Think of a storyboard for an eLearning course like a comic strip: Each frame tells a part of a larger story and moves the course along.

Without a storyboard, your course can be all over the place. It would look a little something like this: Lesson 1! Irrelevant interactive game! Lesson 5! Pop quiz! Matching game!

Storyboarding brings logic to your course design and helps ensure learners are retaining information and lessons along the way. It’s the foundation upon which the learning objectives can be achieved.

So how do you storyboard eLearning courses? Here’s a quick walk-through.

Why Storyboard eLearning Courses?

First, you need to understand why you’re storyboarding. Storyboards help you visualize how course elements work together, make it easy to edit and change elements before you program them into the course, help ensure everyone is on the same page, and give a clear overview of the project as a whole.

Designing and scripting in a tool like Word or PowerPoint is much quicker (and easier to edit) than something that has been programmed in an eLearning tool like Storyline or Captivate. One objective in any project is to get to the desired end goal as efficiently as possible.

While there are cases to be made for jumping straight to rapid prototyping in the authoring tool, you need to balance the needs of the client with the time you have allotted for completion of the course—so taking the time to storyboard often means opting for more efficient course-building.

The anatomy of a storyboard consists of:

Title: Course name and basic info

General Characteristics: Any global information about course treatment (color pallet, animation guidelines, etc.)

Onscreen visuals: The text and graphics that will display on the screen

Audio Script: Narration that learners will hear

Navigation: Interactive tools available on each screen (use if/when statements)

So how do you approach storyboarding? You’re in luck. Next up: How to storyboard.

But first, a comment on storyboarding tools:

There are lots of tools available for storyboarding these days. Some are old standbys (like Word and PowerPoint), some are specialized tools that excel in branched scenarios (Twine and BranchTrack), and some people actually jump straight to the authoring tool to “storyboard” in more of a rapid prototype fashion. Regardless of your tool of choice and approach, there are a few common things you need to take into account.

Outline Course Objectives

Define what learners need to accomplish and understand upon completion of the eLearning course. Make sure your list is limited to only the most important objectives—more objectives mean a longer course. Make sure these are as closely aligned with the job skills and/or requisite knowledge as possible. Fluff in the courses objectives will only lead to lots of unnecessary content and seat time in your course.

Collect Materials and Team

Gather the existing course materials (if there are any) and find a Subject Matter Expert who can dive into the details of the topic. Work with your client to map out what subjects will be covered in the course. SMEs love to throw the kitchen sink into courses, so here is where you need to be stern and challenge everything. If it isn’t required to support the learning objectives, odds are it shouldn’t be in the course.

Define Metrics

Next, you’ll want to decide how you’ll measure the success of your course. Is it an end-of-course test? Quizzes throughout? An overall score? These metrics will help determine the success (or failure) of your course.

Choose a Template

Many eLearning designers use a template for storyboarding to make organizing the storyboard simple and fast. As mentioned earlier, there are lots of tools available, so select what will suit you best. Keep in mind that there are two sides to storyboards, that of the author who is writing it, and that of the ones who need to review it and follow the intended progression. Select a tool and an approach that supports both sides of this equation.

Design & Sequence

As the material comes together, you’ll want to start working on the design elements for the course—which includes graphics, images, videos, and audio. All of this content should work together to create a unified, cohesive-looking course. Here you want to straddle the line of interest-keeping variety and sufficient uniformity to makes the course elements feel like purposeful parts of a whole.

Once you have a rough idea of how the course will look, start arranging content in a logical sequence so as to best support the learning process. Topics need to build on one another to achieve the desired outcome, your users learn the material.

From here, you can step back and get a big-picture view of what your course will look and feel like to a learner.

Save Your Sanity: Storyboard eLearning Courses

Rather than wasting precious time designing elements that eventually get discarded, storyboarding helps you work with your client and team members in the early stages in an efficient manner. You can refer back to the storyboard throughout the design stage to be sure you’re staying on track, too.

Wonder how you can storyboard branched scenarios? Read this next.