Blending coherence and control in the construction of interactive educational narratives from digital resources

Mulholland, Paul; Wolff, Annika; Zdrahal, Zdenek and Collins, Trevor (2008). Blending coherence and control in the construction of interactive educational narratives from digital resources. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(3) pp. 283–296.



Digital learning environments are generally composed of resources that cumulatively meet some specified educational objective, with each resource facilitating the acquisition of a subset of the concepts to be learned. In such contexts narrative has, for example, been used to support the understanding and navigation of a course or curriculum structure into which the resources have been pre-organised. Conversely, we focus on educational contexts where the unit of learning is concepts derived across the constituent resources. Such learning across resources often characterises more learner-directed, inquiry-based, exploratory, or informal learning activities. Here the task of the learner is to select, organise, and conceptualise collections of resources, a task that narrative can potentially support. Using narrative to aid learners in working across a set of resources introduces a perennial challenge of interactive narrative - how to appropriately facilitate both narrative coherence and user control. Narrative coherence can help the learner to reason and navigate across a set of resources. Learners also need sufficient user control over resource selection, organisation, and use so that they do not feel over-constrained in what they can explore. Murray made a thought-provoking comparison between reading an interactive narrative and viewing a sculpture. We use this as a starting point to derive desirable properties for interactive narrative that support learning across resources, namely inter- and intra-perspective coherence and control. As an example, we interpret two of our systems in terms of how they meet these properties and sketch some general guidelines for the design of interactive narrative systems that support learning across resources.

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