When Lindsay Sprague, '12, signed up for an immersive learning class called Transmedia Indiana, she couldn't have predicted the scope of the project. She knew the class would create an interactive novella using transmedia storytelling. But first, she had to discover what transmedia is.

Also known as multiplatform storytelling, transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story across several platforms, such as podcasts, video, and websites. In the Transmedia Indiana class, more than 40 students—from disciplines ranging from journalism to history—spent the 2011-12 academic year creating an interactive, tablet-based fictional story along with a series of nonfiction websites incorporating artifacts from the Indiana State Museum.

The Avenue of Truth spans 200 years of Hoosier history, leading readers on a chase to discover clues about a mysterious world of secret societies. The story blends fact with fiction, as in The Da Vinci Code. It begins in a tablet e-reader form that includes supplemental interactive features and links to character blogs and history websites created by the class.

Sprague, a journalism graphics major, worked as a member of the design team, which was responsible for all websites, graphics, and interactive pieces. She created a website on the historic Golden Troupe, a popular 19th-century theatrical company based in New Harmony, Indiana. She also created multiple maps and promotional materials for a three-day live event at the Indiana State Museum that showcased artifacts the group used in writing The Avenue of Truth.

Sprague and other team members completed hours of extensive research, working with the Indiana State Museum and historic town of New Harmony, a location featured prominently in the story. It is available for download as of summer 2012 for tablets in the Android Marketplace and Apple App Store.

"At job interviews, professionals are always impressed when I discuss this project," Sprague says. "This type of media is becoming more relevant in my career field, so having the opportunity to study it helps me stand out from a crowd of applicants."

Commitment to Collaboration

Journalism professors Brad King and Jennifer George-Palilonis received a Provost Immersive Learning Grant to launch the project.

"Jenn and I sat down to discuss how we could teach together and soon hatched the idea for this class," King says. "The pieces—writing, media, storytelling, design, and history—were there for each of us. We just needed each other to pull it all together. Ball State's willingness to provide a framework for professors to collaborate and financial support for these types of projects is what makes this campus so special."

Along with the students' project, King and George-Palilonis created a textbook about transmedia to teach the class. The pair will refine the physical textbook, with plans to create a transmedia version using examples from the project. English professor Brian McNely also documented the course as part of an ethnographic study on the processes involved in immersive learning.

"Our goal with the class was both to create a professional project and to teach students the skills necessary to replicate this type of collaboration once they leave the university," King says.

Sprague echoes her professors in expressing the value of such collaborative pursuits. "Everyone was talented in his or her own way and contributed differently," she says. "I was constantly collaborating with different teams, and the project wouldn't have turned out as well if we didn't have so many majors working together."

Related links:

College of Communication, Information, and Media 

College of Fine Arts

College of Sciences and Humanities

Department of English 

Department of Journalism 

Department of Political Science

Department of Telecommunications

Advertising

Creative Writing 

Digital Media Minor

Emerging Media Initiative

Music Technology

Provost Immersive Learning Grant