Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” – Jean Luc Godard, film writer and director.
Storytelling is in our blood. It’s a part of what being human is about. Stories captivate us, engage us, and help us understand the world around us. Stories can be made up to teach a lesson, or a true recollection of an event that happened. Stories help connect us with the world, with other people, and even with ourselves. It’s how we communicate and share with others in a way that is memorable and more easily understood.
“Tell me a story,” your child might say to you each night. Even from a young age, we use stories to make sense of the world.
Why are stories so powerful for learning?
Stories are not just for little kids. They’re a part of our lives from childhood through to adulthood, and if used correctly can be a powerful tool to help us learn.
Story-based learning helps us make sense of our experiences within a narrative context. It’s through this that we are able to create a framework of the idea in our minds in order to better understand it. By understanding what we are learning, rather than just memorising it, we retain the information much longer.
Stories are powerful for learning because it helps connect the listener to the underlying reason behind the story by allowing for empathy and imagination to take place. It is through connection that proper learning takes place, and storytelling is a great way to make this happen.
Tips for writing effective stories
When writing a story for eLearning, it’s important to have some building blocks in place.
- Content – Decide what new information needs to be learned.
- Context – Frame the information in a way to show relevancy to the learners.
- Characters – Include a strong narrative presence so that learners become invested in the story.
- Chaos – Allow for something to go wrong in the context to add narrative tension. This is important for problem-solving.
In narrative learning, we create a realistic story with specific context, giving learners a framework to organise the new information within. The use of storytelling in learning demonstrates to the user why this information matters and why it should be remembered. With that in mind, let’s look at the three ways we can write effective stories for eLearning.
Tip #1 - Make it relevant
There has to be a reason for your story. If your story is not connected to what you are trying to teach, it won’t have an effect on the learner at all. The only reason you’re telling the story in the first place is to help them understand what they are learning in a more enjoyable way. Keep the story relevant, and make it fun. The more engaged the listener is, the more they will gain from it.
Tip #2 - Follow a structure
Stories can be told in a variety of ways, but the one thing that should never change is the basic premise of the structure – all stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Without structure, compartmentalising a story becomes difficult, and memory retention impossible. Despite the complexity and uniqueness of a story, always keep the basic structure in mind.
Tip #3 - Use believable characters
As Stephen King said in his book, On Writing, “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.”
The more you relate or emphasize with a character, the more of a connection you build with them. Give the characters depth, because emotional connections are made through good characterisation. It’s not just about the reason for the story. It’s about the people in the story. Give your characters as much life as possible, keep them realistic, and make sure they’re important to the story.
In conclusion, storytelling brings learning to life and creates a memorable experience for the learner. It’s a fun way to bring engagement and understanding to something that might have otherwise been dull and forgettable.
So, why not include a story in your next training course to see what a difference it makes to the learning experience? By making it relevant, following a structure, and using believable characters, you can help better the learning process for all your learners.