The storyboard is a representation of content, visual design, interactivity, navigation, narration etc in soft copy form. For examples of storyboards, check out Connie Malamed’s blog. Storyboards are used by the instructional designer (ID) to:
- Gain agreement with the subject matter expert (SME) on the design approach of the e-learning course
- Provide instruction to the e-learning developer on how the course is to be authored into a multimedia format
The challenge of storyboarding is the variability of ‘interpretation’ between the SME, ID and e-learning author (refer to the diagram below- the red box represents where the storyboard is developed and interpreted).
There are three broad reasons why mis-interpreting the storyboard occurs:
The storyboard has been rushed and detail has been omitted or not well laid out
There has been an assumption that all members of the e-learning project team can properly read and interpret the storyboard
The leap from soft copy storyboard to multimedia large. Subject experts who have not developed e-learning before can find it difficult to visualise what the soft copy inclusions will look line in multimedia format
Once e-learning has been developed in the authoring tool, it is costly in time to change it. The exception is e-learning that has been developed from PPT (e.g. Articulate). It is relatively simple to go back to the PPT template, make changes and republish. This is not the case if the e-learning has been developed in Adobe Flash.
Tips on how to make interpreting the storyboard easier
1. Use a visual layout rather than columns in a word document. As an ID, I find laying out the e-learning inclusions in PowerPoint is simplest for the subject matter expert to sign off on and the e-learning author to develop from. To do this:
Create a PPT template the same size (pixel dimension) as the intended e-learning course.
Ask the e-learning developer to mock up the intended graphic user interface in PPT (i.e. header, footer, navigation icons). This helps the ID to position the text and graphics on the template to the right size. If a graphic is not available, simply position a ‘placeholder’ (e.g. a dotted line text box with a description of the intended graphic that needs to be sourced or created by the e-learning developer).
Write any instructions for interactivity in the notes section of the PPT.
Write any narration in the notes section of the PPT.
Make sure the storyboard reviewers look at and interpret both the PPT screen and notes together, and not simply put the PPT in full screen and omitting the notes section.
2. Where possible, review the storyboard together and not in isolation. This provides opportunity to refine the storyboard and helps the project team gain agreement on the storyboard interpretation.
3. Ensure the storyboard is carefully reviewed, assessed and signed off by the SME prior to it being developed in multimedia.
If the project team stays the same over several projects, each build will become easier. You will get to know the process and the way different design elements are represented in storyboard. In this situation, ensure to stay consistent in your storyboard methodology.
NOTE: Sometimes the instructional approach of an e-learning course is limited because the SME and/or ID is not fully aware of the features of the authoring tool or the skills of the e-learning developer. Take the opportunity to challenge design and interactivity options. Be creative. Include the developer early in your design, and you will get a better outcome. It’s all about communication.