Monday, July 28, 2014

Storyboarding your Training Content

What is a storyboard?

Basically, a storyboard is a visual guide to a piece of media. Filmmakers use it to lay out scenes, animators use it to organize sequences and instructional designers use it to map out courses, videos and interactive training content before they start building it.

With that definition in mind, let's talk about what a storyboard is in the world of Instructional Design and eLearning. In the Instructional Design process I use, the term storyboard is a catchall term including the pre-development that occurs after outlining our content.

I call anything I use to make my rough draft a storyboard - whether it's a script, a template or a conventional storyboard.

Why should we use a storyboard?

It can seem like a lot of pre-work to build the storyboard or write the script. So, why should we even do it?

The storyboard serves many purposes:

  • Verification of Objectives: You'll be able to quickly see if the content you're developing actually relates to your objectives as you outline each page/screen. Now is the time to make major changes to the content so it actually meets those objectives.
  • Script/Copy: All written or spoken words that in your content should start out in your storyboard. Here you have a chance to play around with what sounds best, review easily with your stakeholders and make changes without worrying about ruining your layout.
  • Stakeholder sign off: Before you go through the steps of actually building your content (and in some cases tedious hours of programming and building images), make sure you have sign off from all of the stakeholders- including project sponsors, Subject Matter Experts (SME) and other reviewers. The Storyboard document gives you a chance to walk them through the content you're delivering and show them how it meets their needs.
  • Visual mockup: It's easier to manipulate images and tweak designs in PowerPoint than it is in Lectora or Camtasia. When you use the storyboards built in PowerPoint, you have the flexibility to easily and quickly change your design based on your opinion and feedback from your stakeholders.

Different Kinds of Storyboards

I use several different templates to storyboard depending on my project. Below is a brief description of each template I use:
  • Course storyboard: Regardless of the course development software I’m using, I always build my storyboard in my PowerPoint template, which uses the background from my course template as the PPT background. There are different page layouts built in to the file that mirror the page layouts available in the template. The majority of my development happens in here – I write my content, choose graphics and use the notes field to describe the interaction I want to see on screen.
  • Video script: This is a Word document that outlines the audio, visual and text components needed for my video. Like with the course storyboard, the majority of my development happens here – I fine-tune the process I’m teaching, the message I want to get across, and what I want the Learner to see.
  • Video storyboard: This is a PowerPoint template that has several outlines of 16:9 video frames on each page with space below to describe action. I can print out and draw in the frames or use screenshots from software or websites to map out the video. This gives me a more visual way to outline the video.
  • Infographic storyboard: This is a PowerPoint file formatted to 11 x 14 (sized paper, if printed). It can be resized to whatever dimensions I need and used to layout graphics prior to building them in Photoshop OR it can become the final version on its own.
  • Document Template: This is a Word document with predefined styles that make writing a formatted document easier and faster.
I use this for procedures, articles, blog posts and other items of this sort. It’s easily converted to PDF or translated to HTML for posting to the LMS or blog.


Throughout the next few months, I’ll share my Storyboard templates mentioned above with you guys as well as instructions on completing them.

In the meantime, has anyone made a storyboard? If so, post a comment below and tell me about it!

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