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Posts Tagged ‘training’
Storytelling is a hot topic these days in business. Forbes says entrepreneurs who tell stories win more business. And that marketing professionals are embracing the power of stories in order to get their messages across.
What Is a Story?
There’s no agreed-upon structure for a story. A child might describe a story as having a beginning, middle, and end. A novelist might tell you that a story must have a protagonist, an antagonist, context, action, a rise and fall of conflict, and an ultimate transformation.
In this short video, Ken Burns describes “real, genuine stories” as being about “1 and 1 equaling 3.” An effective story offers perspective, which is a form of manipulation. He believes that there are multiple truths, and story is a framework to expose those truths. Is the storyteller a medium or a puppet master? It’s a fascinating thought.
Stories Help Us Learn
Aside from entertaining or persuading us, how can stories help us learn? Stories are actually the foundation of how we learn throughout our lives, and we share them quite naturally. Think of the cautionary tales you heard when you were young—the ones that stick with you to this day. The Three Little Pigs. The Ugly Duckling. The one about how you shouldn’t eat Pop Rocks and soda, lest you suffer the fate of Little Mikey (totally untrue, by the way). The stories we hear when we’re young have the power of shaping our beliefs, fears, and dreams.
Why are stories so universally compelling?
- Stories activate neurons in our brains in a comprehensive way—as if we’re actually experiencing the story.
- We’re hard-wired to tune into stories. In fact we think in narrative form all day long, from deciding what to eat for breakfast to completing household chores.
- They help us form an emotional connection with our audience, which helps us communicate a message.
- When we’re in story-audience mode, we’re listening and receptive. This is the ideal state for learning.
- When we hear a good story, we’re inspired to share it with others.
- Stories communicate insight, which is motivating—especially when we can draw connections to our own goals, dreams, or experiences.
- They are easy to remember.
Building Stories for Instruction
One of the reasons story-based learning is so effective is that it offers learners a realistic context to relate with. For ideas on using a narrative structure when creating training, compare traditional and story-based approaches for an elearning course below.
|Ask SMEs to give you existing resources, like PDFs and forms that relate to your topic.||Use probing questions to ask SMEs for stories, such as “Tell me about a time when an employee suffered the consequences of bad communication.” Turn these insights into stories for the course if appropriate.|
|Use generic silhouettes as characters in the course.||Create composite characters or personas inspired by your SME/audience interviews. Consider involving the learner as a character who can help play the “hero” role in resolving the conflict.|
|Work with SMEs only at the beginning of a project.||Check in with SMEs and possibly representatives from the learning audience throughout the project to make sure your context is authentic.|
|Organize content by topic and subtopics.||Organize content according to story-inspired structure, like setting, plot, action, climax, and resolution.|
|Present the learner with content.||Actively involve the learner in unfolding the story.|
|Use the training topic itself as the theme, such as “Communication Skills for Leaders.”||Frame the learning experience around a scenario or conflict that relates with the topic, such as “John Larson’s Communication Breakdown.”|
|Include multiple-choice quiz questions that align with learning objectives.||Give learners a branching exercise with built-in consequences and constructive feedback.|
|Conclude the training with a summary of the learning objectives.||Conclude the training with a resolution of the conflict.|
If you’re an instructional designer, do you incorporate elements of story into your training? As a learner, how have you experienced story-based learning?
Those of us born before 1995 remember living analog style. Flipping through musty encyclopedias. Searching through the library’s card catalogue by either author, title, or subject. Asking a librarian to help load film onto the clunky microfiche reader while searching for obscure information.
Although these hands-on research methods seems somewhat antiquated now, there’s a lot of charm and authenticity about the era that we don’t want to lose. Many of us spend more time a foot away from the computer monitor than we do with people in person. We’ve grown digital appendages, and we experience real loss when they’re broken or misplaced. We’re all out there in the world collecting incomprehensible amounts of information every day. And we’re all just beginning to learn how to curate it.
Curation is one of our goals of the Collaborative Learning Network. Every month we invite a small group of learning professionals to gather, share insights, and work together to discuss common issues and curiosities related to our field. It’s an old-fashioned idea with a new context. At the end of each session, we email a PDF summarizing the insights, links, and recommended resources that we all shared during our discussion.
If you’re in the training field in the Portland area, the Collaborative Learning Network is free to attend although advanced registration is required. Join us on January 9 to discuss the topic “Transforming ‘Required Training’ into ‘Inspired Learning.’” We also have an a LinkedIn discussion group.
Are you finding ways to blend old and new communication techniques together as you become more digital?
