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Creating Connections with Digital Storytelling

In this issue of Changing Course we will examine how digital storytelling connects students with nursing content. Digital storytelling involves composing and sharing stories using digital tools and multimedia elements such as image, sound, and words (ACRL, 2021). With digital stories, students view nursing through the lens of their peers. Digital storytelling involves sharing perspectives through artistic mediums and brings complex concepts to life.

Sample Digital Story

This digital story was created by a team of students in their first nursing course.

Why use Digital Storytelling?

Digital stories are narratives crafted to take the viewer on a journey (The Learning Portal, 2022). When designing and communicating information through digital storytelling, students deepen their understanding of content (Porter, 2022). Students use creative thinking and multiple mediums to design their story. With digital storytelling, students take an active role in the learning process; they become active creators of knowledge as opposed to passive recipients, which fosters connection to the content.

Universal Design for Learning

Digital storytelling supports Universal Design for Learning Guidelines through providing:

  • Multiple Means of Engagement: offers choice in the method of story creation, fosters collaboration, and harnesses the power of emotions
  • Multiple Means of Representation: offers a different way to approach content
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression: offers the use of diverse media to express learning such as text, illustration, storyboards, design, music, and video

(CAST, 2022).

Individual Work of Art or Creative Collaboration

With digital storytelling students can work individually, or collaboratively in teams to illustrate their unique perspective of the content through a visual story. Stories are based on their life experiences and reflect their diversity (Nguyen, 2011). As a collaborative endeavor, students apply principles of team dynamics and engage in teamwork when developing their digital story.

Mastery Demonstration

Digital storytelling provides a means for educators to assess mastery of nursing competencies and supports meeting the American American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) Essentials (AACN, 2021) competencies across many domains. Mastery is linked to the assigned content. For example, a digital story assignment on the topic Nursing Theory crosses several domains (Table 1).


Table 1
Domain  Competency (Subcompetency) 
Knowledge for Nursing Practice  1.1a,d; 1.2a,b; 1.3c 
Scholarship for the Nursing Discipline  4.1c 
Interprofessional Partnerships  6.2a,c; 6.4a 
Informatics and Healthcare Technologies  8.3a 
(AACN, 2021)

Digital stories integrate ways of knowing and innovation in nursing, while articulating nursing’s distinct perspective. There are no spoken words, as communication occurs through emotion and the human experience. Images, words, and music link story elements and humanize the abstract which allows the digital story to be remembered by more people in a deeper way (Dillon, 2014).



Here is digital story assignment that I have used with success. Please feel free to use and share with proper attribution.


Nursing Theory Digital Story


Students work collaboratively in teams to illustrate the unique perspective of a nursing theory and how it is applied in clinical practice through a visual story. The primary domain addressed is Knowledge for Nursing Practice. The digital story integrates ways of knowing and innovation in nursing, while articulating nursing’s distinct perspective. There are no spoken words, as communication occurs through emotion and the human experience. The digital story can be created using any format that can generate a video slideshow with music, including a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The ultimate goal of this assignment is for students to apply the embedded theoretical knowledge to their clinical practice, improve health and transform health care. 


Students will

  • Identify concepts, derived from theories from nursing and other disciplines, which distinguish the practice of nursing (AACN Essential Subcompetency 1.1a) 
  • Articulate nursing’s distinct perspective to practice (AACN Essential Subcompetency 1.1d)
  • Apply or employ knowledge from nursing science as well as the natural, physical, and social sciences to build an understanding of the human experience and nursing practice (AACN Essential Subcompetency 1.2a) 
  • Demonstrate intellectual curiosity (AACN Essential Subcompetency1.2b) 
  • Incorporate knowledge from nursing and other disciplines to support clinical judgment (AACN Essential Subcompetency 1.3c) 
  • Apply theoretical framework(s)/models in practice (AACN Essential Subcompetency 4.1c) 
  • Apply principles of team dynamics, including team roles, to facilitate effective team functioning (AACN Essential Subcompetency 6.2a) 
  • Engage in the work of the team as appropriate to one’s scope of practice and competency (AACN Essential Subcompetency 6.2c) 
  • Demonstrate respect for the perspectives and experiences of others (AACN Essential Subcompetency 6.4a) 
  • Demonstrate appropriate use of information and communication technologies (AACN Essential Subcompetency 8.3a) 


  • Instructor will divide the class into teams of 4-5 students and will assign each team a nursing theorist
  • As a team, research the assigned theorist and theory
  • Decide upon a video platform to create the story (examples: PowerPoint, Google Photo, iMovie, Adobe Spark, Movavi Clips, Smilebox)
  • Create a slideshow using images and short phrases or words that describe the theorist/theory. Use pictures and text to tell the theorist’s/theories’ story
  • Add music that complements the story
  • Export the slideshow video as an mp4 or in any video format
  • Be prepared to share your Digital Story with the class

Tips: The picture should tell the story, not the words. Use only 1-2 words per picture. The slideshow should be no less than 30 seconds and no more than 1 minute.


Grading Criteria: 2 = yes, 1 = somewhat, 0 = no

1. Images convey meaning (few words used per slide)

2. Main points of theory included

3. Music is congruent with the theory

4. Timing of slides is appropriate (not too slow, not to fast)

5. Digital story is 45-60 seconds in length


Try it!

Choose a topic and begin the story! Digital stories foster creative expression and active learning. Watch as students make connections to content through sharing their stories.

Coming up in the next edition of Changing Course . . . Growing Clinical Judgment with Trees.


Advancing Learning Transforming Scholarship (ACRL). (2021). Keeping up with  . . . Digital Storytelling. 
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2021). The Essentials: Core competencies for professional nursing education.
CAST. (2022). About Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Dillon, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. 
Nguyen, A. T. (2011) Negotiations and challenges in creating a digital story: The experience of graduate students (Doctoral dissertation).
Porter, B. (2022). The art of digital storytelling. Educator.
The Learning Portal (2022). Digital storytelling. College Libraries Ontario.


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