9 Mistakes To Avoid When Using Personal Anecdotes In eLearning
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Common Mistakes To Avoid When Using Personal Anecdotes In eLearning

Incorporating personal anecdotes in eLearning may seem relatively easy. After all, each of us has a wealth of stories saved up from past experiences. However, there’s more to it than simply copying and pasting daily reflections from your social media page. The secret to using this memorable and meaningful eLearning resource is to strike a careful balance between facts and feelings. Avoid these 9 mistakes to incorporate personal anecdotes in eLearning without making your audience feel alienated, uncomfortable, or excluded.

1. Getting Too Personal

The point of personal anecdotes in eLearning is to highlight the subject matter in a practical context. Sure, there’s some emotional elements involved so that online learners are able to connect with the eLearning content. However, things shouldn’t get too personal. Avoid details that might make online learners feel uncomfortable or cringe, such as mentioning past heartbreaks or personal problems that don’t really tie into the topic. Even if you can find a unique angle to work them, resist the urge.

2. Offending Online Learners With Well-Meaning Humor

Humor can lighten the mood and engage online learners. But that’s only in small doses and when it doesn’t offend certain members of your audience. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to include subtle touches of humor in your personal anecdote. You should draw the line when the humor may cause offense or make certain online learners feel alienated or singled out, such as using jokes that are off-color or taking jabs at stereotypes. The secret to successfully using humor is to steer clear of sarcasm or cynicism.

3. Striking The Wrong Tone

There should be a common theme or tone that runs through the entire personal anecdote. Keep it conversational and relatable so that online learners can connect. But still, maintain professionalism to enhance credibility. For example, using slang probably isn’t the best idea. Create a brief outline beforehand that describes the tone, story arc, and key takeaways so that you maintain consistency.

4. Including Too Much Emotional Baggage

Fostering emotional connectivity is crucial, but that doesn’t mean you should recount every feeling you had during the experience. Personal anecdotes in eLearning should contain the facts and takeaways so that online learners can see how your actions or behaviors lead to real-world consequences. The goal isn’t to evoke sympathy or pity, but to immerse them in practical situations so that they can learn from your example.

5. Not Connecting With Your Online Learners On An Emotional Level

Another common mistake falls at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. The anecdote should feel like it was written by a human being instead of an android. Case studies or real-world examples convey the facts in a more direct manner, but personal anecdotes are meant to give them an insider’s perspective so that they can immerse themselves in the situation.

6. Failing To Support The Learning Objectives

The learning objectives and desired outcomes should be the foundation of your personal anecdote. How can online learners use the information to achieve their goals and better comprehend the topic? Does it give them greater insight into how to complete a task or improve their workplace performance? Before you start writing your personal anecdote, clarify the learning objectives and use them as a guide to create the ideal story arc.

7. Using Only Text To Tell Your Story

The most convincing personal anecdotes don’t just rely on text to tell the story. They use images, graphics, audio, and other media to bring it to life. You can even produce a short video that pairs audio narration with images and charts to emphasize the points. Don’t forget to include subtitles for online learners with special needs. Another way to enhance the value of your personal anecdotes in eLearning is to follow up with activities, such as simulations or serious games that improve immersion and allow online learners to apply the knowledge.

8. Too Much Backstory

Online learners don’t necessarily need to know what you ate for lunch or how you met the co-worker featured in the story. Avoid providing too much backstory so that online learners can focus on the current situation instead of being distracted by extraneous details. Or worse yet, having to deal with cognitive overload. For instance, your personal anecdote involves a conflict between two co-workers. You can explain how you helped to resolve the situation using specific skills and experience, but you don’t have to describe what both parties are wearing or how long they’ve worked for the company.

9. Forgetting To Edit The Finished Product

Storytelling involves a significant amount of revision. A personal anecdote may contain your own personal thoughts and feelings. However, you still need to do a quality assurance check to fix errors and evaluate the tone. In fact, you may want to have someone else edit the content and provide feedback, as they are more distanced from the situation and can give you a more unbiased perspective. For instance, you may have overlooked some extraneous personal details or brought too much emotional baggage onboard. You might also consider collecting feedback from online learners after the fact to get their take. Did the anecdote mesh with your existing eLearning course design or did it seem out of place?

Personal anecdotes in eLearning add a human element. They help online learners see things from a new perspective and, hopefully, relate to the subject matter on a deeper level. However, if you fail to avoid these 9 common mistakes, your anecdotes may turn into distractions. Don’t overshare or overstep the emotional boundaries. Above all else, ensure that your story ties into the topic and conveys the right tone.

Another great way to connect with your audience and emphasize practical applications is by using real-world examples. Read the article 7 Tips For Using Real-World Examples In eLearning to discover 7 tips to use these memorable training tools in your eLearning course.

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