Maximizing the Medium II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about using one technological platform to circumvent the design constraints of another. Here is another, more serendipitous, example of finding a technological means for achieving an instructional objective.

For an upcoming undergraduate course, I decided to make Twine stories part of my exams. My previous posts on Twine for a team writing project are here, here, and here. (Hard to believe it’s been seven years since I last used it — how time flies.) For now, it is only important to know that Twine is freeware that enables users to create interactive texts in the form of HTML files.

I wanted my exams to each have two parts that students complete in sequence — first, a series of multiple choice questions on concepts; second, an essay-type question in which students demonstrate their ability to apply the same concepts by extending a Twine’s plot line. It is fairly easy (if tedious) to create multiple choice test questions in the Canvas LMS. One can also set a content module to require that students complete each item in the module in order. But initially I didn’t know how to include the Twine story for each exam’s second part.

I discovered this method: I uploaded the Twine HTML file to the Canvas course shell, then created an assignment that students will use to submit a written response. In the assignment’s prompt, I included a link to the HTML file that I had uploaded. When students click on the link, a new webpage within Canvas opens, and the Twine displays as a functional HTML document within the webpage. There is no need for students to jump out of the Canvas environment to a different software platform to access the Twine story — thereby preventing the “This doesn’t work and I’m helpless” reaction from students who haven’t correctly toggled their web browser settings.

To illustrate, here is one of my exam prompts:

“Play the [link to Twine HTML file in Canvas course shell] game. Write a brief paragraph about one character in the Twine that continues the existing story and presents the reader with a binary choice to make about the character. Then write a brief paragraph for each of the potential outcomes of that choice.  The three paragraphs need to present a plot line that reflects one of the following development concepts:

– Poverty trap.
– Common pool resource problem.
– Diminishing returns to capital.
– Economic returns to education.

Identify which of these concepts your plot line demonstrates at the top of your exam.”

While this isn’t rocket science, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across a situation in which it was easy to use the available technology to accomplish my goal.