Note: An old-timey .pdf of this syllabus is available here.

ENG 207
Digital Storytelling

Professor: Baker Lawley
Office: Confer 325
Office Hours: by appointment

Course Description: What is this course all about?
In his book The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall argues that, of all creatures on Earth, only people tell stories. This means that telling stories is, in some way, what makes us human. Though storytelling is as old as human culture, this class will delve into ways the newest technologies are used in narratives. In this course, we’ll examine this act of storytelling as it takes on a digital form, such as a video game, an interactive fiction experience, or a StoryMap.

We’ll read/experience these texts and ask big questions: What makes something a story? How does someone make or tell a story in digital forms? How do digital stories deliver a narrative experience that differs from (or is similar to) “old-fashioned” narratives like books or movies? How does the format of a story, such as pixels or interactive technology, affect the way we understand it? While exploring these digital narratives, we’ll practice digital storytelling with exercises using some of the technologies available. To end the course, students will develop their own Digital Storytelling project, and work intensively over the final weeks of IEX to produce a finished digital story of their own creation.

Course Objectives/Learning Outcomes:
The goals of this course are to develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, and to provide a digital literary laboratory in which students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the field of digital storytelling in context with other traditional storytelling forms
  • Analyze the relationship of narrative to audience and design
  • Practice skills in several digital storytelling methods
  • Research, develop, and create a digital story of their own design

That’s straightforward, but it’s also highly ambitious and requires a substantial amount of work, collaboration, goodwill, tenacity, patience, and fortitude.

Required Texts and Components:

  • Digital Storytelling, by Carolyn Handler Miller
  • Additional course readings as listed on the course schedule at
  • The Martian, app available for Android or iOS
  • Instagram account using hashtag #gacdigistory
  • Steam account

You’ll also need the following crucial components to make this course successful:

  • A good work ethic
  • A willingness to explore, experiment, fail, and get better with new kinds of work
  • A sense of wonder, for when things go well with your work
  • A sense of humor, for when things don’t
  • An openness to others’ ideas; willingness to collaborate and discuss
  • Enthusiasm and congeniality

Professor Responsibilities and Course Approach:
My primary goal as an instructor is always to help students become their best selves. In an academic setting, that usually takes the form of thinking critically, writing productively for a particular rhetorical situation, participating actively in the classroom community, and performing to the best of their abilities. In this specific course, my goals also include familiarizing you with the world of digital storytelling, addressing the various issues inherent in writing and publishing in new and developing forms, facilitating your production of work in these forms, and equipping you for further writing and/or professional skill development in these forms in the future.

To that end, this course will present a number of practical challenges and help you figure out what you think about them. My job is not to tell you what to think or how to act; rather, it is to help you learn to develop, refine, and present your thoughts and stories in a polished and professional manner. Beyond that, you should expect me to be in class, to be on time, and to be prepared for the day’s activities. You should also expect me to respond to assignments, questions, and comments in a timely manner.

Student Responsibilities:
They are to work hard, exhibit professionalism, experiment and collaborate, meet deadlines, and apply learning. You are expected to read, write, think, and engage. In order to do those things at an acceptable level, you should be in class on time and prepared for the day’s activities. You should complete all assignments on time and with a high level of competence. You should participate actively and seek help when you have questions or concerns.

Joint Responsibilities:

  • Attend class.
  • Be prepared for class. If you demonstrate a lack of preparation—including, but not limited to, attending class without a copy of the assigned text—you will receive a zero for that day’s assignments.
  • Be punctual—ready to start at the class starting time, not just walking through the door.
  • Treat each other with respect and courtesy. Students who are disrespectful or inappropriate will receive lowered participation grades. This is particularly significant in an experiential setting, which is a learning environment of immersion and discovery rather than the slog of a busy semester. Let’s encourage each other to embrace experiences (this class, life as a whole).
  • Share our thoughts, questions, and comments.
  • Use technology appropriately. Unlike most classes, we will occasionally use cell phones and computers for class work. That doesn’t mean you have free license text or Snapchat or do other activities on your device during class. Turn all cell phones and other electronic devices off or on silent unless we are actively using them for a class activity. A note on this: we all love cell phones. However, any student using a cell phone during class inappropriately will receive a zero for that day’s class participation grade. Any student with egregious cell phone use will be asked to leave class and will receive a zero on all work in that day’s class.

Because of the fast-paced, survey nature of this course, your presence in class is essential. If you aren’t in class, you will be unable to complete the required assignments at a competent level and risk failing the class. Therefore, you may miss only two classes without any penalty (beyond the loss of important information and the opportunity to shape that day’s decisions on the journal—a loss that is, of course, its own form of penalty). Please note that absences are neither excused nor unexcused; you’re either here or you’re not. After you miss two classes, each additional absence will result in the deduction of 3 points from your final course grade. Furthermore, I expect you to be seated and ready to begin the class at the appointed start time for the course. If you are tardy, you are missing valuable class time. Students who are repeatedly tardy will have their participation grade lowered to reflect the time when they were not present—and therefore not participating in class.

