Story-Based Coaching and Mentoring Course

This coaching and mentoring course is an example of story-based elearning. Two characters explain the content via a conversation.

One technique for creating a story-based course is using two characters who explain the content via a conversation. In this conversation-driven elearning approach, I usually use one character who acts as a coach and one character who is similar to the audience: same job role, same level of experience. In this example, the audience is new managers who don’t have much experience with coaching and mentoring.

Story introduction video

I set up the story with a short video at the beginning of the course. This introduces the characters and shows the challenge the protagonist, new manager Michael, faces while coaching one of his employees. I wanted a scenario that showed a clear problem that could be solved through better coaching. If I create a good story at the beginning, I know I can “hook” the learners. I want them to think, “Oh! I’ve felt this same way. I’ve got the same problem as Michael.”

In the introduction, Michael is having “one of those days.” After finishing yet another coaching session with April, she still doesn’t grasp the basics of client relations. At his wits end, he goes to his manager, Pamela, who helps him discover a better way to coach through a session of their own.

If the video isn’t embedded above, you can watch it on YouTube.

Photos and voice over

After the introduction video, the rest of the course was built in Storyline with photos and voice over by the actors in the video. Learners listen in during Michael’s coaching session with Pamela.

Pamela and Michael discussing coaching in the conversation-driven elearning example

Traditional elearning approach

A traditional e-learning course probably would have used a single narrator reading a bullet point list like this:

Here are the reasons coaching and mentoring are important in our organization:

  • Employees are more likely to stay if they are supported by managers.
  • Developing employee skills reduces employee turnover.
  • It helps build our talent pool.
  • Building employee skills lets us promote from within.

Conversational style

This course delivers the same content in a conversational style, as if you could listen to the two characters during a coaching session. This does increase the overall word count, but I think it’s more engaging than reading a list. Even with a really good voice over artist, it’s tiring to listen to the same voice for long stretches; this method breaks it up so you always alternate between the voices.

Pamela: Michael, as you know, our organization really values good coaching and mentoring. Why do you think we view it as so important?

Michael: Well, it probably helps keep people here in the organization. People are more likely to stay if they’re supported by their managers and developing new skills.

Pamela: You’re right. It also helps build our pool of talent. We want to promote from within, and that means we need to develop our people so they’re ready to move up.

Michael: Right. I wasn’t ready for a management position when I started here, but I’ve developed new skills since then. At least, I thought I had…

This style of “listening in” on a coaching session fit especially well for this topic. Essentially, the entire training could model the kind of coaching skills we were training.

Story-based activities

The activities in the course either ask learners to reflect on their personal skills or respond to scenarios. This activity provides a scenario and asks learners to follow guidelines for providing feedback.

Coaching feedback activity

In the final activity for the course, everything ties back to the beginning. Learners create a plan for coaching April in the scenario from the introductory video; they create a solution for the problem at the beginning of the course.

Scenario for the Coaching and Mentoring Plan Activity

Research support

Using stories for learning helps us make sense of the content. Check out the Learning Guild’s research report Using Stories for Learning: Answers to Five Key Questions. In this report Karl Kapp describes a study comparing two versions of a brochure. The research found that people remembered more from a narrative format than from a bullet point list.

Customer response

The customer response to this course has been positive. Len Carter, V.P. of H.R. for FHN said, “Truly, these were the best online products for leadership development we’ve ever purchased. We’ll be purchasing more [next year]!”

This course was created as part of a series of leadership training modules that could be “semi-customized” for individual organizations. Although I wrote this course a number of years ago, I have used this approach in several other projects since then. I have found that this can be a less intimidating approach than complex branching scenarios for organizations who are new to scenario-based learning.

More on story-based elearning

Originally published on 1/20/2014. Last updated 2/23/21.

14 thoughts on “Story-Based Coaching and Mentoring Course

  1. This may be the best example I’ve seen of an eLearning scenario done with video. I love it! Obviously it’s well-written (as we’d expect from you!), but the acting also shines. It’s often hard to find good acting talent (or a client willing to pay for it). I love the mix of video and photos/voiceover for a conversation-driven approach to teaching the content, especially for this topic.

    1. Thank you so much! Even though this course was created in 2013, I think it has held up well (which is why I still use it as an example). Creating video like this really takes a whole team of people. I enjoy writing scripts like this, but there’s no way I could do the rest of it without that dedicated team.

      For this module, it took:

      • Someone with connections to their local community theater community (which is why the actors are so good)
      • 3 actors
      • A videographer (this is a dedicated pro whose entire business is video, so he has the multiple cameras and lighting needed)
      • A makeup artist (yep, they had a makeup pro)
      • A developer to build everything in Storyline (who also served as the PM)

      Plus me writing the script and storyboard and a copy editor to proofread everything.

      If you want to see another fun example, check out their CSI Misperceptions course. I had no involvement in this one, but it’s the same company that created the coaching course. The company was Cine Learning, which no longer exists, but I still work with a lot of the same team through Matrix Animation.

  2. Thank you for showing a behind-the-scenes look at how you constructed a story-based course. It can be hard to find examples to learn from, and your comments about why you built the course in this way were very helpful.

    1. Glad you found this helpful. I know I really appreciate seeing examples from other IDs, and I haven’t seen too many publicly available examples of this style of story-based learning.

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