Sometimes your organization may need training, but you’re unsure which format would be best. Other times, you may already be convinced that eLearning is the best solution based on one of these reasons:
- The budget was cut—face-to-face training was on the chopping block, and eLearning seems like an ideal replacement.
- Your company has become more virtual, reducing the feasibility of holding classroom-training sessions.
- You want to create pre-work to be completed prior to classroom training.
- You need to spend your budget quickly before year’s end, and eLearning seems like a logical expense.
How do you know when eLearning is right for your project or organization?
1. Business Objectives
“Build it and they will come” does not apply to eLearning. There must be a practical business reason for its development, or it could sit in a lonely virtual vault without any visitors. Here are a few sample business objectives that align well with eLearning:
- Business objective: Your sales force needs to learn about a specific set of products prior to their release.
eLearning solution: An interactive, visually rich experience with product simulations, product sheets that can be downloaded on demand, and features and benefits that are tied to realistic use cases or scenarios
- Business objective: Your physicians need additional practice using new devices. (It’s not possible to practice operations on people!)
eLearning solution: A highly interactive, realistic simulation that gives physicians extra practice using devices and troubleshooting in a safe, online environment
There must be a business reason for the eLearning (or any training format, for that matter). Make a point to discover what needs to be accomplished, and also what the learners need to actually do following the learning experience.
2. Past Experiences
Investigate what been tried in the past, what worked, what failed, and if any metrics exist. Knowing about past training experiences gives you a lot of insight about the current state of the training and where the learning gaps might be.
3. Existing Content
Even if it’s completely outdated, try to review any existing content that relates to the topic. Are source materials available, like user guides, glossaries, style guides, and photos? It’s great to have access to electronic versions of these if possible, especially when you need to quickly search for concepts or keywords.
Sometimes you may have a preconceived idea about the type of interactivity needed. Keep in mind that the content can flash, jingle, pop, and twirl on the screen all it wants, but if the interactivity serves no instructional purpose, learners won’t take the experience seriously.
Consider these three levels of interactivity, and go with an option that aligns with your instructional need, resources, schedule, and budget:
- Passive interactivity: Static information, including printable job aids, informational screens, and stock photography
- Moderate interactivity: Exploratory screens that may include matching, scenarios, click-to-reveal content, light narration, and custom photos/illustrations
- Complex interactivity: Game-like exploratory elements, branching scenarios, audio for multiple characters, bookmarking, and a robust resource library
Audio should never directly match the on-screen text in eLearning. Instead, audio should be included to enhance and advance the learning experience. Sometimes a central character’s voice guides the learner along. Other times, you can incorporate multiple characters in complex scenarios who talk to each other and are controlled by learner interactions.
You may already have a library of photos to choose from. In other cases, you can use stock photos or custom illustrations. The visuals are there to bring the learning experience to life and to enhance the narrative. Avoid clipart-style graphics if possible!
Before you develop the actual eLearning course, take the time to map out the structure using a mind mapping or flow chart software. Use this framework to verify the organizing principles and to make sure all the pieces are in place and in the appropriate order. Closely review the details before moving on, as it’s a primary building block for the rest of the course development process.
Also, determine what the action is during this step:
- What will the learners need to do during this experience?
- Will the path need to be linear or self-directed?
- What’s the central challenge?
- What relevant activity can you invite the learner to participate in, right at the beginning?
- What should the learner be able to do after completing the course?
- How can you take advantage of the online environment in ways that aren’t possible offline?
You may be required to measure your training. Some organizations have no interest in tracking but want to offer their audience an exploratory way to learn new information.
It’s important to know up front whether measurement is important to you, as it determines how you approach the eLearning. Consider options like tracking completion, tracking correct/incorrect response percentages, and reporting. If you’re working with a Learning Management System (LMS), make sure your training aligns with its functionality.
9. Learning Environment
The environment in which learners will experience the training should greatly influence your approach. For example, if learners will be using iPads, an entirely different navigation and set of instructions are needed compared with computer-based training. If you know learners will be on computers with audio cards and headphones, you can consider a variety of audio options. Audio wouldn’t be as important in mobile learning.
Learning environment also refers to culture. Does your organization generally support training efforts? Do the supervisors encourage employees to participate? In what specific ways will learners be supported?
10. Access to SMEs and Learners
Ideally, you need direct access to the learners themselves in order to create the most effective experience. In reality, though, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes you receive indirect information about what learners need through subject matter experts (SMEs) or even the marketing or human resources departments. While those perspectives are useful, try to directly connect with the learners themselves to make the learning authentic and relevant.
By considering all these variables, you’ll be better prepared to create elearning—when appropriate—that is digestible, meaningful, and memorable. What would you add to the list?