The strength of storytelling in an online environment

Renate de Jonge

De kunst van het vertellen van verhalen is eeuwenoud. Aanvankelijk werd het gebruikt om informatie van persoon op persoon door te geven. Het is dus de meest natuurlijke vorm van communicatie.


En nog steeds blijven verhalen bij ons hangen. Of het nu gaat om het boek op je nachtkastje, een anekdote die bij de koffie wordt gedeeld of de nieuwste Netflix-serie. Er is altijd iets aan een goed verteld verhaal dat boeit en wordt onthouden.


Mensen hebben behoefte aan verbinding met andere mensen en die vinden ze in verhalen. Dat geldt ook voor de gebruikers van jouw online leeromgeving. Verhalen helpen je deelnemers emotioneel contact te maken met de aangeboden leerstof op een herkenbare en zinvolle manier. Verhalen zijn boeiend, gemakkelijk te onthouden en spreken aan. Ze vereenvoudigen een complex onderwerp en kunnen effectief worden gebruikt om verandering te bewerkstelligen.

Identifying with the content

Using the story form in a training ensures structuring information and puts the information in a framework. This creates an overview, which results in the user identifying more easily with the content. 


The story tells the ‘why’ behind the content and gives thus extra meaning to it. Moreover, it connects various aspects of the training to each other and helps the user going through the learning process. 


Stories aren’t only focussed on the rational, but also on feeling. Users are addressed and feel engaged. The story triggers emotions which makes the learning content easier to remember.

This is how you implement storytelling: 5 tips

#1 First of all, create a context that’s recognisable for users. Connect users in a useful manner with the learning content and finally stimulate action. The story must comply with the content and must offer a recognisable learning experience. 


#2 Follow the classic narrative. Every story design has a beginning (to introduce the lesson), a middle (to provide the user with a problem and to let them discover the solution) and an end (to summarise or provide a conclusion). The story form must be personal and relevant. 


#3 Introduce your concepts and characters at the beginning so you can build the rest of the story on this. Create tensions or conflict in the middle of the story. 


#4 Make use of familiar characters and possible scenarios to illustrate the concepts or processes that the user must understand. Find ways to create fascinating parallel experiences with the learning content. 


#5 Use describing language that ties in with the senses. Describe experiences in terms of how it looks, feels, smells, sounds or tastes. Supporting images bring the story to life. That’s why you should add images or videos when possible. 

Tools for storytelling

There are various ways to support the strength of storytelling in your online training. 

Simulations and scenarios 

Create a narrative in which you place the user in the middle of the scenario. The user will then be confronted with a situation and must decide how to react based on the circumstances. 

By placing the user at the heart of the story, it becomes more fascinating and the user stays optimally involved. It’s important to place the scenarios in a realistic, and when possible, familiar context.

Use visuals and sounds

To create an optimal effect you can integrate sound effects, background music, images and other media into your story.


Pictures help users to make contact with the most important character in your story. You can for example use images of the workplace for a company training to make it more personal. 


Music can evoke the desired emotion for your story. For example, using a happy tune to indicate the solution of a conflict. 


Colourful and appealing headings can divide you story in a clear manner, and those headings can sure be a little bold sometimes!