In his 2007 book Engaging Learning, Clark Quinn states, “Learning is at its best when it is goal-oriented, contextual, interesting, challenging, and interactive.”
An internationally recognized learning consultant, Quinn provides several strategies in the book for how to achieve these objectives. One is to develop scenario-based learning that is relevant and engaging to the learning audience. When building a safe practice environment online, it’s important to organize goals and challenges within engaging contextual and interesting scenarios that learners care about. It’s crucial to tell a story that they will want to interact with— one that matters to them.
This is an approach we follow at NogginLabs, where we try to place learners at the center of the story. Each project we work on begins with determining the story our clients want to tell. What’s created the need or opportunity for the training initiative? What are the goals we want to achieve? How will achieving those goals impact the learner?
When trying to determine the story he wanted to tell with Star Wars, George Lucas was inspired by a common hero-quest structure known as “the monomyth,” or hero’s journey. Developed by Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey consists of defined stages that not only help to construct Hollywood blockbusters but can also work well to determine an engaging learning framework.
The Ordinary World
The monomyth starts with the hero living in an uneventful world, going through her daily routine unaware that everything is about to change; think Dorothy living on her Kansas farm or Bilbo whiling away the hours in the Shire.
For learners, this stage is the one in which they feel that the current state of affairs is fine. They don’t recognize existing issues or opportunities. Or maybe they sense that things could be better but don’t quite know how to achieve the goals they dream about. That’s what the training is for; it should meet learners where they are at and take them on a journey of improvement. Questions to consider as you begin conceptualizing the learner experience might include:
- What does the current state of affairs look like?
- What has created the need or opportunity for the training that’s being developed?
- What’s the learner’s current behavior, and what are the causes behind that behavior?
The Call to Adventure
For the hero to begin her journey, she must be called away from the ordinary world. This inciting incident brings the hero’s world into a state of imbalance. This step is presented quite literally in The Matrix when Neo receives a call from Morpheus at his office.
This is where learners need to be informed of the initiative they’re about to undertake. During this training, what’s going to be asked of them?
- What is the overall goal of this training?
- How will achieving this goal impact the learner?
- How will achieving this goal impact the current state of the organization?
- What are the primary learning objectives related to this goal?