April 13


understanding goal: the essential elements of storytelling in eLearning

  • Goal: Elements of Storytelling

The concept of ‘the goal’ in storytelling seems fairly straight forward. The goal equates to what the protagonist hopes to achieve by embarking on their journey. Think of Luke Skywalker as he accidentally uncovers a secret message from Princess Leia.  “We have to help her!” becomes Luke’s goal and the rest is cinematic and cultural history.

How does this same concept translate to the narrative of an educational video or online training? And why is a concept such as GOAL seemingly straightforward, but so often either misconstrued or entirely absent from so many training videos? Most educational video content focuses solely on the HOW at the expense of the WHY, so therefore fails to engage the learner as she embarks on her journey. 

Earlier, I dove into the importance of character development and how identifying the characters of the learner and the instructor are essential to creating an engaging and impactful eLearning experience. This identification process captures the emotional state of the learner at the start of the learner’s journey. Just as important, the goal of the content must represent the state of the learner at the completion of the journey. This desired state consists of both emotional and tangible outcomes. The goal represents how the learner should feel and what they should be able to accomplish once they click out of the final video. “The fibers of emotions are the driving force of storytelling and in education this translates into effective knowledge and information transfer for practical applications,” according to Edutrends: Storytelling Observatory of Educational Innovation

Within instructional design, the concept of learner outcomes most closely maps to the element of the goal within storytelling. According to the University of South Carolina’s Center for Teaching Excellence, “Learner outcomes describe the measurable skills, abilities, knowledge or values that students should be able to demonstrate as a result of completing a course. They are student-centered rather than teacher-centered, in that they describe what the students do, not what the instructor will teach.”

As part of every new project’s content development kickoff we ask our clients two questions that aim to identify the goal, or what we call “the promise,” of the content. 

By the end of the course/class/video a learner will be able to __.

By the end of the course/class/video learner will feel __.

Edios Media recently produced an eLearning course for an HR consulting company about the importance of building an inclusive workplace for organizations. The content was designed to benefit both decision makers and independent contributors. We worked closely with the client to identify the promise. 

By the end of the course the learner will have strategies and skills to practice immediately to promote an inclusive work environment. 

By the end of the course the learner will feel empowered and eager to do their small part to contribute to building an inclusive workplace, which may result in personal and professional growth while also providing significant benefits to the organization as a whole. 

In this example, the promise as stated identifies both the HOW (the strategies and skills a learner will possess to build a more inclusive environment), and the WHY (the potential for personal and professional growth as well as a more productive and forward-thinking organization).

Keep in mind that an organization’s objectives for creating video education are often different than the learner’s goals of the education itself.  An organization might be creating video training for marketing purposes, employee or customer retention, monetization, upskilling, or even pure public altruism. These business objectives must be clear and communicated to all of the stakeholders responsible for the creation and delivery of the content. The company objectives should not be confused with the learner’s goals, but they should be aligned.

The company succeeds by delivering on the goals for the learner. 

When content developers take the time early in the development process to identify key elements of the narrative like the goal, or the promise of the content, they are much more likely to deliver a compelling and engaging learning experience that connects with the learner emotionally and tangibly to achieve the desired learning outcomes.

Michael Karsh, Co-founder & Executive Producer, Edios Media

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