Story telling and instructional design have a lot in common and perhaps they are not thought of as having any overlap but they do. In e-learning we have instructional strategies, in a story we have a plot. In e-learning we have objectives, in a story we have a morale or an underlying theme or symbolism (good ones anyway, i.e. the Christ references in the original Matrix). In storytelling we have characters, in e-learning we are teaching people to perform certain roles (order entry clerk, salesperson).
But there are differences which impact the ability to include storytelling in learning.
In ID we break everything down into compent pieces, in storytelling, we integrate everything together. In storytelling we take the time to provide the context and environmnent in which the story takes place, in ID we usually just plop the person in the middle of the content to be learned (we are not supposed to but…that happens more often than not). In storytelling we aim to create connections to the audience, in most e-learning…we just tell the learner stuff he/she needs to know (like policies and procedures).
So the question might be asked, how do we help instructional designers become storytellers. Here is one idea, have the designer create a lesson entirely in pictures using PowerPoint or some other slide media and force them to “tell the story” to an audience complete with characters, plot and setting–no words on the slides…none. It really forces the analytical side of a designer over to the “story telling side” and requires some real thinking about stories and e-learning.
Some related articles
A Unique Perspective on Video Games and Storytelling
Tell Me a Story__