Assessing Authenticity Quotient in 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:  Authenticity is the heart of Story-based eLearning design.  eDevelopers do not use stories to create fiction out of human stories. On the other hand, it is their task to develop authentic human situations in their designs.  Stories are the scaffoldings  in eLearning.  It is the framework where we stand on while we build our lessons. If our story designs are not authentic, our lessons become superficial and we would not be able to achieve our lesson objective.

Assessing authenticity quotient in Story-based eLearning design
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A few weeks ago, I introduced the basic principles of Story-based eLearning design to a batch of teacher-authors . After the given period of time to develop their story-based lesson, I asked each group to present their outputs to the class. Here are summary points of the presentation:

  • A group composed of varied subject teachers created a story design to teach conjunctions. They drew a mother and a child separated by a huge chasm. The conflict of the story is the divide that separated the mother and child. They explained that the resolution of the story lies on how the learner could bridge the two separated individuals. So, they drew a small section from where the learners can select 1.) a rope 2.) a plank of wood and, 3.) a bridge. Each of these represents the correct conjunction that will correctly complete a sentence. When the correct answer is punched in, the gap is resolved and the mother and child reunite at the middle of the bridge.
  • A group of science teachers opted to teach a lesson for heat transfer by showing a drawing of two broken eggs casually conversing on the sidewalk while being cooked sunny side style up by the heat of the pavement.
  • A group of math teachers decided to teach budgeting by devising a story about a boy who received an allowance from his father. The boy goes around town to buy stuff but he has to make sure he does not go over the budget.

I was thrilled as I watched these teachers present their story-design lessons. They have humanized their stories and quite effectively entwined their lessons in them. I gave a couple of suggestions on how to further improve their concepts and the class offered their ideas as well. It was a lively session.

I have several blogs and even a webinar on the importance of authenticity in story-based design. Authenticity is the soul of story-based design. Stories by themselves can be fictional but they should represent authentic and believable human situations. Without authenticity, connection with the learners is quite impossible. 

Coincidentally, I chanced upon the blog of Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins entitled To Be Authentic, Look Beyond Yourself in the Harvard Business Review. The authors have very strong valid points about authenticity:

“Authenticity — what is it, who has it, and how do you get it? Most people associate authenticity with being true to oneself — or “walking the talk.” But there’s a problem with that association; it focuses on how you feel about yourself. Authenticity is actually a relational behavior, not a self-centered one. Meaning that to be truly authentic, you must not only be comfortable with yourself, but must also comfortably connect with others.”

As story-based lesson designers, we should assess our outputs with two questions:

  • Does our lesson evoke authentic human feelings and reactions from us?
  • Can our lesson evoke authentic human feelings and reaction from our learners?

What is authentic for us may not be necessarily authentic for our learners. A story about “X+X giving birth to aY” may thrill a physicist but it may fail to garner interest from the learners. We must be able to water two sides of the field in story-based design: ours and our learner’s. 

Based on the blog of Su and Wilkins, I suggest that the authenticity quotient of story-based lesson design be assessed by these factors:

Point of View Factor. How are you expressing your point of view? Are you expressing it too forcefully that it can be mistaken for the truth or fact in your design? Is your design based also from the points and perspective of your elearners? Do you base your design from surveys and studies based on interaction with different people?

Positioning Factor. Do you stand at a neutral position whenever you design your story-based lesson or are you biased so that you can get the results you want?

Personal History Factor. Authenticity comes from real human experience. Be aware and conscious of your random spontaneous and authentic reactions and disposition whenever you are confronted with real-life conflict. Use this experience to make your story design authentic. 

Related Blog
How the ‘Anchoring Effect’ Affects eLearning Scenario Development
eLearning Lies or Truths? How do you find authentic stories?

To Be Authentic, Look Beyond Yourself by Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins