MindEdge Online Learning

The case for online narrative learning


The case for online narrative learning

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Online narrative learning is a powerful tool to engage learners through case studies, stories, and simulations.
As educator Marsha Rossiter (in “Narrative and Stories in Adult Teaching and Learning” in ERIC DIGEST) has noted: “Narrative is deeply appealing and richly satisfying to the human soul, with an allure that transcends cultures, centuries, ideologies, and academic disciplines.”
When properly designed and executed, narrative learning can help improve comprehension and mastery of concepts; it can also challenge learners to analyze, synthesize, and make decisions—the sorts of more complex cognition that tests the ability of learners to apply what they have learned.
Narrative learning taps into the power of storytelling. Storytelling has deep evolutionary roots. Humans are wired to learn from stories. We fashion meaning from them, and they help lend order to our world.
We connect naturally with narrative structure and its sequential resolution of conflict. Some students may be more inclined to pay attention, make connections, and retain information presented in the form of a story. Stories, simulations, and case studies can make it clear to an adult learner just how the information they are being taught can be applied in real world circumstances.
Narrative can become a powerful learning tool in the classroom and beyond, bringing abstract concepts to life. Stories provide our minds with vivid pictures—ones that we are more likely to remember.
Narrative techniques are at the forefront of today’s innovation in adult learning—case studies, interactive scenarios, games, graphic nonfiction stories, and simulation. The narrative structure appeals to learners who, for example, can compare the arc of a brief business mini-case with what they have experienced in the workplace.
Instructional designer Chris Jennings (in “Speaking Your Mind: Using elements of narrative storytelling in eLearning” in eLearn Magazine) has argued: “The best stories show, rather than tell. They resonate emotionally with readers, offering a sense of urgency, relief, accomplishment. Because of their inherent similarities, narrative stories can be great for situated learning by using real-world simulations that students can act out or practice in context.”
Case studies, for example, are valuable because they encourage learners to apply their knowledge and actively engage in the learning process. Case studies are valuable for building problem-solving skills, can offer stimulating collaborative assignments, and can be particularly useful in illustrating how to apply and practice new concepts.
Designing narrative learning starts with an understanding of the basics of storytelling—of understanding the arc of a story and how to employ conflict and resolution to engage learners. Narrative learning can be a valuable and powerful addition to online courses and resources.

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