Storytelling Through Computer Animation


Course Number: 
CSC 111
Danforth Tech 104
Date & Time: 
Standard A: MWF 8:00 - 9:10

Instructor: Dr. Scott Heggen
Office: Danforth Tech 110 (CPO 2188)
Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 8:00AM - 10:00AM
Phone: (859) 985-3141


Course Description


Technology has opened up new horizons in the creative art of storytelling by making it possible for stories to be interactive, blurring the boundary between the storyteller and the audience. Using a graphically-based programming language, students in this course will learn to design and construct virtual worlds with 3D objects and characters. Students will gain knowledge in advancing plot, building themes, and developing characters while employing visual elements such as location, camera angle, lighting, and point-of-view, as they create interactive stories, animated movies, and simple video games set in these virtual worlds. No previous computer programming experience is required. This course satisfies the Arts Perspectives and the Practical Reasoning Perspective.

Course Objectives

Explore the potential for meaning through interactive storytelling

  • Develop understanding of the process of advancing plot and themes, and developing characters in an interactive story from idea to finished product
  • Learn to evaluate and to modify the intent, content, and impact of both the choice of language and the components of computer animation in an interactive story
  • Learn a computer language and reflect upon human language
  • Recognize logical structures and learn to distinguish different patterns of logic and reasoning, including faulty patterns
  • Discern the difference between reasoning and appeals to emotion
  • Practice using appropriate criteria to evaluate reasoning
  • Discover how to more effectively discuss logical, artistic, and computational ideas
  • Become familiar with widely used programming structures, including structures such as variables, functions, looping, assignment, and conditional statements
  • Reflect upon the impact personal stories as well as computer animations are having on our society

In addition, the following course objectives were identified by the class:

  • Become a better storyteller
  • Be able to portray a story through an animation
  • Understand the many styles of animation
  • Be able to convey a story without the use of words
  • Understand how to develop an animation frame-by-frame
  • Identify the connection between programming and animation
  • Understand key concepts such as worldbuilding, character development, metaphore
  • Understand the tools at our disposal, including (but not limited to) Scratch and Photoshop

Materials Online

Required Text and Materials

  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff Vandermeer, Abrams Image, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4197-0442-0

  • The majority of the learning in this course will take place in doing the assigned computer work and other homework. Thus, the assignment descriptions themselves should prove a valuable resource.

Technology Policies

Much of the work in this course will require use of the computer, so these policies are designed to help you better understand how to be effective in a technology-rich environment.

  • Laptop and Software: We will regularly make use of laptops during class, and you are expected to have them unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • Unapproved Technology: We use our technology for work during class, not play. Keep your phones silenced, and out of sight. No excuses.
  • Communication: The course website is your primary source for information about the course; our Moodle site will be used for posting grades and assignment submission. Messages about the course will often be sent by email. Check your email often! 
  • Backups: All students are expected to back-up their work on a daily basis, which includes laboratories, assignments, and quizzes. The best way to do this is to store a copy of all work in a cloud service such as Bitbucket, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, or to use a DVD, flash drive, or some other media. Storing multiple copies of something on your laptop is not a backup. I will not be sympathetic to lost work in any way, shape, or form.
  • Exceptions: Exceptions to any of these technology policies will be considered on an individual case-by-case basis but will only be granted under extreme circumstances.

Attendance Policy

Class lectures, discussions, and in-class work are considered to be a vital key to success in this course. It is the hope of the instructor that class sessions are both informative and useful. Therefore, attendance is expected at each class session unless a specific exception is made. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Therefore, please do not come to class if you show flu-like symptoms. Instead, e-mail me from your room and go to health services immediately. When you return to class, bring paperwork showing that you sought medical attention that day and your absence will be excused. Students who arrive late, leave early, or fail to fully participate during the class will be considered absent for that portion of the period, and such partial absences will accumulate.

