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  • Writer's pictureNicole Papaioannou Lugara

How We Married Storytelling with Project-Based Learning to Develop The Book of Briefs

Cover of The Book of Briefs: 50 Prompts to Inspire Your Next Portfolio Piece

The Book of Briefs: 50 Prompts to Inspire Your Next Portfolio Piece launched today 🥳 Years in the making, this book was inspired by real challenges instructional designers face when designing portfolios and practicing their skills:

  • Most don't have access to enough knowledge about what's happening inside other organizations to be able to practice designing for other contexts.

  • We often operate under non-disclosure agreements that prevent us from being able to share our best work.

Problem meet solution. The briefs in The Book of Briefs are based loosely on real businesses and business needs that instructional designers, eLearning developers, graduate students, and professors can use to develop their skills and create great portfolio content. And there's a big of foundation-building with portfolio best practices, guidelines, rubrics, and FAQs.

But today's post isn't really a pat on the back (although the team totally deserves one). It's an opportunity to talk about two things that make for incredibly impactful learning experiences: storytelling and project-based learning.


Storytelling is the art of using story elements to weave tales and then, most importantly, sharing them with an audience. Whether it's through spoken words, written prose, or digital media, stories have the power to move us, inspire us, and help us understand ourselves and others in new ways.

Good storytellers use structure, pacing, and character development. They know how to create tension and suspense, build empathy with the audience, and craft compelling dialogue. They also recognize the importance of context and setting, using these elements to transport their audience to a different time and place.

In the L&D world, we leverage stories in many ways: scenario-based training, simulations, explainer videos, podcasts, and more. Stories allow us to provide context, teach through examples, encourage reflection, build empathy, provide feedback.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is an approach that involves learners in actively exploring real-world problems and challenges that require them to acquire knowledge and skills as they work on specific project or problem sets. Often, this work requires collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and a bit of try-fail-reflect-try again.

How Stories + PBL Work Together

When you combine storytelling and project-based learning, what you get is a powerful opportunity for people to:

  • experience new situations and explore their complexities

  • empathize with other perspectives

  • experiment, innovate, and solve problems in a safe, low-risk environment

  • ask for feedback before they need to use these skills in the real world

  • build skills that feel practical and relevant to their work rather than theoretical

In The Book of Briefs, we've created fictionalized organizations. The Big Picture Briefs are whole story worlds, with characters, complex environments, competing demands, and realistic constraints. There are layers and, sometimes, a story arc. And the point of contact characters come with their own narratives they tell about the training requests.

You-- the reader-- are the hero.

There's always a bit of a cliff hanger: can you solve their problem?

Well, you've got to try to find out.

And that's where the project-based learning comes in. As you read these stories, you learn about business, about operations, about working with different kinds of subject matter experts and stakeholders, about the kinds of things that impact learning and performance in different contexts.

The deepest learning comes from responding to their needs in the form of a project, which you hopefully take to others for feedback and then revise accordingly.

Ready to Read It

Get your copy of The Book of Briefs: 50 Prompts to Inspire Your Next Portfolio Piece on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook!


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