Irrespective of the age and gender stories continue to engage all of us. Even as adults, we are transported into an alternative frame of mind through the experience of listening to a story.

They have the ability to keep the readers hooked to the content as the curiosity of what happens next drives the listeners. Even research has shown that we human beings have a special connection to the stories.

Hence, let’s take a  look at some of the important and popular elements in storytelling.

1.Establish a connect with the audience

Applied to e-learning or online learning, stories need to connect with the audience. If the storyline is not connected or relevant to the target learners, the storyline might fail to engage the audience.Hence, it’s very important to understand the target audience first. Focus on  writing compelling content and building engaging learner experience that are appropriate and relevant for learners rather on stressing on irrelevant areas.


2.Use a structure.

Ensure that your story has a solid structure. It takes great deal of time for the brain to capture and digest disorganised pieces of information. A solid, logical structure is part of what makes stories stick in our brains. All stories share a few common elements. They include:

•A beginning

•Rising action where the central conflict emerges;

•A climax,

•And resolution, where the loose ends of the story are tied up.

3.Appeal to the learners emotions

Emotional connectivity is very essential for storytelling in e-learning.Story elements like character, conflict and action help stories appeal to emotions. For example, the organisation can use the character in the storyline to emotionally connect with the learners  An emotional connect  with learners takes a step closer to making them believe in the value of  learning content and can help in bringing desired behavior changes.
For example, an online e-module on compliance learning can include a storyline that shows the consequences of not following the workplace safety guidelines. The story can include a character who got seriously injured as he didn’t wear the recommended safety kit. Such stories can capture the emotional attention of the learners. An emotional connect  with learners takes a step closer to making them believe in the value of learning content and can help in bringing desired behavior changes.

4.Make it visually appealing

An effective story must be visually appealing to the users.The use of right and relevant visuals with the effective use of multimedia will help the learners to easily understand the learning
The  use of visuals helps the learners to easily create a virtual world in their mind and engage with the storyline. It helps the brain to draw patterns, and experience the story as it’s in real.
Visuals can reinforce key concepts, help learners make emotional connections, and keep learners engaged
According to Getty Images, the four key factors for powerful visuals are:

1.Use authentic visuals
2.Be culturally relevant to your audience
3.Use visuals that reflect the human experience
4.Use visual storytelling tools like archetypal characters

.The use of right narrations

It’s not always about the visuals alone as narrations in the storyline  have the power to attract and hook the audience. Hence decide the tone before beginning to ensure that there is a consistency throughout. Narrations has the power to hook the audience and ensure that their concentration is not diverted. For example, a sales training e-learning should have a narrative that is very energetic throughout. The use of a low pitch tone might disengage the learners. .

6.Include characters and related objects
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Characters are powerful representations of actions and emotions in a story.Choose a character that serves the theme of the story and learning objectives and most importantly connect with the learners. Detailing the character closer to reality can make it more relatable for the learner.
For example, we recently developed a  sales training module for a leading travel company.
The e-module required inclusion of various characters like sales executive wearing the full  uniform and several other characters in great detail were sketched out and included to make the module more relatable to the learners. .
 Apart from the characters the storyline can include several other related objects that are commonly seen in the day to day operations.

7.The element of surprise

Creating a moment of suspense in the storyline can make the learners  hooked to the learning content.Storytelling must create interest, anticipation and expectation that will in turn trigger engagement and participation in the learning process. This leads to meaningful learning, greater retention and immediate recall of information

A surprise and the presence of the unexpected can lift a story’s standing. It can bring a sudden flow of energy and life and make the learners feel wow.. In the era of digital storytelling or e-learning, there are various options to create an element of suspense like
Element of surprise rewards like easter eggs or mystery box, a twist in the storyline, inclusion of new characters.etc.
While we saw the key storyline elements, let’s also quickly understand the popular story learning types:

1.Case-based- Case based stories use different cases as stories to support the learning process. The learner is usually not expected to find solutions to problems here but the learner understands the concepts after studying and analysing the case.

