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Learning & Development Blog

Develop Storyboards For Training Like You’ve Been Doing It For Years

Leslie Ciborowski
President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

To fully appreciate the role that a storyboard plays in creating an eLearning module, you just have to think back to the last time you attempted to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA. As you opened the box, there’s a good chance that you held your breath, hoping beyond hope that the hundreds of furniture parts that lay before you were the right ones.

Based on the instructions you sorted the nuts, bolts and screws and the various odd-shaped building material parts. Sometimes wondering if you were matching the pieces correctly. Misidentifying one nut or bolt could create hours of extra work.

And so it is with a storyboard. Just as the Ikea instructions provide a blueprint for the Do-It-Yourselfer, a storyboard is a blueprint used by clients, designers, and developers.

Storyboards have been around since the 1930s when an animator at Walt Disney got the idea of creating scenes in sequence on separate pieces of paper and pinning them to a bulletin board. Today, the term is used to describe any of a variety of approaches that provides clients, designers, and developers with the necessary information to transform concepts and copy into a workable eLearning module.

For clients, the storyboard can serve as a final check to make sure that all the key information required is included in the training. Discovering an omission or error in the storyboard phase of a project can save tens of thousands of dollars.

The format of the storyboard is not as important as making sure everyone concerned can easily visualize what the finished product will look like. Regardless of the storyboard used, there are key elements that need to be included:

The Text: Either as a script for a narrator to read (called a voiceover) or captions that appear on the screen for the learner to read.

Media: Sometimes this is a drawing, clip art, or other visual elements to provide the production team with direction of what to create. Sometimes it’s a description of what kind of visual is required. The descriptions are usually quite detailed. For instance, if you want to depict a woman shopping, the instruction to the illustrator might include: her age and what kind of outfit she is wearing (a dress vs. jeans, dressed up or casual).

Navigation and interaction instructions: The storyboard needs to include how learners get from one page to another and what needs to happen if a branching scenario is used.

After the storyboard is completed and approved, it will be used by a variety of resources to create assets. Graphic Designers will look at it to create the visuals. Sometimes voice-over talent is used to create an audio track. Also, many eLearning modules contain short videos in various segments.

It’s only after all those assets are created that the storyboard goes to the team responsible for assembling it—the edevelopers. If these assets are not labeled correctly, it can sink the entire project (Think about that piece of furniture from Ikea).

That’s why naming conventions are so critical in eLearning. Mislabel a graphic or audio file and all sorts of havoc can occur. With a naming convention, it allows you to check and double check that you are sending the developer all the right pieces and that they will be incorporated exactly where they need to be.

What’s the best advice you got when you were first developing storyboards?