How to Implement a Corporate Wide Story-Based Learning – Tip #83

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In the workshops that I conducted on Story-based eLearning Design, participants constantly ask: How do we implement Story-Based Learning in our entire company or in various forms of our learning?  There is no one sure-fire answer to accomplish this. However, there are concerted strategies that help your organization apply the Story-Based Learning Design.

Reputation of Stories and Storytelling

An advantage is that most employees and leaders are very familiar with the concept of stories and storytelling. The use of stories is fun, engaging and entertaining — not boring. The downside is that there is an inertia in most organizations to push “telling” and “data dump” as a method of learning. This is linear design which is a huge hurdle.

Fighting the Momentum of Linear Design

The power and thrust of linear design is so strong, that sometimes, it seems so difficult to make a change.
Over the past few years I have been meeting clients, both large and small-size companies, wanting to inject, energize or revitalize their learning and training programs using principles from the Story-Based Design. Some of these companies want all their designers to embrace and always include some form of story and story-design and context design into their programs.
This is well and good, but how do we implement the ideas? Always follow up by asking the participants certain questions.

What is Story-Based Learning?

The focus of the Story-Based Learning is getting learners involved with the stories and experiences related with the content. The immediate thrust is adding context, helping learners find meaning and applications of the content. Story-Based Learning is not a specific method and technique. Many methods we use today are Story-Based  though we use different labels. Examples are: discovery, troubleshooting, problem solving, critical incidents, case studies, scenarios, branching, social conversations and sharing, diagnostics, and many others.

The Starting Point is Content Delivery

Most of the opportunities when making a change in Learning Design is through delivery of content. Hence, this is where we focus our strategies. Other types of learning thrusts may need other strategies.

Implementation Tips

Small Lesson Changes – Easier to Implement

Using a small or micro Story-Based Lesson  like the “My Declined Credit Card”, provide opportunities to change small sections of your content. There is a temptation amongst learning specialists and leaders to be carried away by their enthusiasm. When they find a new model, like Story-based Learning, they want to immediately make a total change to the courses and projects. Resist this temptation. Be conservative. Focus on small nuggets and snippets that you can redesign to use the Story-Based lesson.
Showcase Your New Lessons to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Seeing is believing and buying a concept by seeing a product is more compelling than 
telling about the product.

Help your SMEs to understand the new design by seeing and feeling and having an experience. The theory becomes useful when seen in action.
Over time, develop your own library of models, like these models I created.
Show Proof that Stories Impact Learning

To prove that stories and real-life events impact learning positively, do a simple exercise and show it:

  • Select and compare two small lessons.
  • One with purely static and factual data and the other one with some stories to relate the value of the data. Conduct a small test and obtain the results.

More Inexpensive Approaches

In constructing lessons, you may borrow (adhere to Creative Commons policy) some stories from the web sources like YouTube stories. The goal is to find a story and use this as the heart of your Story-Based lesson.
Use videos for your Story-Based lessons. But don’t just show the videos. Have an “experience-sharing” discussion about the ideas from the videos. See how we borrowed the video on “First Date” and add interaction to the video.

Even Easier to Implement – Story Conversations

An Interactive story is unlike storytelling. Interactive stories may be applied in all types of learning. It can be applied in social learning, presentations like Chalk Talk, face to face classes, and even in webinars.

It’s About the Learners’ Stories

The thing to remember is that Story-Based Learning is not a tool, a technology, or a process. It is a belief system and value system that’s says:


Fighting the momentum of linear design can be difficult. You will certainly meet all kinds of resistance. But if you implement the tips presented here and slowly but surely embed Story-Based learning in your content design, you will eventually see gradual acceptance. If you believe that learners should take center stage rather than the trainer, then  Story-Based learning is the best way to move forward. 

Ray Jimenez, PhD

Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”