How to Write Very, Very, Very Short Stories for Your eLearning – Workshop Tip #256

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To start this off, you don’t need long storytelling in eLearning. They are a waste of time and even if you try hard to perfect them, the results will be of low quality. 

That’s quite an unkind indictment of stories. Stories and storytelling are useful methods. But we must carefully rethink our use of stories in eLearning. As you can see in the image above, we can extract a very short impactful story from lengthier storytelling. 

Most eLearning designers, developers, and leaders want and love stories. But they are uncomfortable using it because of the way they perceive stories based on the “Hollywood” version. They also imagine an “adventure story” and the buzz about the “protagonist” and “antagonist.” All these methods are great for entertainment and for “engaging” audiences. But, it is inappropriate in eLearning. 

This is what I mean. 

What we need are very few images and selecting the most emotional part of the story to share.

In the illustration below, the accident portrayed in image (A) is sufficient to spark learning. while (B) is long storytelling.

To illustrate further, in (A), below is the “once upon a time” story model. It engages, entertains, and enthralls the audience. In (B), there are very, very, very short hyper-stories that allow learners to (1) pause, (2) respond in their mind with their own version of the story, and (3) apply their own stories in relation to work.

In essence, it is: (1) Very Short Story, (2) Own Story, and (3) Apply Ideas at Work. (A) is the storytelling of the Princess and the Prince Frog. (B) is where the princess kissed the frog. He became a prince and they lived happily ever after. 

Using hyper-stories allows learners the time to recursively learn. Autobiographical memory permits the learners to interpret the stories in their own context and apply the meaning of the ideas in their own works or lives. Hyper-stories facilitate thinking and application. The more we allow learners to develop their own stories (their own understanding) the more they learn. What is important are the learners’ stories, not the storytellers’ stories. This is what M. David Merril refers to as “activation.”  What is important are the learners’ stories, not the storytellers’ stories.” 

Follow these tips:
1. Identify your lesson, a small lesson.
2. Find a related incident and event.
3. What is the hyper-story in that event?
4. Ask learners their own related stories.
5. Ask learners what idea is related to the hyper-story and their own story.
Example 1:
1. Wear safety goggles at work to avoid bodily harm.
2. Mary lost her eyesight. She forgot to wear her goggles.
3. Mary and her family are sad. She has to be hospitalized.
4. What is your similar or related story?
5. What is the main idea of the story?
Example 2:
1. Tighten the bolt at desired torque level
2. The truck had engine trouble. The truckload has been delayed. Customers are unwilling to pay.
3. The mechanic was suspended for failing to follow procedures.
4. What is your similar or related story?
5. What is the main idea of the story?

Steps 1, 2, and 3 are where we create a hyper-story. While Steps 4 and 5,  is where we allow learners to create and apply the ideas in the story. 

Autobiographical memory
Recursive Learning – Madhurima Maddela, Student Member, IEEE
First Principle of Instruction (2020)
Story Questions
M. David Merrill
Momentos Events

Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
2. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
3. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
4. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
5. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
6. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars

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