Why Storytelling Works for E-Learning

Recently I had the opportunity to read an excellent article on “Why You Need To Use Storytelling For Learning” from the eLearning coach blog. I happened upon this blog shortly after rereading a web document about Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Ideas were bouncing around in my head about the way we build online courses to achieve learning objectives and how storytelling so aptly helps us achieve those objectives.

ImageIllustration by Milo Winter
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bloom’s lowest order of thinking skills, remembering, the basis of any educational experience, is so much easier to do when it is tied to a story that the listener can recall. Memorizing anything feels like work. Listening to a story is just fun. Understanding the context of the story draws us into the story and helps the viewer gain awareness of gray areas in order to broaden our perception when applying the subtleties in real world application.

Sometimes I wonder at our abilities to create meaningful discussions in our online classes, but today I marveled at technologies ability to foster a learning experience in a discussion board when I viewed a discussion in a one of the classes in the Digital Journalism and Design program at USF St. Petersburg, Digital Media and Democracy. The discussion was about Fact Checking and the pressure that the news industry faces when trying to be first to get on air with a story. This particular discussion has accumulated 95 responses in a class of 21. While it isn’t the numbers that I am excited about, even though if you were to count the number of students contributing in a discussion in a face to face class I don’t think you would ever hit 95 contributions, it is the quality of the responses and the ability to ferret out fine details through the use of video citations and relevant links that excites me.

One student added to the discussion by adding a link to a portion of a video from the movie Newsroom. In the video, the newsroom was responding to the Gabby Gifford shooting and was illustrating the internal dissension as to whether or not to report her dead, when other news agencies were reporting that unverified information. We sometimes forget about the impact of videos and their ability to communicate unique and powerful stories and their nuances. Understanding the pressure the news agencies are living, is communicated through character portrayal in a realistic setting with a current and heartbreaking story about real people. Relating the instructor provided materials of this module to this link to illustrate a point, would simply not have happened in a regular face to face classroom. The student would have had to come to class ready with the reference link to have added it to the discussion before the class ever took place. In Bloom-speak, he synthesized the material applying it to his own experience, before he created his own posting.  It brought the discussion alive to me, rendering an impression that transported the discussion into my life outside the classroom, to coworkers, friends and readers of this post.

The integration of stories whether by instructor, or by learner, help engage and make meaning. The eLearning Coach does a good job at reminding us of all the components that make stories so effective. If you have a minute pull up a seat and take a look here.

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