Guest post – Digital Storytelling

Liz Austen, Senior Lecturer Research, Evaluation and Student Engagement talks about a recent project capturing student voices through Digital Storytelling.

Since the 1990s, the use of digital storytelling (DST) has steadily increased in an attempt to combine different ways of storytelling with the emergence of new digital media tools. The traditional roots of DST can be traced back to the University of California at Berkley’s Centre for Digital Storytelling, founded in 1993 by Dana Atchley, Joe Lambert and other artists in the San Francisco region (McLellan, 2006). Its aim is to provide a novel platform to empower and give voice to individuals or groups who are often overlooked in mainstream culture (Clarke & Adam, 2010).

In its traditional form and core function, digital storytelling refers to the process of developing personal narratives based on certain life experiences. Those stories are supported by a combination of text, audio recordings, images, music and animations to create short films with a duration of typically 2 to 5 minutes (Benick, 2012; Davis, 2011).

Digital storytelling is currently used in educational settings as a tool for reflection, as an inclusive assessment, to encourage community engagement, as a formative approach to prepare presentations and to build belonging in online settings.

Digital storytelling at Sheffield Hallam University

This approach is now being used across our institution for a variety of purposes following an exploratory project with the Yorkshire Universities group captured in previous blogs here and here. Current research projects and institutional outputs now include both student and staff voices.  A library of digital stories is presented below.  All storytellers have given their consent for these stories to be publically available. Click on the images below to watch the stories.

How to use these stories

Digital storytelling has become a mechanism for capturing student and staff voices at Sheffield Hallam University and is approached as an innovative research methodology.  Ethically, it is important that these stories have impact and they are used to facilitate reflections, discussions and eventual change at local or organisational level.  STEER can help support you or your team to use these stories in your practice or to create your own. Please contact Liz Austen for more details.

Student Voices

Hidden Voices – a selection of student stories which highlight the diversity of experience at SHU and the targeted lifecycle approach we take to supporting them.


Tags: identity; relationships; belonging


Tags: family; religion; choices


Tags: retention; induction; Student Union


Tags: placement; employability; confidence


Tags: wellbeing; support; achievements


Tags: resilience; failure; success


Tags: support; confidence; extra-curricular activities


Tags: friendship; pride; extra-curricular activities

Staff Voices

REACT  “Lessons Learnt” – research output from a project which aimed to reduce the BME attainment gap.

Tags: critical whiteness; BME attainment gap; unintended outcomes


Coming Soon

Other research projects currently using DST include:

  • Analysis of student digital stories as reflective formative assessments (Extended Degree Art/Design, SHU)
  • Using DST for positive behaviour and cultural change in organisations (funded by LFHE, SHU)
  • DST of research outputs from Student Experience Projects (funded by the Faculty of Development and Society, SHU)
  • A literature review of the use of DST for capturing student voices (STEER, SHU)

Laptop image courtesy of Maxpixel

This post is also featured on Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research @ SHU