A Follow-up Article: Tell Your Story

In my last week’s article titled Tell Your Story, I mentioned very subtly the possible reason Mr. Ijila’s illustration resonated with me. I quietly said, maybe my background or my upbringing. I will briefly tell you about my background. I was typically born into a military family, and to be precise Police. I was born in the same year my father was enlisted into the Nigerian Police Force, so I lived my life in barracks, I didn’t leave barracks until a year before I got married. In barracks, particular elements are associated with people who had lived in barracks at one time or the other.

  • Barracks life is full of strict discipline
  • You will get to interact with weapons such as Ak-47 Rifle, Teargas, Knives, Baton, Belt, Shoes, Military uniforms, etc
  • You will get to see different parades all the times
  • You will get to witness all kinds of ceremonial dresses
  • You will get to move with military friends
  • You will get see when criminals are arrested/apprehended
  • You will get to see military friends being ambushed by criminals, even killed at times.
  • You will get to see your father telling the story of facing armed robbers
  • You will get to see how bails are being conducted
  • You will get to see people detailed in prison.
  • You will attend Police Children Schools, where morning duties are compulsory
  • You will get to watch war films/movies

The list is endless. For me as an individual, I went through those experiences almost all the time. I could remember one particular night that My Daddy came back home in the middle of the night with all his uniform stained with blood, and he had to take a hot bath to watch off the blood before he could tell us the incident. They were being attacked by armed robbers, and they had no choice than to open fire on them. I went through all of that as a young growing boy.

My background has conditioned me to pay attention to illustrations, pictures, images, and videos from this career. So, if you want to get my attention you need to initiate discussion around this area. Hence, the reason Mr. Ijila’s illustration sticks.

What am I driving at? Creating experiences that stick requires we pay close attention to users’ background. You must know your target users well. If you are not familiar with your user, you can’t design or create anything that will help them. In Instructional design, it’s carried out at the Analysis stage in ADDIE model, and in some other instructional design modes such as Kemps, Dick, and Carey, Govindasammy, ICARE, Smith and Regan, Design Thinking, Backward design, Cognitive apprenticeship, ASSURE model, 4C-ID model, Elaboration model, Goal-based scenarios, etc. it’s the same. All these models agreed that the first process to take is user analysis. What makes learning stick is explained within the user’s experience. How much do you know of your users? What Mr. Ijila did was just a random process, I am sure he didn’t know me before he agreed to use that illustration. He just perhaps thought it as the best explanation he could use.

Now, come to think of it, if it plays out, I am the only one that understood the concepts of “Effectiveness and Efficiency” in that class with that illustration, it then means, for me, learning has taken place. Others would probably be lost. So many learning specialists/teachers behave like that all the time. They take one random strategy and apply it to all categories of learners in their classes or users/learners taking online courses. The worst of it is obviously seen in approaches used for content development and curation. We must define our users/students before we get started to write our content, lesson note, e-learning design, and development, scripts, storyboards, etc. The following check-list should help us:

  • User’s geographical location
  • User’s Interest/Motivation
  • User’s Attitude/Values/Hopes/Aspirations/Dreams
  • User’s Learning style
  • User’s Job type/nature
  • User’s rationale behind a course of action
  • User’s language/culture/custom/registers
  • User’s IQ level
  • User’s previous knowledge/entry-level
  • User’s family background (Single parenting, married, divorcees)
  • User’s exposure level
  • User’s familiar terrains.
  • User’s Age bracket (Biological age, Technological age as Prensky -2001 put it)

The list is endless. If you don’t have an idea of the check-list about your users/students/learners, don’t bother creating any learning experiences, because it won’t work, or at best, you will only be churning out information. Remember everything else is information if there’s no experience that leads to learning. You can’t create a learning experience that resonates with your users if you don’t know them. In a typical classroom, there might be four different types/categories of users/students in your class or users taking online courses:

  • Category 1: Some might learn better by interacting with texts/words alone
  • Category 2: Some might learn better by listening to audio/voice/sound version of the text
  • Category 3: Some might learn better by visuals like pictures images, illustration
  • Category 4: Some might learn better by taking through the experience.

The best way I can describe these categories is to use one of the vivid user stories that I picked from my Professor (Ayotola Aremu). I am not sure she could still remember when she used that illustration during my master’s program.

Professor Ayotola Aremu described these categories as follows: Narrated in my own words


She said if you want to go somewhere without the direction and you have a friend who knows the direction. You pull a call through to your friend…… Friend, I need to go to so and so, and your friend said, that’s fine. How do you want it? But before you answer, your friend has started describing the direction on phone, if you get the direction well and you are comfortable with that description, then we can say, you are comfortable with learning through Auditory materials.


However, when you say, please friend, send me a text description of the direction. If you are okay with the text description, then we can say, you learn better by Reading and Writing, but when you say, can you draw it on paper and snap with your phone? Then we can say, you prefer Visual materials. Finally, when you turn down all those options, and you tell your friend to confirm if he/she is less busy, and you are asking your friend to leave wherever he/she is to take you there personally. Then we can say, you learn better by Doing known as Kinesthetics.

Every user/learner falls into any of these categories or a blend of two or more as orchestrated by the characteristics of the user’s background, culture, exposure, etc. I believe passionately that “Learning is not Global but Contextual”

Do you know your users/students/learners that you are designing/creating learning experiences for? No single strategy will ever be sufficient to occasion learning in all users/learners/students except you deliberately and painstakingly take into consideration the users’ diverse backgrounds. Start today to analyze your users and if you do, you are in the right direction to creating learning experiences that are sticky, unforgettable, and memorable!

What determines what to teach/train; the strategies to use; the materials to select; the objectives to set or formulate, and the time to set for delivery is exclusively tied to the user’s background

The present norm in most schools is usually with one-fit-all-strategy. E-learning professionals and companies should try to research the background of their intended users, and therefore, apply the data gathered to curate the nature of content most suitable; determine the strategies to be implemented; select the tools/technology to integrate and above all formulate the learning objectives.

Therefore, how you would be able to create learning experiences that speak the language of your learners/users/target if you have no clue of what motivates them. It’s practically impossible, at best you would churn out information hoping that a few of your users/learners would figure it out on their own. Your learning pack must resonate with your users!!!

I hope you enjoyed my story.

See you again at another time!

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