Until you’ve created one, elearning storyboards are mysterious and puzzling. After you’ve created one, you see that storyboards are simply a communication tool. Instructional designers use them to plan and demonstrate what an eLearning course will include.
Storyboards are also a cognitive aid that designers use to think through a design. Although you might also use storyboards for planning a video, eLearning storyboards are unique. Here are answers to common questions about storyboarding. I hope it helps!
What is an eLearning storyboard?
A storyboard for eLearning is a document that specifies the visual elements, text elements, audio elements, interactions and branching (where the system or user will go next) of every screen in an online course. Many people also add the learning objectives to the storyboard.
At what point in the learning design process would one start to storyboard?
You develop storyboards after the design is approved. I like to test things out in a prototype prior to writing a storyboard.
Is storyboarding important?
Yes! If you are part of a development team, the storyboard specifies what the visuals will include, what the narrator will say and the interactions that the programmer will produce. The storyboard is usually reviewed by the subject matter expert and your client. It’s the central document of eLearning development.
Is there one standard way to create a storyboard?
How do you create a storyboard for eLearning?
I prefer a visual approach to storyboarding, so I’ll describe this type of format. Some prefer storyboarding in all text, which may be quicker but may not be as informative. Off the top of my head, I can think of four main ways to go about creating a visual storyboard.
- Create a storyboard template in Word (in landscape mode) and let each page represent one screen.
- Design a storyboard template in PowerPoint and let each slide represent one screen.
- Use a storyboard template from a commercial storyboarding application. There are many of these.
- For the rapid development approach, begin writing the course directly in the authoring tool, such as Storyline, Captivate, or any of the other hundred tools. In some tools, you can write the script and other notes in the Notes section below the slide. This integrates storyboarding with actual development.
What do you put into the storyboard template?
Create an area for the storyboard title. Then create the following labeled boxes or regions in your template: 1) a box to represent the screen number in your numbering scheme, 2) a box to represent the screen itself, meaning the visual components of the course, 3) an area for the on-screen text (this can be combined with #2, 4) an area for the audio, 5) an area for the interactions and 6) an area to describe branching. Some people add an area for miscellaneous notes, learning objectives and also for reviewer comments.
Your completed storyboard will look something like the storyboard example below. You can download this PowerPoint template and other storyboards at my Storyboard Depot collection. Modify them to meet your needs.
Then how do you fill in the template?
Fill in the template as follows:
- Title Area: Add the unit, module, lesson or topic name.
- Screen Number Area: Enter a unique identifier for each screen. Something like “m1l2s3” for module 1, lesson 2, screen3.
- Visual Area: Describe in words, sketch or show the visual, such as the graphic, video clip, etc. You can include the text that will be on the screen or make another area for text.
- Audio Area: Write out the script, the name of a music file and the sound effects that will play on each screen. If you want to be really cool, use the acronym SFX for sound effects.
- Interaction Area: Describe the interactions that occur on each screen. Take advantage of the medium and provide lots of activities. Specifying these can be tricky and it often helps to write it out in the logic of programming. For example, “If button 1 is clicked, go to screen m1l24” or “If choice 1 is dragged to correct target, display this response.”
- Branching Area: Define all the system branching that might occur. Branching differs from interactions, as it refers to navigating the whole system. There are standard navigation events, such as Next and Back, as well as more complex branching, such as what happens as a result of a user interaction. For example, you will need to define what happens when a user fails a self-check, clicks on a hyperlinked term or opts to retake a test.
Why does a storyboard seem to shrink as you fill it in?
An essential talent for storyboarding one page per screen is squeezing in everything you need. What we really need is a three dimensional storyboard space. Scientists are working on that as we speak.
Here is a storyboard template. created in Word. The first page of this doc is the template and the second page is filled in with an example. It’s saved in a (.doc) format. Or you can get a whole selection of different types of storyboards at my Storyboard Depot, including PowerPoint templates that are easier to work with if you’re using a lot of graphics.