For digital natives (and perhaps even most digital immigrants) transmedia storytelling has become the standard for communication. Entertainment, marketing and advertising practice revolves around integrating several different media into a cohesive and coherent narrative. This process of media convergence provides brands and entertainment properties with the ability to continuously engage their audience and allow for audience participation, through community building and co-creation.
Transmedia storytelling practice has yet to penetrate the domain of education fully. Most educators abide by traditional methods of teaching that are disconnected from the way digital natives access and process information.
This might explain why educators struggle to engage learners. Research indicates that Dutch learners are among the least motivated learners in Europe. This is attributed, in part, to a lack of differentiated teaching and challenge, and education increasingly having to compete for attention with digital entertainment and social media platforms, due to high internet penetration. In senior secondary vocational education adopting new methods of teaching seems particularly challenging as a large portion of educators is made up of lateral-entry professionals. The demographic therefore consists of older teachers, that often lack digital literacy, didactic, and pedagogical skills.
Transmedia storytelling is proposed as a new approach to curriculum design, that might provide educators with a means to improve the quality of education. Promoting media platform migration, interaction, and socialization through narrative enables educators to engage learners in new and meaningful ways. Studies on smaller scale transmedia educational projects, for different target audiences, have shown an increase in engagement and knowledge retention among learners. Additionally, transmedia storytelling improves learner participation through community building, and accommodates a natural approach to teaching digital literacy skills.
A triangulation of methods and perspectives is used to increase rigor in the study and to elucidate divergent perspectives on the application of transmedia storytelling in education. As experts on transmedia storytelling practice in senior secondary vocational education appear to be non-existent, different perspectives need to be combined in order to gain a broad and deep understanding of how transmedia storytelling might be applied in senior secondary vocational education curriculum design. For the purposes of this study several canvasses and models that aid in the construction of transmedia narratives have been compared and contrasted; four educational transmedia projects were reviewed as case-studies in order to identify best practices and strategies for key areas of transmedia educational narrative design; semi-structured interviews were conducted with industry experts in the fields of transmedia storytelling and education; and a card-sorting exercise was conducted with three subject-matter experts from different fields of education within senior secondary vocational education in order to identify approaches for implementing transmedia storytelling in curriculum design.
Through this combination of methods, best practices and transmedia curriculum design considerations were identified. The card-sorting exercise illuminated narrative structures already present in several diverse fields of study (laboratory analyst, ICT and media design), that indicate a possible universal narrative structures embedded in senior secondary vocational education. These narrative structures might be exploited in transmedia curriculum or project design.
Based on these results, this study provides considerations for using transmedia storytelling in senior secondary vocational education curriculum design. Incorporating transmedia educational narratives is facilitated through the description of narrative, engagement, and interaction design considerations and connecting these to theories of learning.
Keywords: Transmedia Storytelling, education, senior secondary vocational education, middelbaar beroepsonderwijs (mbo), narrative strategies, narrative design, interaction design, engagement design, theories of learning, media affordances, Transmedia LearningWorld, constructivism, behaviorism, cognitivism, curriculum design.