Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 620

Digital Storytelling (Revision 2)

MAIS 620 course cover

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Delivery Mode: Grouped study

Credits: 3

Precluded: CMNS 419 (MAIS 620 may not be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained in CMNS 419)

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies

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MAIS 620: Digital Storytelling introduces students to the fundamentals of storytelling including story structure, characterization and motivation, narrative tensions, and postmodern inflections of traditional approaches to narrative. In the 21st century, digital stories have an ever increasing role in public discourse through multimodal platforms including news websites, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and online television services such as Netflix. Even as the nature of contemporary stories morph in their articulation into new forms as diverse as computer games, narrative medicine, and organizational storytelling, they remain essential aspects of how we make sense of the world in human terms.

This course will include:

  • story elements and structure
  • visual storytelling
  • audio storytelling
  • new media storytelling, including social media, alternate reality games, and video games
  • comics and the conjunction of image and text

Students will learn the basics of story structure, emplotment, and point of view; how new media technologies are changing approaches to storytelling; different approaches to telling stories, including audio slideshows, audio stories, graphic stories, interactive stories and storyboards.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • identify aspects of stories that make them memorable and influential
  • be familiar with the fundamentals of characterization and the central role of character in narratives; understand the differences between core desires, motivations, and goals
  • understand the basic five-part story structure and how it relates to dramatic tension
  • understand point of view (POV): what it is, what it can be, and how it is created; be familiar with the relationship between POV and discourse and understand the importance of framing in visual storytelling
  • understand the basic properties of podcast storytelling and understand the importance of "theatre of the mind" when designing sound for stories
  • be familiar with how sound elements such as the human voice, music, noise, silence, and acoustic space can shape storytelling outcomes.
  • understand qualities introduced through digital technologies that have facilitated new forms of storytelling
  • be familiar with emerging trends in digital storytelling strategies, some of the more popular platforms for digital storytelling, and what defines their unique story forms
  • develop an understanding of the dynamics of how stories take on different forms in relation to platform specific opportunities
  • understand the basic concepts underlying the semiotic, rhetorical, and discursive implications of visual communication and have a working knowledge of how visual structures and dynamics can shape various aspects of stories and their outcomes
  • •understand storyboarding and the role of storyboarding in the digital storytelling production process
  • •be familiar with graphic storytelling, including the concept of closure, the significance of the gutter, and the relationship between time and space in graphic stories.
  • •understand the significance of postmodern self-reflexiveness
  • •have a working knowledge of postmodern story techniques
  • •understand the political function of stories, including their role in challenging expectations of power and mobilizing social meaning
  • •learn about gaming and interactivity and explore real world applications for digital storytelling
  • •be able to craft excellent stories in a digital medium (including slideshows, comics, storyboards, and/or digital video)


To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60%.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 10%
Assignment 1 - Mini Slide Show 15%
Assignment 2 - Podcast 15%
Assignment 3 - Visual Story 15%
Assignment 4 - Storyboard 10%
Assignment 5 - Final Project 35%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for MAIS 620 include the items listed below.


Alexander, Bryan. 2011. The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives With New Media.Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. (ebook)

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. (New York: William Morrow, 1994).

McGonigal, Jane. Reality is Broken. (New York: Penguin, 2011).

Madden, Matt. 99 Ways to Tell a Story. (New York: Penguin, 2005).


Marker, Chris (Director/Writer). La Jetée. (1962). Online.


Students will need access to (i) digital camera or smartphone (Android/iPhone/iPod or iPad would work) that can shoot both stills and video, and/or (ii) audio recording device of some kind and home computer.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, July 7, 2017.

View previous syllabus