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904 Using Story Beats and Comedy Plot Curve for eLearning Scenario Development

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Friday, April 14

Tracks: Instructional Design

Everyone enjoys a good story. Using storytelling techniques and role-play activities, you can transform boring training content into memorable learning experiences; you can create a situation in which learners apply their knowledge to solve problems, make decisions, take action, and experience the consequences of their choices, even really bad choices—all without endangering themselves and others—and possibly learn from their mistakes. However, scenarios written by educators tend to be predictable, prescriptive, and preachy. And learners know when they’re being manipulated into how to think and feel. Outwardly, they may click the right answer but inwardly they resent it. Studies have shown that this may actually produce a reverse effect. So, how do you design engaging and interactive learning experiences without being heavy-handed? How do you plot out a good story?

This session will explore a better way to write scenarios using a story arc common to comedy genres. We usually think of comedy as lighthearted and upbeat, full of laughter and fun. But a comedy plot is often about trouble and pain, heading full-speed toward outrageous catastrophe. What do audiences derive from the madness of comedy? We will explore why comedy is a fitting archetype for learning design. We will view scenes from films, study their construction, and learn to apply the techniques we discover. You will learn how to give shape to an eLearning scenario using a three-act structure: beginning, middle, and end. Going deeper, we will look at beat sheets used by writers to plot out a comedy screenplay. In film writing terms, a “beat” refers to a single event that transforms the story and its characters at a critical juncture. The culminating activity will be to design a scenario together using the techniques we’ve discussed. You will receive a scenario worksheet for writing your own story plan and a checklist for producing dramatic tension.

In this session you will learn:

  • The basic plot shapes of stories and why you should be aware of them
  • What is essential to include in your story’s beginning, middle, and end
  • What a story beat is, and how it moves a story forward
  • How to apply story beats to plot your scenarios, including when key beats should occur and why
  • How comedy works, why it impacts audiences, and why it is especially relevant and effective in learning scenarios
  • How to use character insight and perspectives to anticipate learning via catastrophe
  • How to fit story components together to regulate dramatic tension
  • How to apply all these techniques to achieve your learning goals

Technology discussed:

Articulate Storyline, feature film clips, discussion and debate, TV commercial ad, animations

Mike Roy

Learning Experience Designer

Mike V Roy Consulting

Mike Roy is president and senior instructional designer at Mike V Roy Consulting. He has designed learning experiences for government and global Fortune 100 companies. He specializes in scenario and game-based learning. In a previous life, he designed media-rich online courses in higher education and taught graphic design (Ohio University). He has a master’s degree in instructional design from the University of Virginia and a master’s in media production from Longwood University. He is a writer, storyteller, teacher, artist, and musician who loves to learn.