Instructional Design

Once Upon a Time: Engaging Learners Through Storytelling

“Once upon a time, there was a CLO who was tired of learners falling asleep during their training – so she decided to do something about it.”

Sound familiar? A complete lack of connection between learner and material might be responsible for less post-learning retention. Unfortunately, not all training is going to earth-shattering and mind-blowing. As a leader, it’s your job not to spice up the material, but improve the delivery so learners sit up, take notice and actually remember what they’ve learned.

Enter the emotional connection: The best way to increase learner engagement and create a happy ending.

Telling a Good Story

Effective storytelling can help reduce some of the “mental check out” that happens with some training. Instead of launching directly into the materials, starting by painting a picture of what students will learn, how it will help them and what they can expect. Doing so creates an emotional connection before you ever start working your way through the material.

You might need to reach back into your English 101 education, but remember that all good stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Structure your material accordingly to keep learners with you every step of the way.

Making it Personal

Many courses could be summed up in a reaction of “So what?” or, “What’s in it for me?” When learners can’t see the direct link between the material and their own purposes, they automatically tune out.  When you can prove that the training can increase productivity, improve safety or even generate more revenue, learners are more apt to listen up. Suddenly the material becomes personal, because they can picture ways that it will benefit them directly.

Painting a rich picture that relates the subject material to the subjects themselves creates an emotional bond and more incentive to participate.

Encouraging Investment

Until learners are emotionally invested in what they’re learning, it’s easy to switch off their concentration and lose them to daydreaming of their own invention. Creating emotional investments requires some type of participation. Think about it: What projects are you the most invested in? Chances are it’s those that you’ve been an active participant, from start to finish. Don’t expect learners to get involved if you don’t provide ample opportunity for engagement.

You can drive an emotional investment utilizing strategies that prove you want learner involvement, through elements such as:

  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Active Q&A with participants
  • Role playing or scenarios
  • Earning badges for rewards
  • Sharing and connecting via social media after class

In the end, your learners’ emotional connections will match your own: Take the time and prove that you’re invested in the material, and they’ll follow suit.

And that’s how you’ll live happily (and well-trained) ever after.