Digital Storytelling @ SHU

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 available.  All storytellers have given their consent for these stories to be publically available.

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.

You can access all the stories captured to date via the links at the top of this page (Student Voices, Staff Voices).

If you are interested in how digital stories can be used in research, you could also read the article written by Liz Austen, Megan Jones and Anna-Sophia Wawera, from STEER/Sheffield Hallam University: Exploring digital stories as research in higher education.

How to produce digital stories

We can provide support and training for those wanting to learn how to produce digital stories, or would like to teach others (students or staff).  Please contact Liz Austen for more details (

Liz has also produced a series of resources for QAA Scotland on digital storytelling, including an ethical checklist and a ‘How to…’ guide.

Liz Austen and Stella Jones-Devitt have also produced a practice guide titled ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Storytelling’ which can support the production and use of digital stories for behavioural and/or cultural change. This was produced as part of the ‘Observing the Observer’ research funded by the Leadership Foundation (Advance HE)

Coming Soon

Other research projects currently using DST include:

  • Analysis of student digital stories as reflective formative assessments (Extended Degree Art/Design, SHU)
  • DST of research outputs from Student Experience Projects (funded by the Faculty of Development and Society, SHU)


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