December 6, 2023

Storytelling in courses to capture students’ attention

A woman with silver highlights is busy writing at her desk. Suddenly, a young man pushes open the office door.

Young man/Bjorn: Jessica! We need your help. I know you wanted to launch our product globally this quarter, but we have a sticking point.

Jessica: What? Bjorn, our investors and shareholders expect us to go global this quarter. What is the roadblock?

Bjorn: We did not consider it a crucial element in our project plan. When we go global, we will need to deal with real-time currency conversion. It looks like we will have to factor in the time to evaluate and contract with the currency conversion agency.

Do you think this is the beginning of a drama or commercial? Inaccurately. This is an introductory script to a 45 minute course we developed for a large payment gateway company. Many courses like this are developed to help sales, marketing and other related teams become well versed in the company’s products. Nothing grabs attention more than a narrative that puts viewers right in the shoes of characters they sympathize with as they face challenges and obstacles. The audience tends to experience every step of the hero’s and heroine’s journey along with them. This in turn doubles the impact of the information embedded in the story and also increases retention.

That’s why we’re using storytelling in more and more of the courses we build. Courses from building an entire universe of characters involved in creating a social media analytics tool (that was for a 32-hour data science course) to a 15-minute conversation between a hilarious mentor-mentee duo on the basics of time management. that we built, with stories woven into their structure, were very impressive.

How to use storytelling in your courses

Here are some tips if you are considering incorporating storytelling into your courses.

1. Identify educational goals and map the student’s personality

The first step before sitting down to create your central story is to determine the learning goals and personality of the learner. Imagine creating a story about the trials and tribulations a data engineer faces on the job, only to realize that the learning objectives are better suited to the trials and tribulations of an HR manager.

2. Create a universe of characters that are relatable

Make sure the characters you create are appropriate for your audience. If your course is for grassroots NGO workers in North Africa, the characters should live and breathe the same environment. This makes the story more engaging. It becomes more effective and at the same time increases retention.

3. See real life examples

Students are better oriented with real-world examples. Make sure you include many such links in your course. For example, you can point to the US mortgage crisis to show how a financial crisis in one country can affect the whole world.

4. Pay attention to the tone and language used

Make sure the scripts or comments are conversational. Try to use language as close as possible to that of your intended audience. This becomes tricky when you are designing a course for an international audience. We get around this by using characters from around the world while incorporating as much local flavor as possible.

5. Mix-And-Match Multimedia Elements

Your story doesn’t have to be limited to videos. You can embed narration in other multimedia elements such as infographics, audio bytes, etc.

6. Use Sensory Details

Don’t forget to add sensory details like sights, sounds, and even smells as you create your story. The description of the setting and characters makes it more tangible for the student.

7. Pepper Story With Emotion

Emotions like surprise, humor, and even anxiety elicit empathy from the learner. As human beings, our brain registers events and facts that trigger an emotion. So using emotions helps the student connect with the topic being discussed and helps them retain the information.


Infusing your course with a story that the student can relate to will make course creation satisfying and enjoyable. This also greatly improves the entire learning experience with increased engagement and retention. Ready to take your student on an immersive experience with your narratives? Don’t forget to fill the story with interesting twists peppered with emotions and sensory details.

E-book release: Clearly Blue Digital

Bright blue digital

Clearly Blue is a content design studio specializing in creating engaging technology and management eLearning. Whether it’s video-based eLearning, app-based microlearning or blended learning material, Clearly Blue is the provider of choice.

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