Avoid a Fatal Error: Lack of Specificity in eLearning Interactive Stories

Share this article

In eLearning design and development, the lack of specificity is fatal. Know the value of adding details to eLearning stories. Details help learners understand and relate to the content’s meaning and lessons.

Sometimes in classroom training sessions we see participants with wide glazed eyes with a wondering thought, “This is great story, fun, but what is the meaning of this?”

Stories, cases, illustrations and examples without details and lack SPECIFICITY tend to elude the learners mind. In eLearning design and development, the lack of specificity is fatal.

Consider these are two examples.

Example A

John lost a major client because he failed to disclose the risks of the investment.

Example B

John lost Mercy Flanagan, a high asset customer who belongs to the $10 Million Club, because he failed to disclose the fact that the Brazilian company investment is not a Class A stock classification.

Example A is pretty generic. Although it could trigger a response from the learner, the learner needs to exert more effort to “connect the meaning of the story to his/her own context.”

Example B, on the other hand, provides sufficient details to make clear the story’s meaning to the learner.

Strong and effortless stories in eLearning come in three design approaches.

1. Immediate recognition of context. This is done by quickly increasing the speed of connecting the story to the learner’s situation.

In eLearning, the values of stories are acquired through a learner’s immediate recognition of its meaning as well as the story’s accessibility. Fuzzy and aimless, yet warm and enjoyable stories are dismissed by the learners. “It’s fun, but, so what?”

In the above example B, the very details of the story suggest the emotional tone and the impact of the story to the learners’ real-life situation.

John must take care of this client because it can lead him to losing his job or result to company losses. The nature of the details carries with them the risks and consequences.

2. Vividness of stories. This is making the story more vivid so the learners can relate to the content you wish the learner to learn.

The main purpose of using stories in eLearning is to help learners learn by embedding lesson content in the story. The story above shows that it is immediately obvious to the learner that the issues they need to reflect on are the following: the disclosed policies and ethical issues related to investments, and the financial impacts and liabilities which can harm the company as well. The detail of the story embeds the lesson.

3. Increase usefulness. This process aids the learner to find the multiple circumstances in his/her job and, therefore, increases the usefulness of the story.

4. Correlate and analyze stories. They allow learners to correlate or analyze the stories and apply them in several situations. “This is a similar situation in disclosing investments in real-life portfolios from mortgage houses” is an example where the learner is correlating the same story but in another context.

The details make is possible for the learners to bridge the story at hand to another situation due to the abundance of details supplied.


One of the important steps in “The Story eLearning Design Process” is to flash out details of the story. Do not skip in answering the questions. You run the risk of having weak stories. The more details you provide the easier for the learners to learn.

These are the questions:

• What is an emotional event related to the lesson content?
• Who are the characters?
• What are the conversations?
• What are the emotions?

What are the conflicts that need to be resolved?

• What are the risks and consequences if they are not resolved?
• What are the resolutions? What are the discoveries of the learners as they go through the stories?

Provide sufficient details. These help learners understand your embedded content quickly.


The more you add specific details, the likelihood that the story becomes inflexible for other uses. The details can limit the context to a very narrow setting. Find the right balance of details, if you plan to use the lesson and story with multiple types of users with varying backgrounds.

Details in eLearning stories help learners understand lessons and relate the content to their own context or situation.

Story Impacts Learning and Performance eBook. Click here to access a free ebook

Related Posts:
Making Technical and Compliance Learning Fun and Engaging
Making Facts Stick With Stories – Jiggling Atoms

One thought on “Avoid a Fatal Error: Lack of Specificity in eLearning Interactive Stories

  1. Too often we try to eliminate details in order to save the learner time and meet the organization's requirements. Brevity is not always best. This blog article makes a compelling argument! I love it and completely agree!


Comments are closed.