how they got out of the problem, you can try this too." Always be looking for the story that can tell the point much better than five screens of text.

See all our elearning tips.