Put the elements of viral videos in eLearning story 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. Social media has made it incredibly easy for the so-called ‘viral videos’ to circulate in the net. Creating viral videos is not circumstantial nor accidental. They contain elements that project a certain appeal that hooks the audience to the point where they are compelled to share or repost it. This blog will show how elearning developers can learn from viral videos so that they can improve the appeal of their interactive story design.
Image source: www.cebudailynews.wordpress.com

I am quite sure that at one time during your social media life, you may have shared or watched a video which you found amusing, interesting or meaningful. These videos are either funny (those that can make your day) as well as entertaining (those that relieve you of stress). There are also viral videos that respond to global tragedies, part of an awareness campaign or advocacy effort to support a significant cause.
Jessica Leber in Technology Review writes:

“A video or article or meme “going viral” is one of the most overused terms on the Internet. The term “virality” is taken from the field of epidemiology, where scientists using computer models attempt to map the spread of a disease. On the Internet, however, we have viral marketers. These are folks who can talk a good game— they even have mathematical equations with borrowed ideas like the virality coefficient—but very little in the way to measure these in a rigorous way. Mostly, we resort to saying something has gone viral simply if it gets a lot of views on YouTube, is trending on Twitter, or spawns a mutated meme. And, of course, if your friends already know about it when you bring it up. Oh, THAT, video.”

Now, it got me wondering: what are the elements in successful viral videos which can be extracted and then applied to elearning and story-based design? The points in my list below are not new, but it would be good to appreciate these elements from the perspective of a viral video.

  • Allow the learners to discover for themselves the solution or the answers. Watch this video. In creating story-based design, the developers should allow the learners to discover of the solution of the conflict. In this viral video, the viewers are immediately piqued by the twist of the story and its anticipated outcome.The Power of Words has more than 16,000,000+ views. 
  • Project realistic human emotion or reaction. Watch this video. Story-based designs are effective if they could mirror real-life scenarios in a believable way. Learners easily connect with the lesson if they could identify themselves with the characters of the story-based scenarios. In this viral video, the spontaneity and innocence of the characters are irresistible. Charlie Bit My Finger has more than 361,300,000 views.
  • Show a different perspective or unexpected plot. Watch this video. Prisoners have a bad reputation as dangerous and violent people. But this viral video shows a different perspective about prisoners: disciplined, artistic and creative people. Effective story-based design include interesting ordinary storylines presented in an extraordinary way. Cebu Prison Inmates – Thriller has more than 52,000,000 views.
  • Develop the right content for the right audience. Watch this video. This video was designed to target a specific audience: cat lovers. Niche content is aimed to target a certain audience or group. eLearning developers should make sure that their story-based design is customized according to the needs of their elearners. Funny Cats in Water has more than 50,000,000 viewers.

Related blogs:
Creating Engaging Technical eLearning – Move Learners to Tears
Lincoln, the Storyteller

Researchers Peek at the Structure of the Viral Internet Microsoft shows how it tracked the spread of more than 1.4 billion tweets by Jessica Leber

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