Digital Storytelling

Why Assign or Create a Digital Story?

Cristina Lopez

  • Multimedia presentation combining images, video clips, voiceover narration, and music
  • Allow researchers to present scholarship to variety of audiences in engaging way
  • May be fiction or non-fiction, and even data-driven
  • Students hone narrative and visual communication skills for a broad audience
  • Immigrant Stories helps recent immigrants and refugees share and preserve their personal experiences through brief videos with images, text, and audio

A digital story is a multimedia presentation with some combination of digitized still images, video clips, voiceover narration and music. Digital storytelling genres include personal narrative, documentary, and public service announcements (PSAs). A digital story can be non-fiction or fiction. That is a basic definition, but digital stories for teaching and research are much more than that. Digital stories are engaging for both viewers and creators. For viewers, a well crafted digital story can be compelling, emotionally moving, visually engaging. There are good uses for both classroom and research projects.

Consider building accessibility into the process of creating and sharing stories. See the University Accessibility website to start.

Digital stories present an opportunity for students to explain their research in more engaging ways, and potentially to audiences outside of the classroom. For students who make digital stories, their research and thinking is enriched through creative expression. While digital storytelling can be entertaining, the assignment can still be rigorous. Students still research the topic and write, though in this case they write a script and select images, music and sound to create meaning. Through their work students will develop visual and multimodal communication skills, a better command of narrative, and audience-centered communication. While students can create digital stories entirely on their own, there are opportunities for collaboration through peer review or team-based projects.

Researchers might create digital stories to explain their scholarship to a variety of audiences in more relatable, compelling and memorable ways. An emerging practice is data-informed or data-driven storytelling, which involves discovering and sharing stories in the data.

For any questions or assistance, please contact us.

Exemplary Projects

Immigrant Stories
(University of Minnesota)

President’s Emerging Scholars Program
(University of Minnesota)

In the Middle of Something Great

In the Middle of Something Great
(University of Minnesota)


Full-text article from the Journal of the Association for Journalism Education

Visualising data stories together: Refections on data journalism education from the Bournemouth University Datalabs Project
(Anna Feigenbaum, Einar Thorsen, Daniel Weissmann and Ozlem Demirkol, Bournemouth University)

Recommended Tools for Digital Storytelling

Storytellers will use a variety of tools and technologies throughout the production process for gathering materials, and recording, editing and publishing videos.

Gathering Materials

Digital storytelling projects involve either creating or searching for media assets: images, video and music. if you’re using works created by others, be sure to conduct a fair use analysis. Librarians can help you find materials, especially if you need media that is well known or of historical significance.

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons search is one way to find media assets.


Creative Commons licenses let you know in advance how the material may be used


Your students still need to know how the license works before they use the media assets in question.

Stock Content at the University of Minnesota

Stock Content: The University of Minnesota provides video, audio and graphics for which we already have permission.


Lots of content and no need to worry about copyright.


Does not include well known media or media of historic significance that adds particular meaning to digital stories.

Recording and editing


People often use images they have created (e.g, family photos) or searched for, but sometimes you need to create your own. Any decent quality camera will do, including the one on your phone or tablet.


Device is always there, easy to use, images are of decent quality.


Quality might not be as high on a phone or tablet camera.

Audio: Audacity

Cross platform audio recording and editing software that is available free of charge.


Cross platform, powerful yet easy to use.


Not cloud-based. If you’re not working in a campus lab, you need to download it.

Video editing software: iMovie

App for Macintosh computers, iPad, iPhone


Inexpensive, easy to use, can be used on different Apple devices


Keep in mind that image and other files used need to remain in place until you finish and export the video.
Apple only.

Campus resources

SMART Learning Commons, University Libraries, provides software used in video production. They also lend out microphones and video cameras. And, through their services you can get a consultant to guide your students through the video production process.

Sharing Stories: YouTube

At the University of Minnesota, YouTube is recommended for sharing and embedding videos. YouTube channels can be public or private. Videos can be embedded in many different types of sites, either individually or as playlists. YouTube is available to all University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students through the Google Apps suite of tools.


Integrated into University work and technologies, makes captioning easier. Can embed videos into a site or blog that is about the project. Analytics.


Within YouTube, no control over related videos that appear for viewers.

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