Exploring the possibilities of using visual novels and comics as educational tools
Professor Frank Reichert invited me to participate in a research project examining visual novels in education to potentially include it as a topic and a tool in the mm-402 course. My participation in this research project was collecting, organising, and presenting findings at regularly scheduled meetings.
A visual novel is a narratively driven experience with mainly text, backgrounds, and dialogue from character sprites. The majority of the time is spent reading and clicking through rounds of text. Usually, it has a branching narrative with multiple endings. Some of the visual novels we tried during the research included mini-games and puzzles. Also, some were without character sprites which behaved like a combination of a visual novel and a graphic novel. However, these are likely exceptions rather than the norm.
The motivation to start the research came from a research article from NTNU, which presented design principles for increased learning potential and possible ways to evaluate through visual novels. This article became the baseline for further research focusing on examining how it could be used in the mm-402 course.
The research was structured by collecting and organising relevant information and presenting findings in various meetings. The collection and organising phase consisted of research articles, online articles, videos, websites, games with relevant information/content and organised them into documents. Each meeting had different research goals related to visual novels and comics in education. The goals included their usability in a learning context, which systems and tools are needed, and how to perform the evaluation.
The arguments behind the possible implementation of visual novels/digital comics into the mm-402 course are their small size, simple to develop, accessible on many devices, and their use of narrative storytelling. This with player choices that are low in complexity and with modest demand on player interaction. It can also be embedded directly into Canvas, which allows it to be run in any browser. The project led to an understanding of how visual novels can use their branching narratives to become educational visual/graphic novel hybrids.