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.


8 thoughts on “Top Three Storytelling Mistakes in E-Learning

  1. Dan, Thank you for sharing these examples. I am sometimes guilty of information overload. The courses that I design must cover a lot of information to prepare participants for certification. I often include the key information with text but also include narration. I will be addressing this in the challenge this week. Thanks again!

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