A good online course must utilize narrative learning.
Most people prefer stories to analytical or didactic presentations, wherever this is possible. This has always been so, and is a reason why Jesus taught with parables (stories). Law schools use cases which involve narratives of events as a basis for most learning. Business schools do the same with cases prepared from real business situations. Medical schools introduce students to real patients with real diseases and injuries. All these are forms of narrative learning, and are essential to professional education.
At the undergraduate level of instruction, good lectures include interesting examples. Many examples are in narrative form – they tell a story. A story is like a picture in that it enables the student to identify in some way with a specific situation and with individuals. For many people this is a key to interest and learning.
Academics differ from the general population in this – they are often more comfortable with abstractions – theories, models, etc –than others. So academics have less need of narratives in order to learn than do others. This may cause professors who are designing courses to underestimate the value of narratives in education.
But this mistake should not be made in online courses. Good online courses include stories – or narrative learning. The stories can take the form of videos and be especially attractive to today’s learners, who prefer video to text. There is no reason why material cannot be presented in video form as well as in text. Too many online courses are nothing more than text put onto screens. A good online course makes effective and extensive use of narrative learning to engage the learner.