The A, B, C’s of Consumer Learning: S is for Stories

Justine Ickes
Apr 1, 2015 10:54:00 AM

Storytelling is all the rage these days. And, it’s no wonder.

Narrative-driven content —scenarios, case studies, and the like — are a sure-fire way to advance your organization’s mission, engage customers, and create buzz around your brand. Think a story might work in your e-course? Great, but before you go all Hans Christian Andersen, we’ve got a couple of caveats and suggestions about using stories in your online program.

Once Upon A Time

When you hear the word “story” chances are you think of the classic hero’s saga. Typically, the spiel goes something like this: The main character has a challenge to overcome or villain to beat — Think Harry Potter vanquishing Voldemort. Or Bradley Cooper’s and JLaw’s emotionally inept characters nailing their dance routine in Silver Linings Playbook.

Can you adapt this framework to your e-course? Absolutely. But, first you’ll need to figure out the answers to these questions:

1. What are the learning goals for your course? 

Just as with any other type of course content, before you even sketch out your storyline, you need to be very clear about why people would benefit from your course. In other words, what will someone who takes your course be able to do or understand when she’s finished your online learning program?

Not sure how to go about this? Take a look at this post about how to create learning goals.


2. Is the content you’re presenting suitable for a story format?

A story-based course can be a super effective way to grab learners’ attention and help them remember what they’re learning.

Let’s say you’re a publisher who specializes in pocket-size guides for travelers. You’ve just released a new series of foreign language guides. To create buzz and boost sales you could build an e-course with vignettes about someone’s vacation.

Just remember: It might be that not everything you have to share with your audience will fit nicely into your story. Creating a story-line that illustrates how your language guide saved the day makes sense. Showing your customer how to create a user account for the new online dictionary they just bought, not so much.

3. Will your customers relate to the story you’re telling?

Sure, everybody loves a bit of fantasy now and then. But, when it comes to self-paced online learning, people want authentic, real-world solutions. So steer clear of fairy tales and build stories and scenarios that mirror reality.

Think back to our language learning example. Have you created a plausible story, one that will ring true to your customers?

How will you create opportunities for the learner to solve a dilemma or think through a decision? Is there a natural pause in the story when you could invite learners to come up with their own ideas?

Remember: With clear goals and the right content you can create entrancing stories for your online school.

Click on the links below to read more of our A, B, C's of Consumer Learning series:


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