Just how important is storytelling in elearning? We recently carried out a poll to ask which feature was most important when using gamification.
Of course, any use of gamification should always focus on the learner outcomes but we thought it interesting to investigate which tools people value the most. We first provided options which we thought were most important – leaderboards, immersive technologies, rewards and badges, or storytelling.
There was a clear winner. Our poll found that over 50% believe storytelling is the most important feature of gamification. But what is storytelling and how can you make it successful in elearning?
Storytelling isn’t a new technique, how many times a week or even a day do you tell somebody a story? For as long as we can remember, storytelling has been happening – it’s how we learn about the world and each other.
Telling others stories is a way of connecting to each other. If your story’s exciting enough it’s also a way of teaching experiences and lessons, to yourself and others. So, if you can create an engaging story to teach others skills and techniques, why wouldn’t you?
How to use storytelling
The technique can be used in elearning to develop more engaging and memorable content. Some of us may not like to read, however listening to a good story may make us want to learn more. By taking the learner on a journey using relevant and authentic content, storytelling immerses them into the content and aids better understanding.
But, storytelling isn’t just somebody telling you a story. In elearning, storytelling aims to achieve and so it requires more thought. As HubSpot says “it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. That being said, this isn’t something you can grasp in one sitting, after one course. It’s a trial-and-error process of mastery.”
You can include audio, video, interaction, images, plot lines and reality – after all, the content needs to be relevant and engaging so that learners can action what they’ve learned. But don’t bombard learners with all of the elements at once, keep it simple to make it effective.
Wondering how to make storytelling in elearning successful? Here are 5 top tips:
Varied types of media throughout your story can improve engagement and stop learners from feeling bored. Audio clips, images and videos can immerse learners into scenarios to give them a sense of realistic environment. Some of us learn through reading, some through visuals and some need sound – using various elements of media should enable different types of learners to achieve similar outcomes.
Adding in short interactions should (hopefully) connect learners with the characters to understand and practice desired behaviours. Branching decision points which change how the story unfolds, or just asking the learner their opinion without impacting the story can engage and immerse learners. This can provide the opportunity to give learners feedback, a great way to understand knowledge levels and identify areas for improvement.
3. Realistic stories
To ensure learners can action behaviours in real life, it’s equally important to make your story is as realistic as possible. Those that have had first hand experience in the role could form the base of your storyline or be used as characters. Realistic scenarios can inspire learners and motivate them to carry out the same behaviours on the job.
Challenges keep learners engaged and intrigued into what’s happening next. We all know that every story isn’t plain sailing, learners need to understand that problems occur. Challenges and solutions allow learners to understand what type of issues they may come across and how to deal with them. Your challenges can also be made interactive, again a great way to practice desired behaviours. If the challenges are too obvious or too difficult, you may alienate learners so be sure to set realistic challenges.
Connect to your learners through emotion – emotions prove for better retention levels.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.
An easy way to bring emotions is through the feeling of getting the right solution to a challenge – and a good ending. The emotions felt should enable learners to not only remember the story, but to remember which actions and behaviours should be used on the job.
These elements enhance storytelling in gamification. Storytelling is central to our Near-Life™ technology which provides learners with the opportunity to make real time decisions through realistic, immersive role play scenarios. Challenging learners this way improves knowledge retention and engagement, but also provides a more memorable (and fun) way to learn. Additionally, Near-Life™ offers personalised feedback and data to identify and tackle any gaps in knowledge.
We believe that storytelling is an important part of a gamification approach to elearning. Learning new skills and techniques should be fun and engaging – storytelling achieves this as well as increasing retention levels. A bonus for L&D!