Why is it so important to use an eLearning storyboard?
Why is it so important to use an eLearning storyboard? Developing high quality eLearning is akin to producing a movie. Your instructional designer/content writer is effectively writing a screenplay in which the audio/voice talent reads the story line; the visuals are the actors that enter and exit the screen (stage) on queue (synchronized with the audio track).
Oftentimes, training programs require the approval and sign-off from multiple managers and other stakeholders. Using a storyboard is one way to get everyone literally “on the same page” when it comes to understanding what you propose to build and to give you their approval to proceed. The eLearning storyboard is your blueprint for the course you propose to build. It includes all of the instructions that the various team members need in order to successfully create the training.
eLearning Storyboard elements
• Script/Narration: Most eLearning produced today includes both audio and visuals. The narration script should be written exactly as it will be read by a voice talent. When writing a script, read it out load just as the voice talent will. Be sure to include pause lines and pronunciation notes as needed. I recommend that you listen in on the recording session when possible and provide feedback to the voice talent on tone, pacing , etc.
• Thumbnail Graphics: When possible, create the proposed graphics and drop them in as a screenshot/thumbnail next to the proposed narration. This way stakeholders can approve or reject specific designs and provide additional design direction as needed. Additionally, we recommend that you include the desired file name that should be given to the final graphic (e.g. Slide-01.jpg). This way your graphic artists and eLearning developers will easily be able to match graphics, to audio, to slides, etc.
• Media Notes: If you are going to reveal and remove images and on-screen text in synchronization with the audio track, you should include notes about when and how graphics will ease in and out of the stage. This can be as simple as including footnotes in the narration and next to the graphic/on-screen text so that the developer knows how the timing is to be done. For example, this footnote <1> embedded in the narration would also be placed in the media notes next to the item to be revealed when this narration reaches this point.
• Audio File Name: If you have more than one page of content in your eLearning project, chances are you are going to have more than one audio file created. Be sure to include your desired audio file name (like Slide-01.mp3). If your voice talent and your eLearning developer both follow the storyboard, then matching up the audio to the correct slide visuals will be a breeze.
• Complete Quiz/Activity Information: Be sure to include the question stem, correct answer, distractors, correct and incorrect feedback, and other content-specific information. Also include details like whether the learner can re-try the question if they get it wrong and if so, how many tries are allowed. Additionally, will you include a “solution” button? Will students be required to get a question correct prior to moving forward? Your storyboard should include all of these details because if you don’t explicitly request something, chances are that something wont get done.
• SME Question/Answer Area: If you are working with a subject matter expert, we recommend that you include an area in your storyboard where your experts can quickly and easily find and address any questions you may have.
• Pronunciation Guide: While you should absolutely include pronunciation instructions in your final voice talent script, we recommend including this information within the narration area of the storyboard. Your narration script wil most likely come from the storyboard anyway, so you might as well include pronunciation information during the narration writing process at the storyboard level.
• eLearning Storyboard Template
• eLearning Narration Script Template
Benefits of using eLearning storyboards
• Save Time and Money and increase quality: Organizing your thoughts into a cohesive storyboard does not add much time to the process and can dramatically decrease total project time and cost while improving overall quality. How? By creating and conforming to a storyboard you reduce the rework that often occurs when stakeholders view the course content for the first time after all of the graphic and audio work is complete. It is extremely risky to invest time and money in developing the media before you’ve received official sign-off.
• Client Sign-off: Whether you are a freelance contractor or an employee, you probably have to seek approval (sign-off) from others within your organization (client). Frequently you will require approval and input from multiple subject matter experts and managers/directors. Getting the official review and sign-off from these folks will save you time and money as well as protect you from scope creep or blame for inevitable changes requests. If you develop in a vacuum, then you are solely responsible for the project success and failure. If others review and approve the storyboard, you have official documentation verifying that you built a product based upon buying from multiple sources.
• Streamlined Media QC Process: It is easy for the media review/sign-off process to go “off the rails” with a sudden influx of change requests. When you have an officially approved storyboard you can inform your stakeholders early in the process that you will build exactly what the storyboard calls for. Therefore, the QC process should be focused on confirming that the media developed conforms to the storyboard. If people ask for changes that go beyond what the storyboard calls for, you can use this as a “teachable moment” to reiterate to others the importance of catching items like these at the storyboard level.
• Project Management/Coordination: If you are a one-man-band doing all of the work yourself, then you may not require a storyboard. However, if you are part of a team development process that includes a professional graphic artist, a Flash developer (or other course developer), an instructional designer, a creative/technical writer, a QC editor, and more, then a storyboard is a must.