Best Practices for Designing the Storyboard for e-learning Courses

online learningBefore you start creating a storyboard for your e-learning course, you should do a thorough training needs analysis to determine the learning objectives for your e-learning course. Then, you should develop the design document.

After the design document is created, develop the storyboard for the course. You should create a storyboard in order to plan the instructional design of the eLearning course.


What is a storyboard

Taking an online course is like watching a movie because media, Flash content, graphics, text and videos, etc. are disbursed throughout the course and each scene connects to tell a story. A storyboard enables course designers, subject matter experts, the client, and all stakeholders to see the content, media and interactions prior to the beginning of programming. The benefit of this is that anything can be changed or edited prior to programming and approval by all stakeholders.

 A storyboard describes every screen in a course including what the learners will see, do and hear just like viewing scenes in a movie.

After the storyboard is developed and approved, it becomes the playbook for all team members during programming and final development. Once visuals, media, text, and graphics are selected to support each slide on the storyboard and the design document is completed, the storyboard is then developed.

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How to create an effective storyboard

Developing the storyboard is the first part of the Development stage in the ADDIE Instructional Design Model. This Model provides a step-by-step process for planning and creating training programs. The ADDIE Model has five components:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

An effective storyboard contains project and slide information, audio instructions, graphics and video instructions, on-screen texts, navigation instructions and interactivity instructions.

These above five stages provide a roadmap for the entire training development process. For purposes of this article, we will focus mostly on the Development stage where storyboarding is done.

Here are some other things you should consider to help you develop effective storyboards.

Make sure your storyboard is geared toward your subject matter experts and clients and that it reflects the learning objectives agreed on in the initial Design stage. The storyboard should make the eLearning come alive when the client reads through it and should reflect key concerns and questions that the client voiced in the Design and Development stages.

Know your audience and their needs and make sure you are familiar with the eLearning delivery platform. Carefully analyze your delivery platform before developing your storyboard because you need to know the limitations of your platform before including large files or complex interactions.

Appropriately place information in chunks on the slides so learners don’t get bored or overloaded. Include audio and visual transitions for effective information flow. Finally, make sure the storyboard is exactly what you, the client and the SME agree on before programming begins.

Choosing the right storyboard format

Two of the most common formats for storyboards are Tabular and Visual:

  • The Tabular format lays out the storyboard elements in columns where each row defines one slide of the course. Microsoft Word is a good tool to use for the Tabular format.
  • The Visual format is great for subject matter experts and stakeholders who are visual thinkers. A good tool to use for the Visual format is Microsoft PowerPoint because it can be used to define on-screen texts and graphics in the top part of the page and the Notes area can be used to add information about audio scripts, graphics, interaction, and navigation.

Important things to consider while writing a storyboard

Include navigation and interactivity instructions: When writing a storyboard every screen should include navigation and interactivity instructions that describe learner actions that should be programmed into the course. These instructions should describe the actions that learners can and must do and also describe what interaction or navigation happens next. The software tool used for programming will determine the types of interactions that can be included, e.g. screen clicks, drag and drops and roll-overs, etc.

Display the feedback for correct and incorrect answers: One thing to remember is to always include text to display feedback for correct and incorrect answers after a learner completes an interaction. The feedback is crucial for the success of an online course, as it speeds up the learning process and makes up for the lack of one-to-one interaction in an online setting.

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