2.Narrative-based- Narratives can be either fictional or non-fictional. They seek to emotionally immerse the learner in the narrative’s situation;.

3.Scenario-based -The learner is positioned in a place that allows them to interact with the scenario and produce different outcomes depending on their decisions and actions. T

4.Problem solving based-The final story type is especially suited for teaching learners about how to best solve ill structured problems that do not have optimal solutions.

In e-learning, stories are a tried and tested strategy to make the learners hooked to the learning topics and will continue to be an effective technique to deliver e-learning.

As a bonus here are some practical examples of effective story ideas for various e-learning topics

1.Sales Training

An effective sales training module should not only have facts and information but also include the practical side of making sales happen. Sales is all about good listening skills, strong negotiation skills and a die hard attitude of not giving up. In an e-learning on sales training, the storyline should be such that it leads to some action or the learner earning some rewards or losing some resources on a wrong action.
Stories built around action themes like space missions, war thrillers, mountain expeditions etc can be developed as a part of storytelling ideas for the sales team.For a pharma company e-learning module on sales training, we had built around the idea of the sales representatives being on a special mission of saving the planet earth from the alien attack by equipping themselves with the right sales knowledge.

2.Compliance Training

Compliance e-learning modules are always a challenge to the organization in terms of lower employee turnout, less engagement etc. Stories can be a powerful element to make the compliance modules engaging and interactive for the learners.
The story idea for compliance should be centered around the themes of doing something right or saving the organization from compliance issues through a series of smart moves. So themes of adventure and thrill ranging from to a superman or batman can be apt themes for compliance modules as the learner is able to connect with the feeling of preventing some bad deed from happening.

For an e-learning module on Infosec training for a large financial conglomerate, we had inbuilt a story of a devil disguising an a company employee and entering the company’s premises and the employees assuming roles of Superwoman and Superman on the mission to identify the devil and prevent any cyber security attack.

3.Product Training

Product training is another popular e-learning in almost every organisation, where the learners are required to learn about the new products and services. In product related e-learning the element of storytelling has to be built in a very subtle manner so as to not compromise on the product features, benefits etc. Simple storytelling concepts picked up from everyday life can be quite effective here.

For example, while designing a product training program for a FMCG company we had built the story around famous cricketers of our country and how they handle their matches, wins, and losses etc.

4.Soft Skills Training

For an e-learning on soft skills, building storytelling and incorporating story ideas can be relatively simpler as there are wide choices available depending on the topics. For example an e-learning module on time management can include an element of time travel where the character in the story travels back in time as many times as he fails to meet the learning objectives and finally ends being in the stone age.

Similarly an e-learning module on business etiquette can include the story of how the person is thrown into an inferno due to bad etiquette and he has to put together the various clues to come out of the inferno by exhibiting the right etiquette.

5.Technical Training

Incorporating story into e-learning related to technical content can be the toughest as sometimes getting the right story or building a right story around it becomes a challenge owing to the nature and treatment of content. For example, a technical training on warehousing process or delivery hubs or some sales dashboards is not easy to be converted to a story form. In such cases, the instructional designers need to put that extra effort to make things interesting and challenging. More realistic workplace themes can better suit the technical e-learning rather than a pure fictional one.

Some examples could be a character preparing himself/herself for a promotion interview and brushing up his technical knowledge or a character acting as a team leader and training his team on various parameters to be observed and worked around within the sales dashboard are a few examples of storytelling ideas for technical e-learning.

These were a few examples of storytelling ideas which can be used in e-learning. However always remember that stories are useless if your learners cannot establish a connect with the story. So while designing your next e-learning involving storytelling do remember to incorporate a relevant and compelling storytelling idea, which can strongly and vividly meet the learning objectives.

If you are planning to include storytelling ideas in e-learning, feel free to contact us. Share your suggestions and recommendations using the comment box below