The Hero's Journey: Leveraging Narrative in Online Course Design

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

Building learning experiences that support autonomy proves challenging. Learn how narrative coupled with emerging technology redefines students as epic heroes driving knowledge creation.

Extended Abstract

Supporting student persistence and motivation in the online learning environment can benefit from leveraging structures, practices, and techniques ubiquitous to such high-engagement practices as gaming. In distilling the components of gamification that support student engagement, learner autonomy over the process persists as key to the experience. As educators continue to develop learning environments that support the students' creation of knowledge, the narrative structure proves a beneficial way to reframe the role, responsibility and path of the student throughout the course. This session seeks to address the question of how course designers might leverage emerging technology, innovative practices and the narrative structure of the hero's journey in the context of the online learning environment, casting students in the role of the epic hero of the course.
Envisioning the individual learner as epic hero encompasses such 21st century skills as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving and innovation. Students meet defined curricular outcomes just as the hero obtains a goal upon completion of their journey. At the conclusion of the process, they must be changed and their perception of their community/world must also be changed. The process of change then will occur through a series of trials that tests their skills and reveals their innate qualities or characteristics they themselves were unaware of existing. In this way, students must be given the opportunity to experience this dawning or revelation slowly (and probably near the end of the academic term). This format is not dissimilar to the constructivist learning environment and students' active production of knowledge. Moreover, by weaving together such experiential learning practices as gamification, digital storytelling, and digital badging atop this framework, narrative structure in the context of online course design reframes the role of student and teacher such that the learners are placed in the driver's seat.
This highly-interactive session will define narrative in the context of course design and education technology, and offer examples of courses leveraging this structure as isolated learning objects, as the structure for select module designs, and as the backbone of the entire course. The presenters, representing both faculty and instructional designers, will highlight various use cases where narrative is implemented in the design of the online learning environment. Several technology tools will be presented that support narrative in online course design, and the session will conclude with a framework, worksheet and collection of resources structured to help practitioners design learning experiences that will move students into the role of epic hero.
This session will benefit practitioners and designers from all backgrounds and skill levels, particularly those seeking ways to foster learner autonomy over the educational process. Participants will engage in a rich discussion on how the practices and implementation strategies shared in the session might be incorporated into their own work, leaving with rich resources for innovating with narrative structure in their unique contexts and environments.