The Choose Your Own Adventure book series, which many adults may remember from childhood, involved the use of branching logic to engage readers.

Storytelling: E-Learning's Hottest Trend

The books posed a scenario. It could be something as simple as stepping outdoors and making observations about the weather and the wildlife around us, and then seeing two paths ahead. We had to decide: did we turn left or right?

Each answer led to a different page, a different adventure.

Now top e-learning course creators are starting to use this technique in new and innovative ways.

Digital storytelling, an intriguing blend of ancient art and powerful technology, has been found to be extremely effective as an e-learning tool.

In fact, Meghan Hatalla, a higher education technical training and communications specialist, recently identified storytelling to disseminate and evaluate knowledge as one of the top three e-learning trends poised to dominate 2014.

While storytelling can be closely aligned to gamification, it doesn’t have to be. Instead, it is being used to help train health care workers, teachers, sales forces and managers.

Shannon D. Scott, who co-authored a study into the use of narrative storytelling as a knowledge translation tool in health care at the Faculty of Nursing University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, discovered that narrative storytelling could be used to train health care workers in different ways, including diagnosis, therapy, for research, and as a knowledge translation tool to communicate complex health information.

“However, there is untapped potential for alternative uses of narrative, such as a knowledge translation strategy to communicate complex health related information to a variety of stakeholders (patients, families, healthcare providers, and decision makers),” she concluded.

One Minnesota community college is already using the branching logic of storytelling in its nursing course. Students make decisions in an online course as they assess a fictional patient in a life-or-death situation.

Bringing storytelling into e-learning courses in your business or organization is effective in five key areas:

  • Stories cut across cultures, ages, languages and gender barriers, helping learners to connect and remember.
  • Stories engage the disinterested and sustain the attention of the engaged.
  • Persons learning from storytelling do not have to start out with any specialized knowledge or skills to connect and to learn.
  • Stories can motivate and engage multiple kinds of learners, from health care workers to educators to effective team leaders.
  • Instructors can assess student’s reactions to stories to pinpoint areas where they need more training.

E-learning with storytelling can even go further than the basics, suggest Angela Ma Kit Fong and Mike Keppell of the Center for Integrating Technology in Education at The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

“As storytelling can be used as a tool for enhancing understanding and trust, it can serve effectively also as a change agent,” they note. “Stories are important cognitive events of particular pedagogical value because they encapsulate four crucial elements of human communication: information, knowledge, context and emotion.”

Roger C. Schnak, one of the world’s foremost researchers into the impact of storytelling as a teaching tool, suggests in his book Tell Me A Story that all knowledge comes in the form of stories.

“Human beings are naturally predisposed to hear, remember, and to tell stories,” he writes. “The problem for teachers, parents, government leaders, friends and computers is to have more interesting stories to tell.”