Storytelling with Animated Text, Images, Sound, and Video in E-Learning #158

Storytelling in eLearning is something I have only recently started to play with. Working with a team on a Zero Harm project (in the role of Learning Designer and eLearning Developer), we are developing courses on the company’s critical risks, including Health, Safety and Environmental Risk Management. For our Senior Management Team, I employed the storytelling technique to reduce the amount of interaction required (this was a preference of the group).

The example features animated text and graphics synced with audio narration. The on-screen text is minimal and relies on supporting visuals to complement the audio.

A while back, a colleague I developed a customer service course. Using blended learning to break up the course content into sizeable chunks, we also employed the storytelling technique (this was the first time we had ever done this). My role in this particular project was as the storyboard designer, and my colleague, Marisna Roodt was the eLearning developer.

My colleague and I learnt a lot of lessons in the development of this course, including the importance of decent audio equipment, and allowing for more development time to consider other visual elements to reduce some of the text.


Wow, so people have read my thesis

A while back I thought it would be a good idea to brush of some of the dust from my thesis and submit it for a local award. While I didn’t win the award, I did receive commendation from the judges and encouragement to keep writing. This got the attention at work and soon enough I was asked to present some of the key findings of my thesis at a conference. I got a few laughs, more so in my inability to enunciate the word “Phenomenology”, but what surprised me was the number of people who wanted me to send the link to my thesis so they could read it for themselves.

I thought, that beyond my supervisors and examiners (a total of 6 people) that, well that would be that. When I went online to grab the link I noticed you could view stats on how many people had viewed/downloaded your thesis:

When I saw the numbers I was blown away – 107 downloads on a Masters Thesis! My Masters Thesis!

This got me thinking to why people would want to read my thesis in the first place. I know that a thesis potentially contains a lot of untapped resource of original research, but its humbling to think that people think that my research could be useful.

Here are some of the reasons that I had for downloading others thesis when I was writing my own:

  • I needed guidance for how to structure a thesis, I mean I hadn’t written one before.
  • My methodology was foreign (so I thought) to the subject, and I was curious if anyone else had used the same the same methodology in similar ways on similar subjects.
  • Aside from the untapped resource of original research I could use to further my own arguments, I was usually after their references, who had they read, and if it could help me.


Game-based Learning and Model in one

Project Background

My biggest challenge this year is to work on a Zero Harm initiative in the construction industry. Using bow-tie analysis, several critical risks were identified. One of these was working in an around Underground Services (cables, pipes etc.). Within New Zealand it is believed that though there is an increased awareness with new guides being published to make people aware of the issues associated with Underground Services, there seems to be a lack of training courses. It was decided that the company would need to develop this in house.

With potentially a few hundred people to train nation-wide and the dangers associated with dealing with Underground Services, we couldn’t very well have people digging in a real life situation. So we needed to come up with an idea that would allow people to experience a simulation similar to the realities they work with on site.

How does the model work?

I am lucky these days to work within a fairly large team, who love nothing more than collaborating on ideas to make them better, smarter, innovative and best of all fun. What started was an idea to re-create the well known Operation game by Hasbro, was further developed into a life like representation of what is like out there underground. As you can see the model represents a road corridor, with known services indicators, from the green distribution box which suggests some serious voltage, to overhead services and even indicators that sewer mains and water mains are nearby.

When you pull away the layers we show a fairly good representation of what services underground actually look like. For people new to construction the model highlights that what you see above ground is not a true representation of the mess that can occur underneath.

What about the game?

The actual game part of the simulation is the challenge to go ahead and dig in the berm of the corridor for whatever reason that you might need to, for example you might be planting a new tree, or perhaps even about to run a new culvert across the road. Now with the hazard identification complete, we want you to go ahead and dig, just make sure you are being “aware” of possible services. The idea is that learners dig, those with experience a lot more cautiously, and the spade eventually hits a 11KVA cable. In real life, the worker could die or suffer extreme injuries. In the model, however, the worse that will happen is a sudden sound (not to dissimilar from Operation) and the game lights up.


What was my role?

I wish I could take ownership for the game, but sadly I am not clever enough on my own to have put the actual model together. For this we relied on a clever electrical graduate who was on light duties and available to help. Aside from helping to co-design the concept, the rest of the credit needs to go to my very clever colleagues in the Talent, Learning and Development Team.

Game-based Learning

Project Background

One of my internal customers had hired a number of new starters in his client services team with very little customer service experience. Additionally he also had a number of people whom he felt could benefit from some up skilling. He wanted a full course developed internally at low cost. The company had no existing course material on the subject, however they did have some innovative subject matter experts in customer service, so a team was put together to develop an eight week course.

Course Features

The course itself had many features, but for this blog, I am going to be highlighting one in particular; an exercise we created for dealing with difficult customers using game-based learning delivered within the classroom.

Generally, game-based learning is designed to balance a subject matter with gameplay, and the ability of the learner to then apply what they have learnt back to the real world. According to (McGonigal 2011), games have four key ingredients.(McGonigal 2011)

  1. Goal – a game has to have a desired outcome that everyone is working to accomplish.
  2. Rules – in order to achieve the goal there has to be some parameters put into place that eliminate or make it difficult to achieve the goal.
  3. Feedback system – this is a process where the player knows where they are in the system to achieve the goal.
  4. Voluntary participation – basically this means that everyone involved in the game understands the rules, has a clear sense of the goal, and how to receive feedback.


The game itself was based on a popular board game; Cranium. Obviously we made a number of changes from the original game because of copyright, and we wanted to relate the game back to the subject matter of dealing with difficult customers and complaints. The idea of the board game was to work in small groups or pairs, and to get to the centre of the board as quickly as possible.

Players had to complete challenges (game cards) that corresponded to the colour of the speech bubble or lightening bolt. Once the challenge was successfully completed they could roll the dice and move forward. If they landed on a mouth, they had the option to fast track the game by playing on the lightening bolt track.


We had four types of challenges; (1) Puzzle Me, (2) Perform Me, (3) Solve Me, and (4) Make Me.

Complainium Card Examples.PNG

The challenges were based on the content that learners had to complete previously in an eLearn and then in an earlier part of the actual classroom session. The game allowed learners to reinforce their learning, while in some challenges simulate what they would face in the real world.

What was my role?

  • My role was as the researcher and designer for this project. This project was created in collaboration with a colleague, Marisna Roodt.
  • I researched the content and need for this project
  • I identified the audience and context for this project in collaboration with my customer
  • I wrote the learning objectives 
  • I co-designed the rules and process for the game
  • I co-designed the structure and layout of the board game
  • I co-designed and developed the challenge cards for the game