Missed or Late Coursework:
If your work is late, you’ll receive a substantial penalty on your grade. This is a course which samples several forms of digital storytelling, each one building on the previous form. If you miss assignments, this building isn’t possible. I will generally not accept late work, except in the cases of emergency or incapacitating illness.

Your work will be evaluated based on your level of participation and the level of critical engagement you bring to your storytelling projects and classroom activities. These activities include class discussions, text analyses, and feedback on the texts produced by classmates. Please keep in mind that students who disrupt the community through inappropriate or disrespectful behaviors will have their participation grades lowered accordingly.

Generally, your writing will be evaluated on the following criteria: idea development and strength of overall concept; suitability for intended audience; organization and structure; style, diction, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, in that order. Although you may not always have cause to incorporate outside sources in this course, if you do use them, you are expected to do so according to academic conventions, following MLA guidelines and conventions.

All your work counts and all assignments are required. Some assignments will be graded on a check system rather than a letter grade. Please note that, in keeping with its immersive and experiential goals, this is a class with different feedback models than you would find in a more traditional course. If you’re uncomfortable with that or would like to discuss your progress and performance throughout the semester, please see me.

How are grades distributed?
This IEX course will be graded as Pass/Fail. You must complete all assignments with good quality (at a minimum) to earn a Pass. Passing will be earned through the breakdown below:

Contributions to class discussions 15%
Assignments and Responses 15%
Social Media Story 15%
StoryMap 15%
Twine Story 15%
Final Project 25%

I have occasionally encountered students who protest, “But I don’t do participation.” Please be advised that if that’s your posture, you will struggle with this course, as a substantial portion of your grade depends on your contributions to editorial meetings, class, and group work. If these activities challenge you and you’d like to discuss ways to improve, please feel free to stop by office hours.

Important Notes:

  • This course requires you to complete a significant number of assignments throughout the interim. As such, it requires students to be organized and focused.
  • Readings and assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class or turned in, but please note that some assignments may be due on dates when class does not meet.
  • Assignments and policies are subject to change with appropriate notice.

Institutional Student Learning Outcomes:
Students will be able to apply what was learned in coursework to new scenarios outside standard university courses. (Cognitive Practice, Intellectual Capacities, Integration of Learning)
Students will be able to identify their personal values and learning goals and direct themselves by creating personalized learning experiences that may include alternative means of learning. (Intellectual Capacities, Integration of Learning, Ethical Reflection, Intercultural Understanding)
Students will be able to clarify and refine their understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in content of relevant disciplines and in skills such as time management, organization, professionalism, and so forth. (Intellectual Capacities, Leadership, Wellbeing)
Students will be able to recognize their knowledge and lack of knowledge. (Intellectual Capacities, Leadership, Wellbeing)
Students will be able to connect their undergraduate experiences and their post-graduation lives. (Integration of Learning, Intercultural Understanding, Leadership, Wellbeing)
Students will hone their writing skills while focusing on writing in a particular context interesting to them. (Cognitive Practice, Intellectual Capacities, Integration of Learning)
Students will sharpen their awareness of rhetorical situations and rhetorical choices. (Cognitive Practice, Intellectual Capacities)
Students will increase their awareness of the writing process, including pre-writing, revision, and reflection. (Cognitive Practice, Intellectual Capacities)
To encourage students to practice the reading and comprehension of substantial, serious prose and poetry. (Cognitive Practice, Intellectual Capacities, Intercultural Understanding)
Students will evaluate similar journals and magazines for analysis of their success and for modeling our own practices. (Intellectual Capacities, Integration of Learning, Ethical Reflection)
Students will learn to see our magazine in terms of reading audience, and will evaluate the experience and the importance of reading as part of both study and leisure. (Wellbeing)

Academic misconduct includes all acts of dishonesty in any academically-related matter and any knowing attempt to help another student commit an act of academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to each of the following acts when performed in any type of academic or academically-related matter, exercise, or activity: (1) Cheating — using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, study aides, or computer-related information; (2) Plagiarism — representing words, data, works, ideas, computer programs, etc. as one’s own when they are not; (3) Fabrication — presenting as genuine any invented or falsified citation or material; (4) Misrepresentation — falsifying, altering, or misstating the contents of documents or other materials related to academic matters, including schedules, prerequisites, and transcripts.

Plagiarism is a very serious offense within the scholarly community, and the college does not permit it. In this class, documented cases of plagiarism can result in failure of the course. Plagiarized work will be submitted to the Dean’s office. Please see below regarding the Gustavus Honor Code and its relationship to plagiarism.

Gustavus Adolphus College Honor Code:
The faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College expects all students to adhere to the highest standards of academic honesty and to refrain from any action that impinges upon academic freedom of other members of the college community. In all academic exercises, examinations, presentations, speeches, papers, and reports, students shall submit their own work. Footnotes or some other acceptable form of citation must accompany any use of another’s words or ideas. Students are especially cautioned that quoting or paraphrasing from electronic sources without proper citation is as serious a violation as copying from a book or other printed source.

