Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 620

Digital Storytelling (Revision 3)

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. The course then maps these narrative elements though their applied development in multimodal/digital design. Themes explored 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
  • alternatives to Western conventions of storytelling

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.

In the 21st century, digital stories have an ever-widening role in public discourses through multimodal platforms and social media. Even as contemporary stories morph into forms as diverse as computer games, narrative medicine, and organizational storytelling, they remain essential aspects of how we make sense of and shape the world around us.

Learning Outcomes

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

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


To receive credit for this MAIS 620, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete all assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least C− (60 percent).

You will be evaluated on your understanding of the concepts presented in the course and on your ability to apply those concepts. Your final grade in the course will be based on the marks achieved for the following activities.

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. The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011. eBook.

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

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


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


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 3, Sept 8, 2020.

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