20 Ideas For A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Model of Learning

Post by Open Colleges on November 13th, 2013

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books that allowed us to take stories into our own hands and decide the fate of our favorite characters? Even though the outcomes were predetermined, this interaction made us feel more invested and interested in the story. So why don’t we see more of this in education?

The ultimate goal for many of today’s educators is to transition from a push model, where information is provided passively, to a more interactive model, where the learner makes the same types of decisions she’d make in a real-world environment. These decision-making activities are used to reinforce what you want her to practice and learn so that your courses have real-world impact.

A pioneer in online teaching and learning, Dr. Zorn of York University is developing an online role-playing game and choose-your-own-adventure course designed to use webcasting and advanced internet technologies—such as Facebook, wikis, and blogs—to allow students to customize their own learning experience.

How exactly does she do it? Dr. Zorn uses lecture capture technology to create fully online, rich media courses that enable engaging, deep e-learning; leverages technology to go beyond replicating the conventional, in-class experience; avoids the pitfalls of using technology for technology’s sake; and used inspiration from World of Warcraft, the popular multiplayer online role-playing game, to create an online environment that educates for social change, providing skills for community-building and good citizenship.

There are challenges to be addressed, as always, in implementing this new learning strategy, but the independence and ownership the CYOA model affords students can’t easily be replicated otherwise. With that, here are a few techniques and resources geared towards interactive learning:

  1. Students vote on course material. Any teacher who has at least two courses under their belt probably has a treasure trove of their own articles, case studies, and anything that could be used as an alternative to the written lesson plan.
  2. Students vote on their own materials. This is an easy way to implement peer review into your activities. Post student work to a class blog and allow students to vote on the best post. Or, a few times a semester, ask the class to vote on student portfolios. This is a great opportunity to get honest feedback and figure out the areas in which a student excels or could use some work.
  3. Students choose a navigation strategy. After an introduction, present learners with a choice for learning about navigation before going on to perform specific tasks. Choices for the navigational introduction might be self-guided exploration or a guided tour, for example.
  4. Lectures become interactive. A great project idea was spearheaded by the Higher Education Academy in the UK, which involves interactive forum presentation as a new approach to learning and teaching.
  5. CYOA Apps. Passport and Passport Profile are two of six learning apps created by the Purdue Studio project. The apps can be used by instructors or students to enhance the traditional learning experience. “As students work through each task, they’re working toward an intended learning outcome. This creates a ‘choose your own adventure’ model for education in which students can determine their own paths for how to complete each task based on their own career trajectories or development interests,” says Kyle Bowen, director of Informatics at Purdue.
  6. Spotlight tool from Knewton: Knewton is one of the world’s leading adaptive learning companies. It partners with pioneering learning companies, publishers, content providers, and educational institutions to enable personalization at massive scale.
  7. The Claremont Colleges in California have undertaken an interesting project that involves mapping out the different paths colleges take in implementing the same literacy rubric.
  8. TED-Ed videos: TED-Ed just unveiled a new continuing series of interactive “choose your own adventure” videos that students can use to explore different careers. And they’re inviting suggestions for jobs they feature in future videos, too.
  9. Flixmaster is a new online video-editing tool that lets you easily create interactive videos. It looks like a great way to make a “Choose Your Own Adventure” video that doesn’t necessarily have to be hosted on YouTube.
  10. Choose Your Own Adventure Videos: Tutorial provides the technical insight into how to upload and link YouTube videos with the built in Annotation & Spotlight feature.
  11. The History 2.0 Classroom has a great video tutorial on making “Choose Your Own Adventure” videos and then has another post with student examples.
  12. Lou Lahana has created a very nice tutorial for his students on how to create an online Choose Your Own Adventure game with Google Forms.
  13. 10 Incredible Interactive YouTube Videos is an impressive collection of “Choose Your Own Adventure” videos from Mashable.
  14. Hear Dr. Zorn on CYOA .
  15. This free, open-source tool for building a CYOA game comes from Mother Jones, and takes users to a github site with the code from the quiz. As much as students can learn from playing games, they can always learn more from creating them.
  16. The Coalition for Gameful Learning has some great resources and inspiration for implementing game-based CYOA strategies into your lesson plans.
  17. From the Rapid E-Learning Blog by Tom Kuhlmann: A “3C model” to construct scenarios or interactive e-learning which includes the following steps:
    • Challenge: The goal is to engage the learner and challenge her understanding. Present a situation, get her to process some information, reflect, and then let her make a decision.
    • Choices: Once the learner is challenged, she needs to make a decision (or series of decisions). Provide some choices to work through the challenge. The choices should all be viable and realistic options. Don’t waste time on meaningless choices.
    • Consequences: Each choice produces a consequence. Sometimes the consequence may lead to immediate feedback; and sometimes it may lead to additional challenges that compound the situation.
  1. Inklewriter is a software and creative design company that lets students write and share interactive stories on mobile devices. Read more about it here.
  2. Build your own site. Susan Fisher, a Program Specialist in the Professional Learning Department for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, created a differentiation site called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ based on an existing model, and modified it to meet the needs of her course. The website allows students to pick from dozens of different project choices to earn points and demonstrate mastery of various teaching standards, addressing different levels and learning styles. The site lets students be totally creative with their projects, as long as they satisfy the rubric.

Letting students choose their own learning adventure doesn’t mean relinquishing all control as an educator. It just means you are willing to negotiate, and to acknowledge your students’ personalized needs. In the end, offering multiple options may actually be less work than offering one, especially if it means heightening student engagement. Try a Choose Your Own Adventure model and see where it takes you.

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