In the case of cheating or plagiarism, the instructor will inform the student and the Office of the Provost of the nature of the offense, the penalty within the course, and the recommendation of the instructor as to whether further disciplinary action is warranted. Another instance of academic dishonesty will result in review of the student’s record by the probation committee and may result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a pattern of academic dishonesty continues, the student may be permanently dismissed from the College.

A student may not submit work that is substantially the same in two courses without first gaining permission of both instructors if the courses are taken concurrently, or permission of the current instructor if the work had been submitted in a previous semester.

The faculty regards the damaging of library materials and failing to sign out or to return them properly, and the misuse of computer files and programs, as equally serious violations of the ethical standards of courtesy, fairness, and honesty that bind together a community of scholars.

Individuals who use the College’s computer facilities assume the responsibility of seeing that these resources are used in an appropriate manner. Misuse of computer hardware, software, data, and output is a violation of College policy and regulations and may also be a violation of law if data of other computer users are disturbed or the privacy of individuals is violated.

In order to maintain classrooms as places for the respectful exchange of ideas, and to preserve the integrity of a community of scholars, audio or video recording and dissemination of course–related content require the express permission of the individual faculty member who will also respond to infractions as necessary. Recording as a disability accommodation (without dissemination) is coordinated by the Center for Academic Resources and Enhancement.

Finally, students who serve the College in positions of responsibility in which they deal with test materials, letters of recommendation, and other matters that must be held in confidence are expected to maintain confidentiality and to adhere to the same high standards of personal integrity.

Honor Pledge:
The following phrase indicates your agreement with the Honor Code:

“On my honor, I pledge that I have not given, received, or tolerated others’ use of unauthorized aid in completing this work.”

By putting your name on any assignment or work for this course, you indicate your acceptance of the Honor Pledge and agree to abide by the Academic Honesty Policy and Honor Code of Gustavus Adolphus College.
Inform Your Instructor of Any Accommodations Needed

Accessibility Resources:
Gustavus Adolphus College is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability, or you think you may have a disability of any nature (e.g., mental health, attentional, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical) and, as a result, need reasonable academic accommodation to participate in class, take tests or benefit from the College’s services, then you should speak with the Accessibility Resources staff, for a confidential discussion of your needs and appropriate plans. Course requirements cannot be waived, but reasonable accommodations may be provided based on disability documentation and course outcomes. Accommodations cannot be made retroactively; therefore, to maximize your academic success at Gustavus, please contact Accessibility Resources as early as possible. Accessibility Resources ( is located in the Center for Academic Resources and Enhancement. Accessibility Resources Coordinator, Kelly Karstad, ( or x7138), can provide further information.

Help for Multilingual Students:
Support for English learners and multilingual students is available through the Center for International and Cultural Education’s ( Multilingual and Intercultural Program Coordinator (MIPC), Carly Overfelt ( The MIPC can meet individually with students for tutoring in writing, consulting about academic tasks, and helping students connect with the College’s support systems. When requested, the MIPC can consult with faculty regarding effective classroom strategies for English learners and multilingual students. If requested, the MIPC can provide students with a letter to a professor that explains and supports appropriate academic arrangements (e.g., additional time on tests, additional revisions for papers). Professors make decisions based on those recommendations at their own discretion. In addition, English learners and multilingual students can seek help from peer tutors in the Writing Center (

Mental Wellbeing
The Gustavus community is committed to and cares about all students. Strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol or drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating, and/or lack of motivation may affect a student’s academic performance or reduce a student’s ability to participate in daily activities. If you or someone you know expresses such mental health concerns or experiences a stressful event that can create barriers to learning, Gustavus services are available to assist you. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential health services available on campus at and

Title IX: Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Resources
Gustavus Adolphus College recognizes the dignity of all individuals and promotes respect for all people. As such, we are committed to providing an environment free of all forms of discrimination including sexual and gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence like sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or is experiencing these types of behaviors, know that you are not alone. Resources and support are available; you can learn more online at

Please know that if you choose to confide in me, I am mandated by the College to report to the Title IX Coordinator, because Gustavus and I want to be sure you are connected with all the support the College can offer. Although it is encouraged, you are not required to respond to outreach from the College if you do not want to. You may speak to someone confidentially by contacting the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART/CADA), Chaplains, Counseling Center, or Health Service staff; conversations with these individuals can be kept strictly confidential. SART/CADA can be reached 24 hours a day at 507-933-6868. You can also make a report yourself, including an anonymous report, through the form at

Research Help
Students can always get help with research at the library. Reference librarians will help find information on a topic, develop search strategies for papers and projects, search library catalogs and databases, and provide assistance at every step. Drop-ins and appointments are both welcome. Visit for hours, location, and more information.

Course Policy and Syllabus:
This policy and the class syllabus are subject to revisions.

GAC Digital Storytelling #gacdigistory

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