Top Three Storytelling Mistakes in E-Learning

Most of us in the e-learning world know that one of the best ways to teach is through storytelling. So I’ve gone out and bought still shots of my characters and have a nice selection of office backgrounds and other settings to choose from. Now all I have to do is drop that stuffy old content onto my new palate and I’m done – wrong!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve created some examples of common mistakes people make when they’re first trying to create a story in an e-learning module. Then I’ll show you how I modified those examples to flesh the whole thing out in a (hopefully) more elegant way.

1. Information Overload

Click to view Information Overload

Click to view Information Overload

The problem here is while the learner is reading what the characters are saying, she’s also having to take in the other information from the narrator.

The Solution

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution

I solved this problem by splitting up the story into separate slides in different settings to show the learner rather than just tell them what’s going on. I dramatically reduced and split up the character’s dialogue, relying more on the narrative and settings to tell the story.

2. Redundancy

Click to view redundancy example

Click to view redundancy example

It’s not only redundant to put the narration up on the screen, but it’s also very annoying. I had a college professor who ran a PowerPoint, and basically everything he said in the class was already in print on the slides. My fellow students were so annoyed and distracted by this that most of them flunked the first few exams he gave us. He was a nice guy and seemed totally dumbfounded by why his students were doing so poorly.

Another problem with this approach is it takes up a lot of valuable real estate on the screen. Remember, most e-learning software allows you to display your narration notes in the player.

The Solution

Click here to view the solution

Click to view the solution

Again, I just split up the content into a number of slides showing the scenario in context and removed the narration script from the screen altogether.

3. It’s Not a Novel

Click to view It's Not a Novel

Click to view It’s Not a Novel

A lot of people get intimidated when you suggest they tell a story to teach something in an e-learning module. In this example, our author has just overdone it a little bit and has put in a lot of unnecessary information.

The Solution

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution

I stripped the story down to its essentials to keep the learner focused on what we’re really trying to teach them. Sometimes less is more.

I hope these tips help you to create more engaging and effective stories to meet your client’s needs.

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Let Me Try – Creating Interactive Software Simulations

Most people will remember something they’ve actually done more readily than something they were just shown how to do. With programs like Storyline it’s possible to create
e-learning modules that offer the learner the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. To demonstrate how this might work, I created a short sample module of how to use the Player in Pinnacle’s Studio 17 video editing program.

View of Entire Interface

View of Entire Interface

I started by giving the learner a view of the entire UI, then zoomed in on the Player itself.

Bubble appears with description of button

Bubble appears with description of button

By simply using hotspots, triggers and layers in Storyline, I created a second slide where learners could click on each of the controls of the player for a description of what they do. Then it was time for the learner to get their hands dirty and try out the controls themselves.

It’s just a simulation Jim!
Because this was just a simulation and not the actual program, I needed to be sure learners could only click one button at a time following my instructions. Otherwise, there would be no way to predict where in the video they would be when they hit the rewind button for example, unless you knew where they’d left off.

To accomplish this, I created individual images of all the player control buttons and used Storyline’s “Hidden” state to hide them when I didn’t want learners to click them. Underneath all those images, I still had a picture of the entire player including the controls, so learners would still see them – even when the “clickable” images of them (on top of the picture of the player) were hidden.

Trigger Happy?
I created the following Triggers for each of the clickable images of the control buttons:

  1. A trigger to either play a video or change the state of a picture (a still shot of where the video would be) from Hidden to Normal. I should mention here that I had to set the “initial state” of all the still shots to Hidden, so learners would not see them until they clicked the button with the trigger.
  2. A trigger to play the audio clip with the instructions on which button to click next.
  3. A trigger to change the state of that button from Hidden to Normal.
  4. A trigger to change the state of the button they just clicked from Normal to Hidden – remember, I don’t want users to be able to click any other buttons because I need to control the order in which they click them to make the simulation work properly.
  5. In one instance I had to set a trigger to take learners to the next slide. I only did this once, because I had a second video showing the looping effect and thought I might be pushing my luck placing a second video on top of the first one on the same slide with all the other triggers and things going on. I guess I’d say that was a “judgment call”.

So, do you want to see the finished product? Just click here.

As always, if you need any clarification on how to do this, feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you. I hope you enjoy creating your own software simulations. I also welcome you to check out David Anderson’s Weekly Challenge blog at E-Learning Heroes. It was because of his latest challenge that I created this simulation.

Hiding the Quiz Until the End

You have an e-learning course where your client wants the Take Quiz box to appear on the main menu, but doesn’t want learners to be able to take the quiz until after they’ve visited all the sections in the course.

