August 9th, 2010

Digital Storytelling Brings a Human Connection to Online Education


Once upon a time people told stories to share experiences and to teach. With the growing popularity of distance learning modalities educators have been searching for ways to enhance social presence and reflective thinking in the online learning experience. The use of digital storytelling might be a strategy to bring human thought and emotion into online education.

Since pre-historic times, storytelling has been a form of education and social connection. Storytelling allows persons to project their personal characteristics and to present themselves as real people to other participants. The process of creating a story is a mental process which challenges the learner to use critical thinking processes to examine information, question its validity and draw conclusions.

Digital storytelling is the art of telling stories with digital multimedia to share a reflective narrative. Through effective use of perspective, drama, emotion, context and sound, digital storytelling helps people to connect, explore and understand. Digital storytelling can provide a creative ingredient to make the online learning process engaging and can lead to deeper learning (Sharad, 2010).

Digital storytelling presents learners with a challenge to write, understand and communicate in a collaborative, persuasive, accurate and entertaining manner. The steps in creating a digital story as a teaching-learning activity are:

  • Determine the purpose and focus of the story. Will it explain, illustrate, narrate or persuade?
  • Research the purpose and collect and evaluate the information.
  • Choose the words/facts, visuals/images and audio/sounds.
  • Create the storyboard to organize materials and to communicate the objective.
  • Write the narrative.
  • Put it all together.
  • Determine the pace, tone and emotion.
  • Share the digital story with others.

Creating and watching digital stories has the potential to increase the information literacy among the learners.

Learners who grew up in a technology dominated world exhibit a preference for multimedia activities. Digital storytelling is an invitation to consider possibilities of mutual endeavors including the relational significance with other and self and meeting the need for social presence and reflection in the online environment. Digital storytelling has the potential to bring the uniquely human connection of the teaching-learning process and the art of human connection through story into the online learning environment.

Sharda, N. (2010, May). Using Digital Storytelling for Creative and Innovative e-Learning. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from here.

Deborah A. Raines, PhD , RN, ANEF, is the director of Scholarship of Teaching at The Center for Teaching and Learning, Florida Atlantic University.