The StoryLearn™ Process
At IDEAS Learning we combine our expertise in instructional design and general systems theory with our expertise in creating powerful stories. StoryLearn™ is the proprietary method by which we design, develop, and implement learning products driven and enriched by the power of storytelling.
StoryLearn™ involves many steps, but it goes through the following phases: Analyzing the metrics, structuring the learning, cognitive engineering, create the story, choose the platform, production, and deployment.
Start with the Metrics
We start the process by discovering what change or measurable outcome defines success for the learner. Using the measure as a guide, we reverse engineer the process to drive to outcome.
We think of learners as the audience and define all the discernable learner characteristics to inform the training design and the story so it drives the audience toward the desired outcome.
We ask ourselves questions like:
What’s the desired outcome in the world?
How will the telling of this story be measured?
Who’s this story for?
What’s the best way for this audience to encounter the story?
What’s the optimum way to present it?
It’s important to note, that we aren’t actually creating the story yet…simply setting the stage. Likewise, decisions about what that solution may look like, what it contains, and how people might access it are determined later during the development process according to appropriate factors such as budget, schedule, audience, and technologies.
Structure the Learning
Then, using subject matter experts (either people or other resources), we define the information or tasks to be learned, and from those we create the learning objectives. The learning objectives spell out clearly what will be learned, how well, and by when.
This discovery process is also a rigorous gleaning of all the pertinent information, conditions, and other realities that shape the world in which the story solution has to exist. New questions arise:
Who is the story about?
What is the right way to tell it?
How will it impact the audience?
Look to the Mind of the Learner
The StoryLearn™ process next brings to bear the science of cognitive engineering — applying the skills of human performance factors, interface design, psychology, and other disciplines of the science of mind.
The next step is to craft a story with precision, one that will carry the information to be learned and provide a context for the learning. We create a real story…not a scenario or “story sandwich” that merely gives a little slice of story, followed by a large slab of information, which is then followed by another little slice of story!
A real story has a plot with some sort of conflict (which must be resolved), characters with which the learner can relate, and a setting in which it takes place. Stories are told — they have a voice, or a point of view, and good stories create emotion in the learner. In fact, emotion is what makes the story become “real.” A well-crafted story will use all of these story elements to drive the learning, and allow the learners to practice with information or tasks so that a positive transfer of learning to the “real world” can happen easily. Great stories facilitate the suspension of disbelief, which allows the information to be more easily processed, stored, and retrieved than simply facts alone can.
Only after this instructional design and story work is completed do we choose the correct delivery system technology (or system of technologies) that ideally suits the learner, the context, and the tasks or information to be learned.
We believe that remaining platform agnostic (not married to one delivery platform) until a project is fully developed is critical to the doctrine of integration: assuring that our work delivers in a multi-modal and cross-functional way for our clients and our special audiences.
A good deal of the platform decision has to do with delivery with the right fidelity. Fidelity is just a scale for how real the story should be. The trick is in knowing which knobs to tweak in ramping up or turning down the fidelity. Just how much is crucial in maintaining an appropriate balance between the strength of the teller and the power of the tale given a specific audience, intention, and delivery environment.
Finally, we produce the product (book, video, audio, web-based training, computer-based training or immersive environment) from concept through final test-and-adjust.
That test-and-adjust step is so important. The best stories are not closed… they’re heuristic! Storytellers, and great products, need to respond to feedback from the audience about how the story was received and how well it delivered the desired outcome. Feedback needs to continue to shape and tailor the story so the teller can maintain an engaging relationship with the audience. Using our own proprietary tools and heuristic methods, we provide both learner assessment and corrective feedback to the StoryLearn™ product.
The best story in the world packed with the slickest tricks of the trade won’t work if the audience loses interest anywhere along the way. After all, a story is only as good as the telling, whether the telling is by voice, text, video, web, or as a live experience.