They also want learners to have the option to take the different sections in any order they wish. As learners complete each section, they’ll return to the main menu. After they’ve completed all the sections, the Take Quiz box will become active so they can take the final quiz. Does this sound tricky? Fortunately, I’ve been there and can show you how to make it happen.

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

1. Create Two Versions of the Take Quiz Box
I needed two versions of the Take Quiz box; one that was clickable and would take learners to the final quiz, and one that was not. I named one “TQ With Link” and the other “TQ No Link”. Learners will see the “TQ No Link” box until they complete all the sections, at which time the “TQ With Link” will appear.

I put the “With Link” version on top of the “No Link” version in the timeline. Both boxes look the same to the learner, with the exception of what they say if the learner rolls over them. Since this requires that the boxes be the same size and in the same position, you can either select them in the timeline, or have one of them off to the side and set its final position after you’re done working on them. Either way, it’s a good idea to name them in the timeline to keep them straight.

2. Add States to the Two Boxes
For the “TQ With Link” box I created four states: an initial state of Hidden, and three other states; Normal, Hover, and Visited. For “TQ No Link” I created two states: Normal and Hover.

3. Add Layers and Triggers to the Two Boxes
So learners would understand why and when the Take Quiz box would be active, I created a layer called “Quiz” that said “Not available until all other sections completed” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ No Link”.

Then I created another layer called “Quiz 2” that said “Ready for a final quiz?” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz 2” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ With Link”. And of course, I added a trigger to “TQ With Link” to go to the Quiz when the user clicks on it!

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

4. Create Variables and Triggers for All the Other Sections
Next, I needed a way for Storyline to know when each of the sections were completed. To do this, I created a variable and a trigger for each section.

I gave each variable a unique name I’d easily associate with the particular section and had them all start with a value of False. Then I went to the last slide of each section and created a trigger that changes the value of that variable to True when the timeline for that slide starts. That way, Storyline would know when the learner got to the last slide of each section, that meant they had successfully completed that section.

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Variable created with initial setting of "false"

Variable created with initial setting of “false”

5. Create Trigger on “TQ With Link”
Lastly, on the main menu slide I added a trigger that changed the state of “TQ With Link” to Normal when the timeline for the slide starts AND when all the variables for all the other sections changed to True. Because when all the variables for all the sections are True, we know that all the sections have been completed.

When setting up this trigger, click the + sign to add as many variable changes as you need. ONE CAUTIONARY NOTE: I initially tried to just have the trigger activate when all the variables changed, but learned that that wasn’t enough, you also need to tell it to do it when the timeline for the slide starts.

Select when "timeline starts" on current slide

Select when “timeline starts” on current slide

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

To see a stripped-down version of how the menu looks and works, click here.

As always, I know some of this can be a bit challenging. So feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of these steps.

Creating a Gaming Experience in Storyline

In last week’s E-learning Heroes challenge, David Anderson asked us to create a game experience in Storyline. Being a music geek, I decided to create one about how to play different Turkish musical instruments. Needless to say, I had a blast and I hope you will too. The trick here was to make an e-learning tool like Storyline produce something that looks and sounds more like a game.

Getting the Look
At the start of the game, I created a slide with a genie character swooping in on a magic carpet over the city of Istanbul. After introducing the game, rather than having a boring Start button, I had the genie swoop out and another magic carpet swoop in saying “Let’s Play”.

Carpet replaces start button

Carpet replaces start button

To set the scene, I used pictures of the Grand Bazaar, a music store with loads of instruments, and close ups of the various instruments with their names. To show progress, I just had thumbnails of each instrument on the bottom, with the one they were currently working with highlighted.

Thumbnails show progress

Thumbnails show progress

Getting the Sound
Being this was a game about music; I added some cool Turkish wedding music to the introduction. Then throughout the course, you hear the sounds of shoppers at the Grand Bazaar and various people playing different musical instruments in the instrument store.

So now that I’d set the scene, it was time for the game to begin. I decided to create a drag and drop question slide and then alter it to look and sound more like a game. I spiced up the feedback layers by adding audio files of the instruments either being played correctly or incorrectly based on whether they dragged a pick or a bow onto the instrument.

Keeping Score
I had to keep in mind that this was not a quiz. So, all I really wanted to keep from the Quiz Results slide was the score in points; no percentages and no pass or fail messages. Players were allowed to play as many times as they’d like since that’s generally how it goes with games. Now that you know how I did it, why don’t you give it a try?

Click to play the game

Click to play the game