The story is the oldest and maybe still the best learning tool. The oral tradition became a written one at the invention of print and the age of, ‘learning through reading stories’. The story became enhanced by radio and film, now in the age of computer games the story has even greater power, because it is possible to become closer to the story. This may have made story based training in eLearning the most powerful learning tool ever, lets look at the problems that it solves and review what it does.

Story based training solves many of the problems of eLearning, such as; unengaged learners, disinterest, low retention rates, difficulty getting people to think for themselves, difficulty in getting people to retain information as shown by exam scores, and getting people to see the bigger picture. Management want the best results and the best for their staff, using stories in training can have a significant impact because it engages and entertains to create involvement. Lets take a closer look at the story in training and observe the boost that new technology has given it.

The well told story can engage the learner into a relaxing, welcoming even stress free environment. It creates a space with the learner in which a scenario can target an emotional level creating empathy through involvement by identifying with the characters and themes.

The story can lead the learner to actions when thoughts are exercised, alternatives are examined and connections made with existing, knowledge, skills and attitudes. Involvement in a story can lead through guided discovery to positive training outcomes and significant new learnings.

The use of the story is optimal for gaining a better understanding of, about and how a theme lesson or proposition can be accepted in a less critical, ‘past tense’. The deeper the learners involvement with the story the greater their retention and the greater chance of it moving from short to long term memory with improved recall and learning focus.

A semantic universe of metaphors examples and similes, when used well, give the learner a ‘sense’ or ‘reference’ against which to examine the ‘what if how and why’ implications of a story and relate it to their own training and development.

The author can use words to enchant and entertain while allowing the learner to classify, discriminate, compare and examine, to make their own judgement. The story can enforce key messages for example about roles, responsibilities, ethics and procedures. The story really is the biggest story, we see our lives in terms of stories, we seek build and maintain them to engage orally or in print, and now on-line in the story of the future.
The comparatively new invention of pictures, films computers and the Internet has created a storytelling revolution. New technologies some tried and tested across entertainment and business are now available for eLearning. Let’s look at some of them;

Currently ‘cut out people’ are widely available and 3D avatars work on the latest devices.

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They become the storyteller, the narrator the guides the characters or the learners own teacher, classmate or new best friend.

They can be backgrounded in environments, such as workplace, classroom or even streetview on Google earth. They can be delivered as slides, or as a panorama for a background, or with an animation or video and good acoustics.

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The biggest gift of all to eLearning probably comes from technology developed for the games industry; the ability to create non linear branching dialogue. Conversation-Authoring with branching scenarios in eLearning allow the learner select one path from a range to make progress based on choices. You could visualise it as a ‘tree graph, that allows you to choose your own adventure, adaptive learning, dynamic content.

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As an example a branching scenario could consist of a challenge (what has to be done), choices (what can be done), and consequences (the result of each choice).
It uses interactivity to teach behaviours and techniques, it can use text to speech or (if required and when the words are ready to be immortalised) recorded voice.

Branching dialogue creates interaction allowing the choices to feedback dynamic data allowing an ‘observe and correct’ type of story planning for adaptive learning. It is possible to observe and score the options taken in a branching dialogues and give marks and options based on those choices.

The ancient art of playwriting is revived for dialogues between avatars and between avatars and humans. Branching dialogue provides endless opportunities to create bespoke stories that give options at any stage. User generated content can create never ending scenarios where needed to examine what happens when you give learners options to ask ‘what-if, how and why’.

Branching dialogue is the basis of most interaction in the games industry where you can see plenty of examples of ‘infinite possibilities’ being used (look at second life or World of Warcraft for example). The best news is that same technology is available for eLearning; with an easy to use interface and output ranging from a simple HTML5 webpage to a full cross platform, even VR, distributed learning environment. Storytelling, branching dialogue and computer interactivity are putting the golden age of eLearning in front of us.

Chat Mapper Installer, 1.9.1, 22 MB exe
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