The Story of the E-Learning Storyboard – Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, I gave you a brief history and background of the storyboard. In this part, I’ll talk about the popular storyboard formats and the steps for creating an effective storyboard. I shall end the post with my top tips on storyboarding.

Popular Storyboard Formats

Today, the two most common storyboards formats in the industry are Word and PowerPoint. While there is no right or wrong format, each has its pros and cons. Eventually, it is for the ID to weigh both options and decide which format will work best for the specific project.


PowerPoint is better suited for visuals. It isn’t a good choice if a lot of textual information needs to be represented. A PowerPoint storyboard gives a good visual representation of each frame. Each slide may come really close to what will be finally developed. However, editing and reviewing the storyboard can be tricky.

Word, on the other hand, is so much easier in terms of working with text and comments. Reviewing and tracking revisions are relatively pain-free. The downside is that it is hard to get a real feel of the final course in Word. Stakeholders who are new to e-learning may not fully comprehend the final outcome of a storyboard in Word. So even after multiple reviews, a Word storyboard is more likely to be altered at an advanced stage.

How to Storyboard?

Now that you are convinced of the need to storyboard, let me share my step-by-step storyboarding process.


Six Steps for Creating a Storyboard

  1. Identify the learning objectives: First, find out the learning (or performance) problem and your target audience. Study and ask questions about what exactly is expected from the learning solution. Based on your analysis, identify the learning objectives. And once you’ve identified them, never lose sight of the objectives.
  2. Organize all your material: Ask the stakeholders, including the SMEs, for all the raw learning content that they can provide you. You might have to push for this. Determine how you are going to use the material.
  3. Choose your storyboard template: Choose an appropriate storyboard template based on your project and customize it for your specific needs.
  4. Choose your instructional design strategy: Decide on the instructional approach you will use. You could use a scenario-based approach, a conversational approach, a game-based approach or even a simple page-turner approach. Often, a combination of different approaches works best.
  5. Sequence and chunk your content: At this stage, you have to put pen to paper.
    • Sequence your content in the order that is best suited for effective learning.
    • Present your content in small chunks.
    • Maintain a natural flow throughout.
  6. Review: Once you have created your storyboard, review it for accuracy of facts, language and grammar, instructional design strategy and 508 compliance. As in any process, the importance of a review cannot be emphasized enough. A self review is the absolute minimum, but try to get it peer reviewed as well.

Tips for Outstanding Storyboards

To create powerful e-learning, begin with an outstanding storyboard. Here are my seven tips for storyboarding awesomeness.trophy-1008961_1920

  1. Be aware of the tools that will be used to create the eLearning. Be clear about what is allowed and what is not, even before you begin storyboarding.
  2. Start with an attention grabber. Here are some pointers: ask a question, use a quotation or a statistic, add a conversation, or bring in an analogy.
  3. Balance the visual and audio elements in the storyboard to avoid cognitive overload. Make sure your narration is not a word-to-word replica of the onscreen text (OST).
    • Crisp, short OST is preferred when there is a lengthy audio playing simultaneously. The learner should be able to scan the text quickly when the primary medium is audio.
    • When the text is long, the audio can be short. For example, when an entire case study or problem is displayed on the screen, there needs to be very little or no accompanying audio. The learner will be able to concentrate on reading the case study or problem without being distracted by accompanying audio.
  4. A picture is worth a thousand words. Humans are visually wired and learn a great deal more and faster when the learning content is visual. Your visuals should never be an afterthought. Choose meaningful graphics and videos with high recall value.
  5. Include purposeful interactivity on every possible screen. Interactivity just for the sake of interactivity is a strict no-no. All interactive elements are different forms of the following basic ones:
    • Click interactions: click and reveal, click and pop up, click carousel, hotpspots
    • Drag and drop
    • Rollovers/mouse hovers
    • Text entry
  6. Work on an engaging tone throughout the storyboard. The tone can be developed, in particular, in the introduction, slide transitions, examples and conclusion. For a conversational tone, make use of contractions in the narration. Change the frame style every few slides, while keeping the overall theme intact. Ensure your slide transitions are smooth.
  7. Beware of scope creep. It is normal for a storyboard to go through several rounds of revisions before it is signed off. However, once it is signed off and production starts, changes to the storyboard can be a costly affair. Make sure that all the stakeholders are aware of this.

With these tips, you can create some excellent storyboards. If you have more good ones, please share them in the comments section.

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