Storyboards are one of those things that training professionals and clients either love or hate. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between when people talk about them. I’ve lost count of how many prospective clients have asked me what my stance is on eLearning storyboards. I thought it was time to pull together some information about storyboards. Many other articles out there explain how to create a storyboard. I won’t bore you with details here. So here’s my take on storyboards and a freebie template at the end.
What is a storyboard?
For eLearning, a storyboard is like a map. It’s usually a text representation of what the built course will look like. With a combination of outline, layout and text elements, the storyboard shows all of the pieces. These come together in the finished course. Sometimes a storyboard has images, but most often it’s the on-screen text, audio script (if any), and descriptions of interactivity.
Check out this article by eLearning Industry that talks more about how to build a storyboard.
When should you use an eLearning storyboard?
As I mentioned, using storyboards is regularly debated by design professionals and clients. I have one client who requires a full storyboard (and sign-off on the storyboard) before any development can start. Another client asked in our first meeting how I felt about them and shared how much they don’t want one.
So when is a storyboard useful? Keep in mind that this is my opinion, but I find storyboards most helpful with highly technical content or when multiple people need to review and approve the course or its components. I also find them invaluable when there is narration in a course. Whether it’s just one slide of audio or the entire course, script sign-off is a must.
For example, a client needed a course where I know very little about the topic. There are several subject matter experts (SMEs) as well. The content was for technicians and has a lot of technical detail. It took us several rounds of discussions and review cycles just to nail down the course objectives and topics. The content itself was scattered throughout several other courses but it all needs to be adjusted to add more detail for the new audience. Rather than getting bogged down in the authoring tool and having my SMEs worry about all the interactive components, I chose to do a detailed storyboard. It gets approved before I start the course build. Also, it prevents us from getting to the end of the course build with the wrong content.
Techsmith, the developer of the very popular screencasting and video tool Camtasia, has a blog about the benefits of storyboards. Although they’re talking about storyboards in the context of video production, some great points apply to eLearning too.
When don’t you need an eLearning storyboard?
A lot of designers and developers swear a storyboard is crucial to the success of an eLearning project – especially if you want to stay on track through development. Although I believe some sort of roadmap is necessary, I don’t think you need a full storyboard for every project.
A lot of the work we do is building courses for content where we have some experience or subject matter knowledge. Either we’ve built something similar before (for example, health & safety or HR topics) or we have good base content sources, like old training materials, to work from. In these cases, I’ll discuss detailed objectives with the client, write a detailed topic outline, and even draft scenarios and assessment questions. I’ll usually even show them some samples for the look & feel of the course.
At that point, because of my conversations with the client and my comfort level with the topic and course objectives, I can feel reasonably comfortable jumping right into the course build and showing the client the first draft. I’ll usually have questions for the SME(s) throughout the course build but I make sure they’re comfortable with answering questions as I go.
This approach requires you to have an excellent, open relationship with your client because you need to understand what they want before you start building. You don’t want to put all of the hours of work into a full course build draft if the client isn’t going to like it.
eLearning Storyboard Templates
There are lots of free templates available for storyboarding. Some are geared towards video production but there are plenty of others available for eLearning.
Here are a few other resources for learning more about storyboards
- eLearning Industry “Ultimate List of Free Storyboard Templates for eLearning” – this is from 2012 but a lot of the links are still active.
- eLearning coach Connie Malamed offers her take on eLearning storyboards here. (PS – if you’re not already getting Connie’s newsletter you should sign up).
- eLearning storyboards by the eLearning Brothers. These guys are seriously awesome and have some excellent freebies you should check out.
- Association for Talent Development – TD Magazine article “Storyboarding and Prototyping: The Path to Better Course Development“. Members-only content.
- Of course, no post would be complete without a link to my favourite eLearning community here’s a link to some resources and a weekly challenge around storyboards from the Articulate community.
Were you here just for the freebie? Here it is. It’s one that we use. If we need to use a storyboard, we pair it with a course development workbook. For example, the workbook includes the course description, objectives, outline, and assessment questions so the client gets a full picture of what’s going into the course. The storyboard may be included in the workbook or be separate.
Click for freebie!
Storyboard Template by Hemeon Learning, Inc. – licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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