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For many educators, it can be difficult to understand how to engage learners fully in any given learning experience. This is no less true for educators working within the framework of eLearning and LMS, who may struggle to make learners connect with lessons taught digitally.
To this end, educators may find that focusing on storytelling when designing eLearning experiences can vastly improve how engaged learners are with the material being taught and how well they retain the information. This article will focus on why storytelling creates compelling learning narratives, and how you can utilize storytelling techniques to create effective and engaging eLearning experiences.
Why Storytelling Works
Those of you who have read Homer's Iliad or his Odyssey undoubtedly know that these works of literature were stories passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth long before they were ever written down.
Ever since humans were evolved enough to scribble depictions of life and death survival into cave walls, we have been telling stories. But there's more to why storytelling is effective than just simple tradition.
Oxytocin. It's one of the more "recognizable" neurochemicals, up there with things like dopamine and cortisol. Oxytocin, to dramatically simplify a very complicated subject (you can learn more about it by reading this 2014 article by Paul Zak, who is a leading expert on Oxytocin), is an action motivator.
It enhances our sense of empathy when triggered, heightening our ability to understand others, and compelling us to mimic the actions of other humans. Oxytocin is highly active whenever we're experiencing a good story that has tension.
It's why you can't help but feel a sense of national pride when watching Braveheart (despite its historical inaccuracies) or why you feel like working out after watching a Rocky flick. And just like it can be triggered by watching movies, Oxytocin can also be released in learners who are experiencing learning material as a story, rather than as a set of rote facts or numbers plastered onto a PowerPoint slide for them to read.
This makes learning experiences focused on storytelling incredibly effective, because they fully engage learners, encouraging them to empathetically connect with the learning material and adhere it to their long-term memories.
Creating an effective sense of storytelling in your learning material is one of the most surefire ways you can engage learners and ensure that they retain the material you teach them in the long-term.
How You Can Use Storytelling in eLearning
Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to incorporate storytelling into eLearning experiences. Here are some examples of how you can incorporate storytelling into your learning material:
- Use photos that actually conjure up imagination, instead of stereotypical stock images.
- Craft short stories - or even better, have your students craft short stories - centred on the learning material.
- Use video or applicable film clips to emphasize your points.
Aside from these options, the interactivity of eLearning presents educators with a unique opportunity to tell stories in the virtual classroom. For example, if you can afford it, crafting a VR or AR game that tells learners a story while having them act out practical applications of the learning material can be absurdly effective.
There are also incredibly cost-effective ways to bring the three above points together, creating interactive content that drives learner engagement for the best learning and training results.
In a similar and less expensive fashion, creating game-based learning material (you can learn more about gamification via an article we wrote) - like using Monopoly as an allegory for fiscal responsibility - can also be incredibly effective. Take it even further by bringing gamification to your LMS and destroy disengagement for a huge boost to the effectiveness of your learning and development programs.
By finding ways to incorporate storytelling into your eLearning experiences, you can drastically improve how much (and how well) your learners retain learning material, as well as ensure their engagement.
Here at Lambda Solutions, we specialize in helping our clients achieve the full potential for their eLearning systems. So, if you're interested in streamlining your eLearning experiences and improving your storytelling techniques, we'd love to help out!
- Webinar: How to Easily Create Interactive Content in Your LMS 2.0
- Webinar: How to Reduce Disengagement with Gamification
- Blog: How to Translate Numbers into Stories Using Data Visualization