“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”
Digital storytelling is the art of engaging audiences through a spectrum of digital media. The mediascape is incredibly diverse and includes podcasts, videos, branching interactives, alternate reality games, social fiction, and more. Because the field is so rich and diverse, there are no distinct formulas for designing or architecting a digital story. There are story structures (Hero’s Journey, 3 Act Play, etc.) and there are media structures (storyboarding, wire framing, etc.), but each is very distinct to the media. Unless we look from 30k feet at experience design. This approach applies not only to designing stories, but also to lessons, courses, web sites, and really - any user experience. Whether you are building an entertainment experience, a persuasive experience, or a learning experience - there are commonalities across the process. Most generally, we design backwards with the learner at the center of our focus.
For example, Sage Media's challenge for the HINDSIGHT project is distinctly centered on the desired learning outcomes as well as the learner's experience. The choice and use of media comes secondarily as a means to an end.
How do we create training media that requires the learners to engage in the same behavior during the training, that we are attempting to teach them as a result of the training? How do we create a training where the learning outcome is inherent in the andragogy?
In addition to the wide variety of digital media that fall under the digital story umbrella, there are a wide variety of design methodologies for experience design. Most modern design recipes today spur from concepts of Design Thinking, and the truth is... they are all pretty much the same.
Explore > Define > Brainstorm > Refine > Prototype > Pitch
Like a recipe for spaghetti... there are lots of recipes and ways to make it, but in the end it's all spaghetti. The Design Sprint is a rapid prototyping recipe that exemplifies the process and ideas drawn from Design Thinking.
Here is a quick list of recipes with some further readings for your perusal.
- Backwards Design
- Learning Experience Design
- Emotional Experience Design
- Human-Centered Design
- Branching Narrative Design
One recipe for which I have an affinity has been articulated by game design blogger Amy Jo Kim, i.e. the Player's Journey.
The Player's Journey (Amy Jo Kim)
This concept is at the heart of the Player’s Journey framework, which is built around designing three key stages of the player’s experience:
- onboarding – the initial Newbie experience that teaches the ropes and sets expectations for what’s to come
- habit-building – the triggers, activity loops and feedback systems that turns Newbies into Regulars
- mastery – the ‘elder game’ that opens up to Enthusiasts who’ve mastered the system and want to go deeper
I like the Player's Journey Framework as a learning design framework because it allows for failure without punishment. The learner can try and try again until mastery is achieved. This framework gets the universal pains of grading out of the formula.
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” – Jean Luc Godard,
Ultimately it is all Human-Centered Design
Inspiration > Ideation > Making Things
INTE5340 is about this process. INTE5340 puts students on the path of the Player's Journey - on the road toward mastery.
Look Ahead: Beyond the Branching Scenario
As experience design evolves - courses, entertainment, theater - we are starting to see branching scenarios expand beyond the traditional choose-your-adventure type play. We are exploring notions of individualized learning, adaptive learning, and personalized learning. We are exploring notions of individualized stories, adaptive stories and personalized stories. How does one design for an exponential set of outcomes? How does one design individualized learning? Often one doesn't.
We design the algorithm. The algorithm designs the story.
Given the context of AI driven responsive-design - what is the future of learning experience design? What will a learning experience designer career look-like in 10 years?
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