Empower e-learning with characters and stories


There is little doubt that technology has revolutionized learning. Although there is a long list of e-learning advantages there are also some drawbacks. In many e-learning courses there is a distinctive absence of a sense of connection between the facts, logic, and reasoning in the course material and the more intangible sense of how it all connects to produce an intuitive understanding of the information. Those ‘Aha’ moments are often brought about by the interaction and sharing of stories between the learner, teacher and fellow students in the class environment. They place the factual information in a more relevant context which the learner can relate to.

This lack of story is not a failure of technology but of content creation and structure. In fact, our technology is perfectly capable of creating highly immersive and engaging learning experiences. You only need to look at the games industry to see just how immersive content can be. And there is one thing the games industry knows very well: people are fundamentally attracted to living things – even if they are highly abstract animated characters. We engage with characters through their stories and we are able to retain the information presented in this format significantly better than information presented as just facts, logic, and reasoning. The reason for this should not come as a surprise: we do most of our learning through the stories of our own lives and the events that befall others.

E-Learning content developers sometimes either ignore the importance of stories to facilitate engagement or try to apply it as an after thought. The emotional connection that stories create, and the sense of how things relate and interact with each other, is as important as the facts you are trying to convey. Using characters and stories allow learners to get to grips with the context, the real driving forces, motivators, reasons and consequences of the facts. They can see how different types of actions and events interact with one another and the results that can be expected from those interactions. Stories communicate the intangible information that forms the framework that connects the facts into a relevant and meaningful context.

The experiences that characters and their stories create are there to illustrate the points the e-learning course material wants to make more effectively. It does this through an analysis of the actions that led to the results and outcomes of the story. It also allows the learner to project their own ideas, experiences and objections into the story giving the course material the opportunity to create those crucial ‘Aha’ moments of insight. Those insights do not come from the facts but the intangible connections and emotional drivers holding the facts together in a mental model of the world. And once the learner truly ‘gets’ what the facts are trying to tell them those facts will stick in their memory. They key is to make sure people relate to the facts, logic, and reasoning, and stories are the most powerful tool we have to create that connection.

The challenge

Many e-learning designers will use photo images, illustrations, audio, and sometimes video of a coach or mentor to guide users through the course material and learning activities. They might also include additional visual support representing learners, customers, subject matter experts and scenarios, to create stories to help users make a connection with the facts. There is no doubt that, if done correctly, these techniques can make the training more effective. There are, however, a few inherent limitations with using real people. You need to tell the story visually to make it truly engaging and memorable and unless you have enough of a budget to create a movie production you are left with using either talking head video or, even worse, a series of disparate stock images or clip-art forced to fit the storyline.

A cast of actors

What does using animated characters offer the e-learning designer? Animated characters give the course designer access to a cast of multi-talented actors, offering the following benefits:

  • They can act out any type of scenario to illustrate a point no matter what the theme or how abstract or extraordinary it needs to be.

  • They are brilliant at using metaphors to make the complex simple.

  • They are expert at getting meaning and engagement even from the seemingly mundane.

  • They offer a consistent look and feel across all your course material.

  • They are extraordinary expressive allowing people to easily connect with them on an emotional level.

  • They can represent any personality type imaginable.

  • They can be shaped into a look and feel that exactly fit your brand requirements.

  • They have access to every imaginable and extraordinary world and prop you might ever need.

  • They are incredibly differentiating making your marketing a whole lot more effective.

Stories and characters are not just great for entertainment, but for learning and more importantly, for creating ‘Wow’, ‘Aha’ and ‘Yippee’ events – the cornerstones of effective teaching.

WAKSTER has several casts of actors that are available for Licensing. We also develop bespoke characters to fit your exact requirements.

Have a look at the character sets that we have available on the Characters page.

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Registered in England and Wales.

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Animation Studio: Birmingham, West Midlands, Kidderminster, UK

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