For the online learning world

Learning design

Bringing learning to life through storytelling

Our lives are made up of stories: sharing our workday with our partners, explaining to a friend about the great show we saw over the weekend, telling our parents about our weekend away to the coast, etc. The excitement, passion and emotion we bring to sharing these stories can (and should) be brought into our digital learning. Even the most boring of subject matter can be brought to life through the power of storytelling.

Theory-based course design

We tell stories so naturally and so easily in our daily lives and see first-hand how it brings emotion and engagement to what is potentially a fairly boring list of facts. For example, if we were to create a course about a person’s day in an office using a theoretical, fact-based knowledge sharing approach the result would be something like the below:

  • Natalie attended a team meeting where OHS procedures were covered. 
  • Natalie provided information on the latest sales package to another team member, Michelle.
  • Natalie worked with team member Tommy on the finance report.

While this is a very succinct recounting of events, the person completing the course is unlikely to relate to the people or closely engage with the content. 

Story-based course design

Let’s look at the same example, but this time let’s use a story-based approach to learning design to create something a little different.

“Luke and I had a busy morning, we headed to the team meeting which was held in the fancy glass meeting room in G block. It was such a great meeting, where Jess introduced us to the new OHS procedures via an interactive presentation.”

“Next I quickly caught up with Michelle who was having a hard time with one of her customers and needed some information on our latest sale package.”

“Near the end of the day, I finally got a chance to work with Tommy on the finance report, there were a lot of budget data that need updating because of our recent increase in earnings, which is great news for our stores! Tommy really appreciated the insights I could share around the financial earnings of our different stores.”

This approach provides a more engaging and relatable learning experience. It does not have to be overly wordy or detailed but provide enough detail to bring emotion and life to the facts, making them easier for the learner to retain.

Obviously, there is no one size fits all approach to learning design and a storytelling approach is not going to be suitable for all learning content. However, in a lot of instances by creating a story or scenario around your learning content, you have the opportunity to bring life to content in an engaging, person-centred way that you may just find resonates with your learners. 

Catherine Duncan

Catherine Duncan

Catherine is a learning technologies and digital education practitioner with over twelve years experience across a variety of industries. She enjoys using her technical, educational and creative knowledge to assist organisations in determining their technical and/or training requirements and assisting them in finding the optimum solution.

One thought on “Bringing learning to life through storytelling

  • This is a great idea Catherine !
    I wonder how many teachers tell stories in their class, but don’t translate this to their online courses ?


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