Weaving Interactive Storytelling into Instruction: Using Twine to Create a Personalized Learning Experience

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This fun, hands-on workshop will introduce participants to Twine, an open-source tool for creating interactive, non-linear, story-based learning experiences. Participants will see a range of examples of Twine activities, work collaboratively to turn a case study into a Twine story, and identify scenarios and decision-points for a Twine of their own. They will leave with tips and tricks for bringing their Twines to life.


Marie Norman directs the Innovative Design for Education and Assessment (IDEA) Lab at the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Clinical Research Education. Norman has taught extensively and worked in the scholarship of teaching and learning for over 15 years, focusing in particular on international and online education. She is co-author of the book, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, which distills learning research into practical teaching strategies.
Chelsea Proulx, MPH works with the Institute of Clinical Research Education (ICRE) at the University of Pittsburgh's IDEA Lab team to find and adapt technologies and tools to create interactive online course materials at the ICRE. Using her background in health education and amateur creative writing, she has used “choose-your-own-adventure” narratives and video game mechanics to create interactive course assignments that promote decision-making skills in a virtual setting. Chelsea currently uses these assignments in her course on Measurement in Clinical Research for the EXCEL-CRT program offered through the ICRE. She hopes to continue to find innovative tools and technologies to support ICRE faculty in developing interesting methods to teach complex course content in online courses. Chelsea also assists the ICRE in developing, implementing, and analyzing evaluation data to improve clinical research training programs more broadly.
Dr. Mayowski has been teaching adult learners for decades. At the ICRE, she teaches Medical Writing and Presentation Skills and Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Research. She also leads the competency-based education initiative. Colleen calls upon her humanities/social sciences background to guide her approach to teaching, learning, and assessment challenges.

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract

Tools abound to help educators and instructional designers create personalized learning experiences, simulations, and serious games for students. Often, though, tutorials for using these tools do not address the pedagogical foundations and thought processes required for adapting academic material to these new methods, causing formats to seem alien and non-intuitive. Educators and instructional designers need help coming up with stories and examples, and learning how to adapt case studies to an interactive narrative! This fun, interactive, hands-on workshop will introduce participants to Twine, an open-source tool for creating interactive, non-linear, story-like learning experiences. In this workshop, we will concentrate on identifying and incorporating those pedagogical and creative processes that will help educators and instructional designers create Twine narratives focused on reinforcing decision-making skills applicable across a broad range of disciplines and training contexts.

Through demonstration and large- and small-group activities, we will break down the thought process and context around Twine creation. We will encourage participants to find the emotion in the story, make their character(s) sound and feel real, and incorporate branching decision points. This is not a workshop focused on the technical aspects of Twine, although participants will see that no particular technical skill is required to create a simple branching Twine narrative. Rather, presenters in this workshop will focus on helping participants identify decision points and consequences that can be integrated within a branching storyline to create a powerful teaching and learning narrative. Participants will collaboratively create a branching Twine story, and leave the workshop with ideas for Twines of their own and a worksheet to help bring their Twines to life.

Level of Participation:

Presenters will briefly describe the process they have used to create interactive, branching Twine stories appropriate for higher education, and provide a demonstration of Twine in action. Then, using a teaching-focused case study as a launching point, presenters will guide participants through the process of collaboratively creating a Twine in real time. Finally, in small groups, participants will use a brainstorming worksheet to begin designing a Twine exercise of their own. Throughout the session, participants will be encouraged to think through ways to use Twine to accomplish their own learning goals. Questions from participants are welcomed throughout the workshop.

Session Goals:

Participants will leave this hands-on workshop able to: 

  • Describe the basic purpose and functionality of Twine
  • Brainstorm decision points, choices, and consequences for a branching narrative
  • Generate ideas for Twine stories of their own