Non-Linear Digital Pedagogy

Profile picture of Dr Raed Yacoub

Dr Raed Yacoub is a Research Associate in the Department of Media and Communications. Raed also works as an E-Learning Advisor at the Teaching and Learning Innovation Centre at Goldsmiths College, University of London.


We have two assumptions as our entry to the non-linear digital pedagogy. The first is that teaching and learning are increasingly becoming blended, and that the use of digital resources and platforms in learning and teaching is nowadays inevitable. Academics, lecturers, students, and members of the Higher Education community will end up using digital resources and platforms, whether they like it or not.

The second assumption is that there is a tendency to underestimate what students can learn independently using these digital resources and platforms. Student-centred, non-linear interactive practice, allows for independent learning that complements face-to-face learning and teaching practices. This post aims to exemplify these non-linear interactive practices using the following examples.

The first example is a Helpline Scenario (see Image 1), which enables learners to explore different branching scenarios. As learners engage with the scenarios (for example, a phone call on a helpline), they receive instant feedback about the decisions they make. This activity was designed using Articulate Storyline 360.

This is Image 1, which shows the picture of a female helpline worker. The text accompanying the picture says: Lydia works for a helpline that takes calls from men who are concerned they may be using domestic violence in their relationships. Her job is to help the men identify their abusiveness and provide them with details of intervention projects they can access. Eric is a first time caller. He is experiencing difficulties in his relationship and found a telephone number on a website.
Image 1. The introduction page for the Helpline branching scenarios. This scenario was designed by Dr Suzanne Martin, who is a lecturer in MA Understanding Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse at the Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies.

The Helpline Scenario not only allows users to navigate the content in ways that are relevant to them, but it also provides interactivity and self-knowledge checks – something that we may label as meaningful learning, something that goes beyond mere presentation and mechanical digitization of educational content. In digital platforms, there is a need to rethink content and re-purposing existing content to serve non-linear learning activities. Image 2 below illustrates possible scenarios when learners use this activity.

This is Image 2. It shows a sample branching scenario made up of slides with text and images. Slides 1 to 3 are designed in a linear way, but then in slide 4 students are directed toward different content based on their choices.
Image 2. A tree that shows all possible branching scenarios in Example 2.

Rethinking and repurposing content come with some challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge is authoring content. The digitization of content does not necessarily make it interactive and non-linear. Lecturers, educational developers and learning technologists may need to rethink this content in order to achieve interactivity. They may even have to create new resources from scratch rather than simply transferring content from one medium to another. This most likely incurs time, money and new resources that the institution or departments may need to consider in their planning and development.

The second example is a multimodal case study entitled Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention and Removal Centre, which is currently developed by the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. As can be seen in Figure 3, this case study consists of multiple themes that normally are very difficult to present linearly. One way to present this kind of complex content is to use branching scenarios that allow users to delve into any themes or branch they are interested in exploring, as illustrated in Figure 4 below. This multilevel branching scenario activity was also developed using Articulate Storyline 360 and it will be available soon on

This is Image 3. It shows the home page of interactive case study: Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention and Removal Centre.
Image 3. Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention and Removal Centre home page.
This is Image 4. It shows a complex branching scenario for the case study Yarl’s Wood IRC.
Image 4. A map for 3-level branching scenario for a multimodal case study about Yarl’s Wood IRC.

Developing non-linear and branching scenarios content can also be achieved using already available resources in Moodle, and it does not always require authoring tools such as Articulate 360. For example, the Lesson activity in Moodle allows branching and non-linear learning styles (click here to explore some of these learning styles). Also, H5P learning activities, which are often available on Moodle, can be used for creating non-linear scenarios and branches (click here to explore some of these H5P features). Interestingly, H5P is expected to release a new ‘Branching Scenarios’ content type this year. Keep an eye on H5P status updates if you are interested in experimenting with some new H5P features.

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