In the spirit of ‘Show Your Work,’ I thought I’d share the workflow I use during course development with an authoring tool. This workflow is the process I typically use after I have an approved storyboard/script and prototype. It’s simple and straightforward and may be similar to what most people do, but I thought I’d share in case it helps anyone. Although I’ve been doing most of my eLearning work in Storyline lately, I think this process can work with most authoring tools. See the workflow below.
1. Set the Dimensions of the Slides
The first thing I do when I start a development project is to save the file with an obvious name and then set the size of the document. Storyline defaults to a slide size of 720 x 540 pixels, which is a 4:3 aspect ratio. That means that for every 4 inches of width in an image, there will be 3 inches of height.
I prefer to have more room on each slide, so I typically set it to the newer PowerPoint size of 1280 x 720 pixels. This is an aspect ratio of 16:9. To do this in Storyline, set the size of the slide by going to the DESIGN tab and select STORY SIZE (the first item on the menu bar).
Uncheck the LOCK ASPECT RATIO checkbox if you want to change from the default. Then enter the desired size by filling in the width and height fields. It’s best to make this change before working on a project so that your objects and layout aren’t shifted around.
2. Create the Structure
I start to set up the structure of the course next. In Storyline, that means breaking it up into logical scenes, such as Introduction, Scenario 1, Scenario 2, Scenario 3 and Conclusion. Then I add the slides to each scene, drawing from my storyboard or a well thought-out sketch. I title each scene and slide with logical names so that it’s easy to understand things when I have to revise something later. Putting titles in all caps helps because the text can be small in a big picture view.
I like the way setting up the entire structure, helps me maintain the mental model of my design. And because this is a visual task, it clarifies the big picture view of things. Also, one practical advantage to breaking up a course into scenes in Storyline is that you can preview one scene at a time when checking progress and debugging. This speeds up production.
3. Add Navigation for Flow
Next I add the navigation to show the entire flow. This is a good way to see where the interactions will occur and if they seem appropriately placed. Even if you don’t have the elements of the user interface design created, you can use shapes for the mock up if you are not using the default buttons of your authoring tool. Below is a small portion of the structure with the navigation in place.
4. Add Master Layouts
In preparation for adding the content, I create master slides that I can reuse throughout the course. I’m often not happy with my first attempts or perhaps they don’t work well with the content. So I may end up tweaking them until I’m satisfied and deleting the ones I don’t use. To be ready to set up the master slides, it helps to know your palette, which you should have designed during the prototyping phase (see 8 Ways to Choose a Color Palette for eLearning). If you’re not familiar with a prototype, it’s a small example of how the course will look, feel and behave.
5. Add the Content
When every thing is set up as I like, I add the content, which includes media elements. When using audio and video, I typically have those ready to go, prior to development. But for the media I create, such as graphics, I might play some development leapfrog, creating groups of graphics and then adding the images and creating more graphics. So here is what it might look like after some of the graphics are added.
Speaking of graphics, I always create two main graphic folders. One is for the source graphics, which are the original images from a stock photo site, a custom photo shoot or graphics that I’ve created. These files are a larger size than the ones I use in a course.
I use the images from the source folder and enhance them, crop them and optimize them for the web or somehow make them my own. Then I save them to a second folder for the actual graphics that I use in a course or website. Let me know if you’d like to hear more on my graphic workflow and optimization for the web and I’ll write an article on that too.
What is your workflow? Please share below in the Comments section.