A lot of focus in the e-learning and ID world is on creating training programs that are dynamic, responsive, and engaging. We want to keep learners from being bored while taking their e-Learning courses, especially if it’s some mandatory training program that everyone has to take. Usually, designers believe that this is mostly accomplished with eye-catching graphics, unique navigation features, and fun and challenging games and activities. These are all important aspects of effective Instructional Design and will go a long way in keeping learners happy and engaged, but they can also overshadow the main purpose of the work that we do – to teach and train learners. We can’t neglect what’s at the heart of each and every course or program that we create though, and that is the content itself.
More than Just Words on a Page
When designing learning experiences we must not forget that we are also writers. And, as writers, we are responsible for conveying content that, on its own, is memorable and engaging. We must find ways to make content jump off the page (screen would be a more apt metaphor here, I suppose) and stick in our learners’ memories. This, of course, is easier said than done, especially when working with highly technical or generally dry content. Lucky for us, there are countless strategies that we can adopt to spice up our writing and pique learner interest.
Tell Me a Story
Who doesn’t love a compelling and well-told story? Stories that are rich in sensory details, evocative language, and with which we can relate often stick with us long after we read, hear, or watch them. In fact, recent research shows that strong narratives can activate various parts of our brains, sometimes parts that are not activated by simple language processing.
Your learning experiences can benefit from the incorporation of some type of narrative flow. Telling a story with your content or that relates to it in some way is a great way to draw learners in and get them invested in what you are trying to teach them. Adding characters with relatable stories and problems to your content will further engage learners and help them identify with the learning experience.
Even simply structuring your content in a manner similar to typical story structures will help learners better follow along (and it may even make writing easier for you!) . Having your information organized with a beginning (an introduction to the topic), a middle (a problem is presented and must be solved) and an end (a resolution is achieved) will make the learning experience flow clearly and will be easier for learners to follow along. This can be especially beneficial when dealing with complicated subjects.
The Impulse to Share
As soon as you see a great episode of your favorite TV show or read an awesome book, you can’t wait to talk about it with someone else, right? I know that I am always asking friends and co-workers what they thought of last night’s episodes. This desire to share, and, ultimately connect with others over stories that mean something to us is as old storytelling itself.
Creating training experiences that are rich and engaging with narrative flow will inspire learners to discuss what they learned, liked, disliked, or want to explore further with each other, thus extending the learning experience beyond the classroom or computer.