Story-Based Design Models That Bridge the Gap Between Learners and Content – Tip #207

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In one of my previous blogs, I shared with you my insights on how technology has changed the way stories are told and how we can actually use it to create stories that will help learners learn better. Gone were the days when good stories needed to have a beginning, middle and end. We now see certain types that may lack parts of that structure, yet remain very engaging and impactful.

The Big Shift in Storytelling

The change in how we do stories, from simple storytelling to interactive stories, has made story-based elearning design more interesting. The main difference is seen in how it is done and delivered. Before, it took some kind of expertise to develop a good story, but now everyone can be an expert. Everyone has the ability to create and publish their own stories. Technology, of course, plays a very significant part. It became so much easier to produce visually appealing content. Stories have become shorter too. This certainly sits well with today’s learners’ shorter attention span. This means that our elearning designs need to adapt as well.

Context Matters

The most important thing to remember when creating story-lessons is this: what matters most are the people looking at it – the learners. They decide what the context should be. Lessons are not useful if our learners can’t relate to it. The challenge is how to create story-based elearning designs that bridge the gap between the content and what it actually means to the learners.

Advanced Story-Based eLearning Design Models

Model #1 Jolt Stories

This is one of the classic models that I’ve developed, where the story is presented in a very short but highly climactic manner. Jolt Stories are useful when you don’t want to go full-on storytelling but still want to capture your learner’s attention by making use of the most emotional part of the story. It drives the learners to get involved. That way, content becomes more meaningful and easily understood by the learners. See the example below.

The story is shorter yet, allows the learner better active involvement.

Model #2 Visualizing Stories

The problem when designing for technical or factual content is that there is so much data. As a result, we don’t seem to know how to organize them in way that is engaging and relevant to the learners. This model uses visually appealing graphics and a timeline flow to convert what seems to be “boring” technical data into an enjoyable story that draws the learners in. View example below.

Question: How does the timeline flow of the graphics allow the learners to quickly bring in their own context?

Model #3 Realistic Framing

It shows an optimal slide-framing between scenario and story-based design. This model is very useful as it gives learners a vivid picture of reality that they can easily connect to their own experiences. In Realistic Framing, we capture learners’ attention by giving real-life scenarios. Involve your learners by showing them the outcome of the choices they make. See the example below.

Question: How does the ability to closely visualize realistic experiences allow the learners to quickly bring in their own context?

Model #4 Mapping Experience

The concept of Mapping Experience is when we are able to replicate the flow of experiences that a particular person goes through during the process. It allows the learner to see the bigger picture and relate himself to the experiences of others. They relate, they empathize, they share their own experiences, they learn. Ponder on the example below.

Model #5 Technical Realism

What about technical content? Why is it very helpful for a learner to see a story even when content is technical in nature? Ever since I started working on story designs, I’ve been encouraging clients and companies to understand that unless we show data in a form of a story that a learner can easily relate to, the chances of lessons registering in the minds of the learners is really small. No matter how complex technical information is, it can still be delivered through stories. That is Technical Realism. An example is shown below.

Model #6 Situational Thinking

How does the Situational Thinking model allow learners to apply ideas and learn better? The whole idea of this model involves are putting learners into specific, real-life situations where they can think through the issues themselves. They can also brainstorm with peers. Learning is accelerated through experience sharing. A good example is a software platform that I’ve developed called Situation. Expert, where workers and team members fix, solve and improve work situations by sharing their personal experiences and expertises.

Model #7 Immersive Stories

Immersive Stories extend the ability of learners to relate to the lesson by stirring their emotions. They pull the learners into the story. Hence, learners actually feel like they are a part of it. When learners are so engrossed with a very emotional story, it moves them. It opens them up to a deeper understanding of the content. Provoke your learners’ emotions. Immerse them in the story. It will help them learn faster and better. Click the link to the video below.


While it’s true that technology has greatly influenced the story-based elearning design process, let’s not forget what truly matters – the learners. It is important that we are able to adapt and take advantage of all the technology available to us. However, recognize that no matter how cool or visually appealing your lessons are, the chances of it registering in the minds of the learners are minute without context. This is why story-based lessons are valuable. They transform content, even the most complex and technical ones, into something that learners can relate to. Story Lessons enable learners to bring in their own version of the story quickly. These allow them to learn and better apply the ideas they’ve learned. Reflect on these models. Which of these do you think you can immediately apply?

Related blogs

Tip 55 – Discover the Secrets that Make the Story-Based Lesson Tick

Tip 86 – Is your content out of context or in context?

Tip 141 – Advanced Models of Story-Based eLearning Design


Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams, Amazon

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”