Keep Learners Motivated Using Hyper-Stories – Tip #98

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Click. Click. Click. Zzz.

Let’s face it. Having learners go through numerous slides or pages to learn important work-related information – in fact, any new information – is definitely one surefire way to bore your learners to death. 

When learners are bored, they learn little or nothing at all from the training. Boring e-learning de-motivates learners, making learning difficult. Motivation and curiosity are major factors that drive learners to continue, push through, or finish a course or program. Without any motivation, they drift off and refocus on something more interesting.

Cultivating learners’ curiosity when it comes to learning is very important. A study by Gruber et al. published in the journal Neuron found that people learn better when they are curious about what they’re learning.

Why You Have Bored Learners

Data does not come from thin air. It does not come from computers churning them out into great infographics. I once saw this placard from a science lab:

To understand why we have bored learners, it’s important to know what being “bored” means. According to psychological scientist John Eastwood and colleagues, boredom is “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.” Eastwood et al. describes a bored person as someone who has difficulty paying attention to internal information (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external stimuli (e.i, the learning environment). They’re also aware of the fact that they have this difficulty and believe it’s the environment’s fault. 

In short, this means learners want to be engaged but for one thing reason or another,  just can’t. As trainers and designers, it’s our job to make sure we’re able to stimulate learners’ interest enough to keep their attention on the course or lesson. Sustaining learners’ interest is important. because It’s a major factor on how much they persist in learning tasks and ultimately their success. 

This also means boring content is therefore a loss-loss situation for everyone involved. It wastes resources (time, money, effort) of the learners, the designers, and the company or organization. and It provides no benefit to learners as well (minimal to no learning equals minimal to no application).

How Hyper-Stories Engage Learners

The ultimate goal when we’re designing or conducting trainings, workshops, or seminars is to have learners do a desired behavior, for instance to be able to appropriately handle an unlabeled drum. To achieve this result, we must keep our learners focused, engaged, and motivated throughout the training. The last thing we want are disengaged and zoned-out learners. 

To help learners go from minimum knowledge to having enough functional know-how about a certain topic in a short period of time means learners should have a way to quickly learn new information. This is possible with instant learning. It is the concept of teaching one idea to learners that results in one action or behavior they can apply right away. Instant learning works because it helps learners focus and keeps them motivated. One method that facilitates instant learning is the use of hyper-stories.

Hyper-stories are very short but very actual day-to-day events that allow learners to quickly connect the lesson to its application in real life. Hyper-stories compress the typical story arch and take learners from Crisis to Resolution very quickly.

The shortest distance between Crisis and Resolution

By using hyper-stories, trainers are providing learners with content that is evocative, provocative, and engaging. The use of a story that could potentially happen in real life breathes meaning to the information presented in the training. It helps learners clearly see when and how they can apply the lessons.


Hyper-stories create a win-win situation for both trainers and learners. Trainers use hyper-stories to keep learners engaged, motivated and focused. In the end, your learners walk away from the training with new learning they can immediately apply in their work. The distinct advantage of the approach is that learners stay glued, involved, totally focused and enjoyed the learning exchanges.


Elaine Biech. “ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals.” American Society for Training and Development, 2008

Matthias J. Gruber et al. “States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit.” Neuron, published online October 02, 2014; doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060

Association for Psychological Science. “I’m Bored! – Research on Attention Sheds Light on the Unengaged Mind”. September 26, 2012

Kyong-Jee Kim. “Adult Learners’ Motivation in Self-Directed E-Learning”. August 2005

Ray Jimenez, PhD

Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”

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