Socratic Based Learning Through a Story-Centered Curriculum

Many organizations are currently seeking e-learning training solutions that are effective, yet inexpensive. The problem is that most inexpensive e-learning solutions are no more effective than books. They simply present information, rather than providing students meaningful learning activities. The most effective way to teach new skills is to put learners in the kinds of situations in which they need to use those skills, and to provide mentors (who are expert practitioners) who help learners when they need it. Learners come to understand when, why, and how they should use target skills on the job. They receive key lessons just-in-time, meaning when they want to know the information, when it will make the most sense to them, and in such a way that learners will be most likely to remember the information later when they need it in their work. E-learning can offer such realistic, experienced-based training, but until now, it did not come at a cost-effective price. What is needed is a new approach to e-learning curriculum design, one called the "Story-Centered Curriculum."

The idea behind the Story-Centered Curriculum (SCC) is that a good curriculum should consist of a story in which students play a key role (for example, VP of Information Security at a financial services company). These roles are selected to be ones that the graduate of such a program might actually do in real life or might need to know about (because he or she will manage or collaborate with someone who performs that role). Students, working in groups, are given detailed information about the simulated company they are working for together with detailed and authentic projects. Supporting materials and resources are available and experts and online mentors are available to answer questions and point students in the right direction on an as-needed basis.

The effect of the SCC model is that as students work through the story to achieve the missions the story puts forth, they learn the critical skills they need to successfully accomplish their tasks. The SCC implements true learning-by-doing, integrating all aspects of real-world tasks, as opposed to teaching skills independently, without context.

An SCC can be delivered entirely online, in person, or as a live/online combination. Student teams can meet as a group face-to-face or using the latest online collaboration tools. Similarly, interactions with mentors can take place in person or via synchronous or asynchronous on-line tools. The approach used is determined by the specific needs of the curriculum, and the geographic proximity of students and mentors.

We offer the following services

  • Online and On-Site Story-Centered Courses
  • A Workshop on How to Build Story-Centered Curricula
  • Customized Story-Centered Online Master's Degree Programs

Online and On-Site Story-Centered Courses

We have developed a methodology that eliminates classes, tests, lectures, and even programs themselves. The methodology is called the Story-Centered Curriculum (SCC). The idea is to create a story that a student will live in for a certain time period that encompasses everything he or she would do in the given time frame. The story is one that provides challenges of various sorts depending on the field being pursued. Each challenge relates to the one before and builds upon it. Students devote between one and three weeks to working on one problem and must usually build something or analyze something and report on what they have done. Students work in teams with mentors readily available to point them in that right direction. Mentors teach Socratically, never telling, only suggesting directions, forcing harder thought about issues and criticizing submitted work. Work is submitted multiple times until it is right. While working with clients to develop training based on the SCC approach, we add value by:

  • Identifying key performance drivers, helping establish a prioritization of them to focus training on the most critical issues
  • Identifying and refining performance outcomes
  • Designing and developing training tasks that are a) realistic, b) focus on developing target skills, c) minimize development time and cost
  • Providing templates for key project deliverables
  • Identifying needed resources to enable learning
  • Validating the design to insure learning outcomes and effectiveness
  • Building capacity within the client organization to build future Story-Centered Curricula

Workshop on How to Build Story-Centered Curricula

For some years now, we have been building Story-Centered Curricula (SCCs). SCCs have an advantage over other e-learning offerings because they are more authentic, more interesting, and founded on principles of learning established in cognitive science. An SCC creates real experiences for students. Students remember what they have experienced. They don't, on the other hand, remember what they were supposed to have learned in school or in training all that easily. For many companies, the best news about SCCs is that they are relatively cheap to build. In fact, we are usually able to price an SCC at less than an equivalent offering by your usual tell 'em and test 'em e-learning company.

Now there is more good news.

We have decided to teach what we know about how to build SCCs to any organization or company that wants to learn how to do it. Why? The Socratic Learning approach was founded by professors -- professors who are very interested in good teaching. We like to teach what we do, and we know that we will never build all the SCCs that need to be built for each school or company that needs them. It is a far better strategy for everyone if we teach you how to do it.

Client & Project List

Oracle Corporation

  • Running Your Business (Online/workshop course to help high-potential managers align activities with organizational strategy)

Deloitte & Touche

  • Express for Software Development (Workshop for project managers on how to use Express for Software Development tool to manage projects)
  • Deloitte National Systems Analyst Program (Workshop to orient newly hired Systems Analysts)
  • Deloitte Difference (Workshop to orient newly hired MBAs and professional hires)
  • Deloitte Human Capital Program (Workshop to orient newly hired Human Capital Analysts)
  • Deloitte Strategy & Operations Fundamentals (Workshop to orient newly hired Strategy & Operations Analysts)
  • Deloitte Business Analyst Program (Workshop to orient newly hired Business Analysts)

Pfizer Incorporated

  • Story-Centered Curriculum Workshop (Workshop to help Pfizer's training personnel develop Story-Centered courses internally)


International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

  • Assessing Priorities for Standardization (Web-mentored course for standards workers within developing countries on how to most effectively research and identify standardization priorities)
  • Managing Participation in International Standardization (Web-mentored course for standards workers within developing counties on how to effectively manage participation in international standardization processes)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Air Plume Readiness Interactive Learning (Workshop to help EPA specialists build skills and knowledge in air toxics emergency response)

Ministry of Tourism -- Republic of Panama

  • Story-Centered Curriculum Workshop (Workshop to help Panama's Ministry of Tourism develop their own Story-Centered course on how to foster tourism industry growth)


Carnegie Mellon University

  • Software Engineering Masters Programs (Online/in-person Masters' programs to teach software engineering from technical, development, and management perspectives)

ESSDACK: Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas

  • Story-Centered Curriculum Workshop (Workshop to help Kansas educators develop online Story-Centered courses)

Bay Area Information Technology Consortium

  • IT Basics for BAY ITC (Online/in-person program for community college students to enhance literacy and numeracy skills)

Foothill-DeAnza Community College

  • Practicum in Enterprise Security (Online/in-person program for community college students to build entry-level network security skills)

Grandview Preparatory School

  • 5th, 8th, and 12th grade learning-by-doing curricula (In-classroom, team-oriented Story-Centered Curricula focusing on Journalism, Environmental Science, and Software Engineering)

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