Designing eLearning for Martians and Other Aliens

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In order to convey the appropriate meaning, the storyteller must first know the context scenario of its audience. Meaning is shaped by context. In order to know the context, the eLearning developer must first understand the culture and history of its audience. __________________________________________________________________________

I define meaning as the reference point to which  a learner connects an idea or knowledge to understandable applications. Meaning is the essence of any lesson or knowledge product. It is quite impossible to connect with people without any clear meaning  of what we want to convey.

One of the best ways to understand meaning and context is by recalling the unforgettable scene in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounter of the Third Kind where humans and aliens  communicated through music. Each side agreed to use a common application to transmit  meaning according to the context scenarios of each communicator.

In real life application, eLearning developers and students accelerate the process of knowledge exchange after understanding the context of both communicators. Then, both parties can agree to convey meaning by using a mutually acceptable communication application. 

In Applied Storytelling: The Power of Story, Steve Evans writes that

“In cross-cultural situations, it is important that the storyteller conveys to the audience that he or she understands the audience and its culture, at least somewhat. Then, the stories in some way need to touch on that audience and its culture — telling within that shared context or shared frame of knowledge, experience, and meaning. The audience appreciates it when it can relate to your stories, when they don’t seem so foreign that the audience can’t relate to them. If “foreign” stories are told to illustrate, inform or enlighten, they really must be told in ways that they can be understood and appreciated!”

In developing eLearning modalities or while participating in eLearning lessons, it is absolutely important that participants understand the context scenario of the people involved. Once this is accomplished, meaningful communication could finally take place.

Here are some tips to set the right meaning and context:

1. Learn how learners understand or interpret your subject from their own vantage point and real-life experiences.
2. Determine the strongest associations that your learners have with the subjects.
3. Use the learners’ verbiage -words, themes, color, tone, to help connect and add meaning and content
4. Create vivid images that relate to the learners’ situations
5. Draw from your learners’ emotional experiences

Read my related blog

The Heart of a Good Story

Works Cited

Evans, S. Applied Storytelling: The Power of Story. May 31, 2008.

Ray Jimenez, PhD

Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”