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Friday, February 26, 2010

Creating a "Story" as the Foundation for Virtual World Learning Events

Good stories shouldn't be relegate to only reading
 a novel on the beach, use them to promote learning!

Storytelling is a powerful instructional tool, stories help learners contextualize information and gives them an experience-base from which they can recall techniques and actions when encountering the same situation at work. With virtual worlds, we can expand the use of storytelling. In a 3D virtual world, the learner is not just observing a story or scenario, the learner becomes a character within the story.

To create an effective story within a virtual world, you need to create the following elements:
  • Characters-This would include the learner or learners. Each learner should assume a role or a position similar to what they would be doing on the job or a trainer assumes a role of a client or a supervisor. Each role should have a brief written explanation so the learners know how they should act within their role.

  • Plot (something happens)-Maybe a salesperson is trying to make a sale or a person violates a safety procedure or they must lead a team to accomplish a goal. Something needs to happen to move the story from point A to point B.

  • Tension-Good stories have tension. Something might go wrong or there is conflict between two of the individuals within the story. The context of the situation will impact the story and cause friction among the characters (learners). Conflict isn't a bad thing in learning, it happens on the job and so it needs to be mimicked in learning situations as well.

  • Resolution-The issue must be resolved. This is where the learning comes in. The tension causes a learner to have to take an action, commit to a behavior and, as the story unfolds, feedback is given to the learner describing if the right or incorrect actions were taken. During the resolution phase, the problem can be resolved satisfactorily or in an unsatisfactory manner. Both of those outcomes provide opportunities for feedback and learning.

  • Conclusion-This is the resolution of the story. The learner then finds out what happened to the other "characters" what they should or could have done and learns rules or guidelines of what to do next.
Adding these elements together in a virtual world learning event creates an effective story for learning. An instructional story can unfold with a character encountering a problem or a situation, the problem builds tension in the story as the character may not know what to do or how to react or, worse, may do the wrong thing. Then a solution is offered in the form of a colleague, a moment of inspiration or an idea (or even reading a policy) and then results are presented in a positive manner.

This simple structure can be used for compliance-based story scenarios or sales-based scenarios or manufacturing based scenarios--really any type of learning.

Stories can help learners understand what they must do to be successful in their work environment. It is as if a wise mentor or co-worker is telling them the best method to deal with a situation at work. This type of information sharing is a common form of communication. One worker tells another a “story” about how to do a job or what to avoid. Learners and employees remember stories more effectively than random lists of policies and procedures.

A well crafted story is focused on helping the learner to solve problems and when it is done in a virtual world, the learner is immersed in the context of the situation and the learning becomes meaningful and memorable. 

Other Storytelling entires:
  Storytelling and Instructional Design
  Tell me a story
  A Unique Perspective on Video Games and Storytelling

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Rachel Upadhyay said...
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Rachel Upadhyay said...

That was a very interesting post. It’s a great concept to incorporate building a story into delivering instruction as a way to really engage the learners and work with them on problem-solving skills. Whereas you talk about it here using the idea of virtual worlds, I read a post yesterday by Geeta Bose in her blog IDiot, Idiot's Guide to Storyboarding, about trying to incorporate that same idea of creating a story when developing storyboards for instruction. She mentioned that much like a Bollywood movie (which was her inspiration for the post), instruction should have well-developed characters, smooth flow and transitions, a number of good examples, narration, and “minimal jazz.” As a student of instructional design, it’s exciting to me to read posts like these; they open my eyes to more possibilities in delivering instruction, especially with ways that make our instruction “more human and less digital,” as Geeta put it.