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We set about to facilitate the learning of basic phrases in Mandarin Chinese among US college students in an interactive online environment. We designed two interactive web-based instructional modules that included animated movies, “listen and repeat” exercises, and interactive practice. One module used a back-story (“Mission Impossible” detective quest) and the other did not. Students in the back-story condition scored marginally higher than learners in the control group on a timed online posttest, but not a significant difference. After the assessment, students were introduced to an open multiplayer online game ( in which they had the opportunity to use what they had just learned to complete tasks cooperatively. This paper will describe the design of the instruction as well as the implications of the findings. In particular, the role back-stories is discussed in light of Mayer’s coherence effect, which calls on designers of multimedia environments to avoid including extraneous information.


International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning is an Open Access journal. Articles are published under a Creative Commons CC-BY license which permits use with attribution.

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International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning

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Lili Teng Foti, Robert D. Hannafin, "Games and Multimedia in Foreign Language Learning -Using Back-story in Multimedia and Avatar-based Games to Engage Foreign Language Learners: A Pilot Study", International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning - iJET 3(3): 40-44 (2008)

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