Storytelling incorporates the basic elements of narration such as setting, characters, an event or problem, development, climax, and conclusion. The elements of a story can be customized to attract and retain the interest of learners. Transmedia Storytelling (TS) is the process of telling, elaborating, and evolving stories across multiple delivery methods to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. The fundamental notion of TS is to engage individuals through a storytelling process that requires their participation to evolve the (brand) message, while at the same time taking advantage of the synergy effects of distributing unique content to a variety of platforms. One of the first and most successful examples of TS is the Star Wars franchise, which spans across movies, books, graphic novels, television shows, video games, social media, and more.

Transmedia Learning (TL) is a relatively new concept that combines the process of TS with instructional systems design practices to generate a continuous experience that results in measurable behavior change. The behavior can be physical and overt, intellectual, attitudinal or a combination of any of them. TL can be defined as a core experience that spreads across multiple media, and emotionally engages learners by involving them personally in the story. By involving the learner and making them a protagonist in their own story, TL has the potential to be more engaging than traditional forms of training. This increased engagement and presentation of information in the form of a story can help improve learning outcomes and lead to more effective training. In essence, TL offers a new way of looking at learning through multiple modalities, technologies, delivery methods, and interaction types.

One of TL’s biggest strengths is that it is inherently scalable and can be designed to reach a maximum amount of leaners right when they need it. By leveraging social media, TL takes advantage of the power of peer learning and giving learners access to information. TL programs can also increase scalability by taking advantage of massively open online courses (MOOC) which can train thousands of learners at any one time in interactive environments with open access. In fact, a well-designed TL program should leverage the strengths and best practices of many different instructional systems design strategies and delivery methods. This leveraging of different strategies and delivery methods allows learners access to content at any time and on any device no matter where they are.

Along with all of the potential advantages that a TL program can offer, there are also some potential limitations that should be considered as well. With so much content and information available to the learner at any time, it’s possible to overwhelm and confuse them if a solid framework for the core learning experience is not strategically put into place to manage and deploy the distributed learning. The creation of both the framework and core learning experience could take extensive knowledge, time, and money depending on the desired size and complexity of the TL program.

The amount of time and money needed to create a TL program could increase even further based on the types, use of, and number of delivery methods desired as part of the program. For example, one instructional systems designer may be very experienced in creating instructional content for web-based training and instructor-led training that follows the best practices for those delivery methods, but not experienced in creating content for game-based training, social media, or other delivery methods. Due to this, it may be necessary for multiple instructional systems designers to oversee the development of content in various delivery methods.

Another consideration is the time and cost associated with the development of different media. It may be relatively quick and inexpensive to develop content for social media, web-based training, etc. On the other hand, it can be more time consuming and costly to create game-based training, simulations, animated videos, etc. For the most part, the higher the level of fidelity desired, the more costly and time consuming it will be to create.

The chart below provides examples of ways Transmedia Learning has been used in the transit and non-transit industry, as well as possible applications for the transit industry.

Transmedia Learning Training
Examples from the Transit Industry
No examples from transit could be found.Organizations may be utilizing transmedia learning but not using that term to describe their training program due to the term being relatively new.
Examples Beyond the Transit Industry
Real Hero Program Allows players of the game America’s Army to connect with real U.S. Army Soldiers. Incorporates video game training, social media, storytelling, virtual recruiting stations, action figures, and graphic novels. Spreading the learning content through an engaging story spread across different media, increases the exposure of training content to the learner and makes them a part of the story.
Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation Games for Training (PEOSTRI)Encourages self-paced learning and exposure to learning content by turning complete tasks, including vehicle maintenance tasks, into graphic novels and machinima. Machinima is the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production. Typically, video games are used to create the animation. The big advantage of machinima is it eliminates the need for live actors. Also incorporates virtual simulation training and live part task and full task trainers.
Possible Applications for the Transit Industry
“Real Transit Safety Heroes”Similar to the Army’s Real Hero Program, technicians and/or operators with exemplary safety records could be highlighted. A mix of storytelling, simulation, gaming, social media, videos, and graphic novels could not only help make training more efficient, but can be especially engaging for younger learners. This type of training program also has the potential to double as a recruiting tool.
Technical Skill Transmedia Learning ProgramAllow learners to have increased access to complex training content that is delivered in multiple ways for reinforcement. Put technical manuals content into graphic novel and machinima mediums to help crucial, but sometimes dull, information be more engaging training content that learners are more likely to retain. Have learners interact with this content prior to hands on training, either virtually or live. This can help increase the effectiveness of the hands on portions of training programs and be especially engaging for younger learners.