Technical Content Design And Storytelling
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Architecting Technical Content With Stories

Technical trainings are a crucial part of corporate training. The learning effectiveness is directly proportional to the Return On Investment (ROI) of training programs and a company’s growth. In this context, technical content design plays an important role in improving the learning effectiveness of technical trainings. Consider a scenario where an eCommerce organization wants to upgrade its mobile app to Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled mobile application. This creates a need for the training to upskill developers on relevant technologies. In such scenarios, Learning and Development (L&D) faces multifold challenges in designing the training content and imparting technical knowledge because of various facts:

  • Rapid technological advancements/disruptions
  • Inclusiveness of multiple technologies
  • Content complexity
  • High abstraction
  • Skills application

Because of the above-said facets of technical content, its design poses challenges in terms of learning effectiveness: learner engagement, learning experience, and knowledge retention and application.

Story Elements And Bloom's Objectives

Stories are used for effective communication from time immemorial. Stories can improve one's perspective or change insights, motivate an audience, convey information, and share knowledge [1]. Stories influence and inspire people and create an impact as they emotionally connect with them.

Storytelling demonstrates concepts better than simply stating them directly. It can be an effective tool to impart complex technical skills and thus help achieve the learning objectives. Good design of basic story elements and narration helps depict different aspects of technical content: context, challenge, process, logic, application and more. The following table proposes how story elements align with Bloom's Taxonomy to achieve learning objectives.

Basic Story Elements Description Bloom's Objectives 
 Place and Context (Beginning) Connects to situations in which the challenges occur Knowledge
 Purpose Provides the prospect to open on issues/challenges that form the basis of the story Knowledge, Comprehension
People Relates to the characters/emotions that pose challenges and try out resolutions Knowledge, Comprehension
Strategy Unfolds the idea, process/procedures for a solution that the audience wishes to understand Understand, Application, Analysis
End The outcome/resolution for the problems/challenges and inferences Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation/Create

Benefits Of Implementing Storytelling In Technical Content Design

Technical content designed by using stories that have relevant content, powerful construction, and narration appeal to the audience.

  • Simplify complex concepts
    The story elements explain the complex technical features, data, concepts, logic, and application in a simpler way.
  • Accommodate different learner types
    Stories have the power to engross the audience of any learner type. Visual learners learn by the mental images that stories induce. Auditory learners converge on the words in narration, and kinesthetic learners absorb emotions, connections, and feelings in the story.

Peter Guber says, “Purposeful storytelling isn’t show business, it’s good business.” A story with a purpose, scenario/s filled with characters, emotions, narration in the design has huge benefits in improving learning effectiveness.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
    Stories call for the learning of new terms and exploring the imagination. Learners through stories organize their understanding of technical terms and concepts and come up with different interpretations, backing them up with details and reasoning.
  • Learning absorption and retention
    According to Peg Neuhauser, an organizational psychologist, learning from a well-narrated tale is retained more accurately and for far longer, than learning from mere facts and numbers. Likewise, a study by Jerome Bruner, a psychologist, indicates the fact retention rate is supposedly 20 times greater when learners are taught through a story [2]. The context and relevance explained in stories through their elements help learners remember technical concepts and skills easily.
  • Learning experience
    Stories connect with emotions and learners are more participative in learning through stories. This involvement makes the audience feel that the idea explained is their own and thus enhances their learning experience.
  • Learner engagement
    Stories engage learners through relevant situations and emotions. They recognize themselves in the characters and emotions in the story. Learners relate to experiences in the story (scenario/s filled with characters, emotions, and narration), thereby, keeping them hooked on the content.

Narrative Structure In Technical Content Design

Stories deliver content in order. A resolution follows challenges in stories. The narrative structure of stories, while architecting technical content, can easily explain the problem statement, the context in which the problem occurs, the processes used to arrive at the problem solution and, finally, the resolution, as said below:

  1. What happened
    Describes the illustrative problem statement that covers the challenges managed by the technology to be learned.
    Benefit
    The story beginning with the proper problem illustration provides clarity on the likely challenges handled by the technology to be learned, creating interest in the learning module.
  2. Why it happened
    Uncovers the possible causes for the problem statement (optional; based on the technology to be learned and the requirement).
    Benefit
    This part of the design, explaining the cause for the problem, familiarizes learners with the context of the problem statement, providing a better understanding.
  3. How to solve
    Reveals features of the technology to be learned. This part of the story explains how the feature/features of the technology can be used to provide a solution for the specified problem statement.
    Benefit
    This strategic aspect of the story helps learners apply learning in the workplace.
  4. Resolution
    Emphasizes what and how the features of the technology can be applied to solve the problem of interest.
    Benefit
    It offers clarity about the learning.

Stories pave the way for effective communication through emotions and connections. The story elements and its narrative structure convey the core and abstract concepts and help with the better reception and absorption by an audience.

References:

[1] Storytelling in Mentoring: An Exploratory, Qualitative Study of Facilitating Learning in Developmental Interactions

[2] What Makes Storytelling So Effective For Learning?

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