“There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers. They have beautiful shapes.”
With these words, Kurt Vonnegut began a lecture in which he introduces his theory of basic story structures. At NogginLabs, we do exactly what Vonnegut imagined: feed beautiful story shapes into computers.
Shaping the way we learn
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While the computer is the central tool of e-learning, we’re not at the point of hitting a few buttons and getting a cohesive story or compelling lesson about anything from a computer. (If you don’t believe me, check out the romance fiction Google’s AI is penning these days.) The very human talents of writers, designers, programmers, and instructional designers make our e-learning come alive. Still, there are certain storytelling elements that consistently find their way into our work. In what ways are the story shapes Vonnegut details similar to our custom e-learning courses, and in what ways do they differ?
Some of the most basic similarities are also the most compelling ones. Whether you’re making a gamified, globe-trotting adventure or a nuts-and-bolts, straightforward system simulation, there are a few essentials that you can count on to carry readers through to the end. All e-learning has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It takes learners on a journey in which they explore new realms, overcome obstacles, solve mysteries, and are put to the test. Learners might struggle, sometimes seeming to only make progress at the brink of failure, but in the end they are changed for the better.
All's well that ends well?
Now, wait, does that mean every scenario ends with “happily ever after” in a NogginLabs course? Of course not! You don’t have to be golden egg-laying goose to know that every Aesop’s Fable ends with characters making the right choice. We learned from the mistakes of arrogant hares and greedy farmers in those childhood parables, but the mistakes that best educate learners in a well-designed online course are their own. Learners can see the consequences of their mistakes, receive helpful feedback, and try again. Unlike a novel or a film, e-learning courses can be re-visited and replayed to achieve a more satisfactory conclusion.
The perfect fit
At NogginLabs, we place learners at the center of the story. Our creative writers use research, imagination, and experience to make every course unique. While stories—and e-learning courses—might share certain structural aspects, the variations on those themes are endless. We don’t just choose an off-the-shelf shape and go with it. We learn your content, discover your needs, and understand your learners. We take parameters of classic narratives and instructional methods and use contemporary technology to expand their horizons. And that means that whatever shape your e-learning ends up taking, it’s going to be a perfect fit.