I’m a firm believer in the power of an eLearning storyboard to reduce the overall amount of time and effort (read: money) required in training development. While I haven’t always use them when working on internal projects, I use them 100% of the time when acting in a consultant capacity.
I define storyboards as a document which includes most of the information I will need to create a course. This is separate and distinct from a prototype, which to me is more about getting approval from a client on design or an interaction.
Storyboards have many benefits. They allow you to:
- Flesh out how your course’s content will flow and spot any potential issues.
- Give your clients an easy way to make any needed changes to the wording/structure/etc. of the course early on, saving you time and money, especially if your course is narrated.
- Get your client excited about the course and serve as a great check-in between the initial kick-off and alpha course review!
I’ve looked at a number of other instructional designer’s eLearning storyboard templates over the years and picked the pieces I like best to come up with my own version. You can download the template here.
My template is a Word document, which I find the most reliable when working with clients due to Word’s ubiquity. Clients can give their feedback by turning on Track Changes and/or using Comments in Word. Depending on the client, I’ll sometimes upload the storyboard to Google Docs once I’ve finished with it and have my clients comment there. I do this if I know they have a need for a collaborative environment and their organization allows access to Google Docs.
What the Storyboard Looks Like
The template’s main area for content is a table consisting of five different cells:
- Screen– this is where I list the scene and slide number
- Visual description– contains all on-screen text, images that I’d like to use, or sometimes just a description of what I envision.
- Narration or script– this is the exact narration that my voice over artist will record. If needed, I will add notations to this indicating if narration appears only on a slide layer, is timed to animations, etc.
- Interactions, branching, and/or programming notes– this is where I get more technical about how the slide will behave. For simple exposition slides, this cell typically stays blank. It gets more advanced for interactions like drag-and-drops, click-and-reveals, etc. Whenever possible, I try to link to an example project so the client can see what one of these interactions behave like. Side note: this is one more reason to have a portfolio! It’s always better to be able to link to your own examples.
- Misc. notes– a place for anything else that hasn’t already been listed. I typically include questions or areas where I need clarification from the client in this cell.
By having each slide be its own table within the document, I can easily add, remove, and move the tables around. Additionally, I can resize the cells if I need to add a lot of text to one of the cells.
The detail to which I fill out these cells varies, mostly in the “Visual description” cell. While I always fill out on-screen and narration text exactly the way I see it appearing in the course, I do vary the amount of detail for visuals- ranging from general descriptions to every visual element mapped out. This decision based on the client’s experience with eLearning in general, the course’s interactivity level, and how much guidance the client has given me regarding their brand guidelines. For instance, if their brand guideline document lists out specific dos and don’ts for photo selection, I will be sure to find and include all of the images I plan to use.
Example Slides Storyboarded
Below you can see examples of slides that I’ve storyboarded (in this case, from a compliance course regarding data privacy).
This slide was used as the course’s navigational page.
A typical exposition slide. Here I mocked up a conceptual diagram in PPT then added a screenshot to the storyboard.
An ungraded drag-and-drop interaction mapped out.
A click-and-reveal interaction mapped out.
A graded question mapped out. Note the need to write out different messages for correct, incorrect (if not allowing unlimited attempts), and try again.
Giving a High-Level Overview
You may be wondering why the images above have different header colors in the tables. I use this to allow the client to easily identify the type of slide they’re looking at, such as content, video, practice, and graded questions. In addition to this, I always like to include a general visualization of the course so the storyboard reader has an introduction to what they’re looking at.
A few final notes
In the storyboard template folder, you’ll find that the first two pages have more prompts for information that will allow you to explain the course and its structure. As much as I can, I try to build my storyboard to be a stand-alone artifact. It’s often difficult to schedule calls to walk a client through the document and it’s very likely that the client will pass on the storyboard to other departments that have to have to give approval.
Lastly, if I’m using Articulate Rise, I do find it’s easier to build in Rise first, then transfer the text over to the storyboard. You’ll have the course mostly done and can tweak it with any changes that are needed.
If you missed the link earlier in the post, you can download my storyboard template here.