The final grade may be lowered by one half of a letter grade for each unexcused absence beyond the third. Thus, it is the responsibility of the student to contact the instructor about each absence from class. This should be done via email, as soon as possible, and if at all possible before the absence occurs. Students who miss class are held responsible for all of the material covered, assigned, and collected during their absence. 

Assignment Collection

All written work should be neat, organized, and should show sufficient documentation and explanation to demonstrate a clear understanding of the techniques used. Homework assignments are due at the beginning of class on the announced date due. If a student must miss class due to either a sickness or a planned absence, homework assignments are still expected to be submitted on time. Homework is posted on the web and may be requested in advance. Late homework assignments will only be accepted for reduced credit up until the homework assignment is returned. Late work is typically accepted but must be labeled as late. Written or printed homework assignments may be turned in before class or at the instructor's office, but should NOT be sent through the CPO, attached in e-mail, or given to a student assistant. A selection of the homework problems will be graded for credit, and homework submissions not meeting the above standards will receive reduced credit.

Final Animation

There will not be a final written comprehensive exam in this course. However, there will be a final animation project instead, including a required public viewing of this final animation project during the last week of classes. The final course reflection must also be publicly submitted by the date of the College’s scheduled Final Exam time.

Collaboration and Teamwork

When doing work that is collaborative in nature, it is essential that you cite your collaborators in all instances. Failure to do so could be construed as academic dishonesty.

I will make use of the institutional policies laid down regarding academic dishonesty. In the real world, plagiarism and claiming others' work as your own could result in you losing your job. Our goal is to support you in your learning, and copying the work of others (or inappropriately reusing work found on the WWW) never constitutes good learning. CITING YOUR WORK is always, always essential.

Grade Distribution

Projects 30%
Exams (3x) 45%
Quizzes 10%
Assignments 10%
Participation 5%

Grading Scale

The Berea College grading scale makes clear that:

  • An A represents excellent work,
  • B represents good work, and
  • C represents competent work.

Most work that any of us do is competent. I will communicate with you bi-weekly about where I believe you stand in the course, so that you can focus your efforts appropriately.

  • An A is in the range of 91% to 100%
  • B is in the range of 81% to 90%
  • C is in the range of 71% to 80%
  • D is in the range of 61% to 70%
  • An F is a grade of 60% or lower.

plus may be earned through exceptional attendance, teamwork, professionalism and collegiality, and participation. A plus is completely at the discretion of the instructor.

Any questions regarding grades should never be directed at TAs, but instead always directed to the instructor of the course.

Class Atmosphere

In class, we discussed many of the aspects we felt would make a good environment for learning. Our expectations in this course include:

  • A healthy respect for uncomfortable silence
  • An atmosphere where we all feel comfortable to learn
  • Everyone communicates to each other with respect
  • An atmosphere open to discussion about the topics at hand
  • Theory supported with lots of examples
  • Constructive critizism is encouraged and expected
  • Coffee!

Evening Lab / Support

The Computing and Digital Crafts Lab is open Sunday through Thursday from 7:00 to 9:30 PM (except on evenings of convocations). The primary teaching assistant and several other TAs will be able to answer questions about the content in the course during consultations in their Lab hours. You are strongly encouraged to make use of the help available in the Computing and Digital Crafts Lab, as well as in the instructors' office hours. Best results are obtained trying to solve problems before asking for help, and you should be prepared to show what you have already tried. Topics in this course build throughout the course, so you should be sure to do your best to keep up with the class, so as to not fall behind. No question to which you do not know the answer is "dumb" unless it goes unanswered because it remained unasked.

Statement Regarding Disability

Berea College will provide reasonable accommodations for all persons with disabilities so that learning experiences are accessible. If you experience physical or academic barriers based on disability, please see Lisa Ladanyi (Disability & Accessibility Services, 111 Lincoln Hall, 859-985-3327, to discuss your options. Students must provide their instructor(s) with an accommodation letter before any accommodations can be provided. Accommodations will not be implemented retroactively. Please meet with your instructor(s) in a confidential environment to discuss arrangements for these accommodations.