Story-Driven Learning: A Workshop in 5 Acts

Workshop Session 1

Brief Abstract

Want to bring course content to life with real, relatable, and relevant stories? Join our expert filmmaker, learning designers, and instructors on a journey to develop a story-driven approach for designing online learning experiences that keep learners coming back for more!


With over 17 years of experience developing adult-centered online programs, Jennifer knows what drives student success— learning experiences that connect academic content to learners’ own lives in realistic, relevant, and relatable ways. Jennifer has managed e-learning initiatives and operations for public, private, and for-profit institutions of higher education. She has led the development of solutions focused on scaling instructional design processes using Lean and project management principles while building infrastructures to keep pace with the evolving state of online higher education. Jennifer earned a BA in Corporate Communication from Marietta College, an MAEd in Adult Education and Distance Learning from the University of Phoenix, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from The University of Dayton. She is also a graduate of the OLC's Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Education.
Jess Beck spent nearly 20 years producing, directing, and writing documentary content for broadcast television. Her work has aired on CNN, MSNBC, Discovery Networks, Bravo, MTV and PBS among others, and notable credits include CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta, Discovery’s Storm Chasers and the Emmy-award winning feature documentary A Walk to Beautiful. Recently, Jess has ventured into the field of education, creating story-driven content for online university courses, and is also pursuing an independent documentary about Central American migrants.

Extended Abstract

Story (a type of narrative) provides a structure for sharing information in ways that engage receivers, enhance memory, and create meaning (Haven, 2007). Humans are hard-wired to use story as an organization and storage mechanism. Consequently, we remember facts gained through story much more effectively than through any other means. 

Story is arguably the most powerful method for engaging students with course content, and it’s especially useful in an online learning environment, where forging connections with learners is a paramount challenge. A great story hooks learners into the content on a visceral and emotional level, cementing the instruction in their memories, increasing their connection with the material and ultimately building their confidence in the subject matter.  Key learning points come to life when you embed them in a relatable narrative about someone who overcomes obstacles and experiences a transformation.  

We are partnering expert storytellers, learning designers, and instructors to guide participants on a journey to develop their own story-driven learning experiences. At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the elements of a story-driven learning experience

  • Explain  the benefits and potential challenges of creating a story-driven learning experience for online delivery

  • Create a story plan for an online learning experience.

Note: To optimize learning in this hands-on workshop, please bring a syllabus for a course of your choosing and a laptop or other mobile device. 

Workshop Outline 

Workshop Introduction
Introduction to Story-Driven Learning

What Is Story?
Creating Story-Driven Learning Experiences
DIY: Creating the Story Plan
Story-Driven Learning in Context
Wrap Up 



Haven, K. (2018). Story proof: The science behind the startling power of story. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.