Dilemma of Author-educators Migrating to Story-based eLearning Design

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Our belief: At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synthesis.Developing story-based elearning design requires a different or new set of skills and competencies. Possessing good writing, education and training backgrounds would certainly help anyone who aspires to become an elearning story-based curriculum developer. Understanding the perspective of authors and writers is equally important for trainers in the process of helping these academic Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) migrate from linear to modular learning.
Image source: www. edudemic.com

Recently, I had a wonderful and enriching encounter with teachers during a story-based design workshop sponsored by one of the largest academic publishing companies in the Philippines. We had dynamic sessions, spirited sharing and in-depth insights during the two-day workshop. My task was to prime the mindset of academic authors for story-based design for elearning.

Expectedly, I sensed some resistance at the start of the workshop. That was only natural. These brilliant educators and textbook authors were coming from a different field where their shade of green was quite different from the one in my field. Where does the resistance usually emanate?

Here are the main dilemmas that author-educators migrating to elearning development usually experience:

The linear versus the modular method. The Linear method teaches us that the best way to reach “10” is to count chronologically from “1 to 10”. This is absolutely rational. On the other hand, the Modular method asserts that the other way to reach ten is to start counting with “10” and use the other numbers to explain how you got to ten. Generally, elearning follows the modular method where the end result or conclusion is presented first. 

Control of the teacher versus the control of the learner. In classrooms, the teachers are generally in control of the learning environment. In elearning, the control of the lessons is with the learner. eLearning allows the learners access and use of varied methodologies which a classroom type of learning normally does not have. 

Macro versus micro lessons. Teachers and educators are trained to present the macro lessons, the grand scenario of the entire course. On the other hand, edevelopers focus on creating micro lessons. In my own design, I show only the ‘kernel’ and not the whole corn.

Conventional versus rapid learning. Rapid learning is attained by combining all the three elements above-mentioned – modular method, learner control and micro lessons. In the conventional learning scenario, macro lessons are learned by going through long phases in a linear method.

100% Content versus 10% key performance content. In my past blog, If your Content is 1,000 pages, how do you discover the 10% key performance content? I already pointed out the issue of how developers could identify which content are to include in the design. In classroom learning, textbooks are expected to be scoured page by page, from cover to cover. In elearning, only 10% of the total content is expected to be used in the design.

Allow me to use myself as reference to explain further the said ‘dilemma’. In my blog Are You Riding the Waves or the Ripples? Tracking Learning Trends, I wrote:

“In the 18th century, education, learning and training have focused on thought or knowledge retention. Thinkers of that era believed that when learners retain abundant knowledge, they perform on the job when needed: ‘Thought First – Action Later’ (Johnson, 2002). In decades past, however, evidence showed that ‘Thought First – Action Later’ was inadequate. The alternative approach: ‘Thought and Action are One’ (learn and apply, learning by doing) gained popularity.

Yet, the momentum gained by the ‘Thought First-Action Later’ principles and practices in large institutions and infrastructures – schools, book publishers, teachers/educators, government, corporate training, business processes, others – still exists. The wave is powerful. It persists. The current is strong.

Understanding and deciphering the Thought/Action Wave is critical to decision making with regard to the focus of our energies and resources. Oftentimes, we find ourselves solving a problem with palliatives and failing at it rather than directly addressing the true issues.

As an example, designers and developers are frustrated that subject matter experts throw PowerPoint files and linear and page-turning lessons unto their laps (remnant of the ‘thought first – action later’ practice). Without presenting an alternative way of writing content, SMEs will cling to these traditional methods.

Instead of banging our heads on the wall (swimming through the ripples), we need to ask, ‘ What exactly is the problem (wave) and how do we find a solution (riding the wave)?‘“

At the end of the two-day workshop, I sensed that the author-teachers realized that elearning is not a “threat” to conventional classroom learning. These two modalities could actually complement each other. It would be great if more author-teachers migrate from writing textbooks to elearning design. Teachers and educators are highly-motivated, purpose-driven and very well-schooled in their vocation of teaching. 

Even us, seasoned elearning developers could learn many things from authors-educators who are evolving as story-based elearning designers. 

Related Blogs:
Does your e-Learning Program carry junk?
Are you guilty of interrupting the learners learning?

Jimenez, Ray, Ph.D., Are You Riding the Waves or the Ripples? Tracking Learning Trends