What is Storyboarding in eLearning?

The storyboarding technique is used across lots of different types of production, particularly in creative industries with design and video elements. The idea behind a storyboard is to create a highly detailed plan, vision, or story about what you are trying to create. That could be a film, video, or animation. In this case, it’s an eLearning course.

Creating a blueprint of your course in storyboard format can be time consuming, especially for longer courses or complex training projects. But the alignment it provides is well worth the effort.

Your eLearning storyboard should be more than a rough roadmap. It should outline absolutely every element you plan to include in your course from start to finish. Plus, it will provide the entire team with guidance on what they need to create and contribute.

Storyboarding for eLearning Overview

A storyboard for eLearning design is a visual created at the beginning of the training project that outlines the content and navigation of the course. Sometimes known as a course blueprint, it helps to align all members of the training project team on what is expected, including instructional designers, developers, and subject matter experts.

When should you create an eLearning storyboard?

Whether you follow ADDIE or another model for your online course development process, the eLearning storyboard should be created very early on in the process. 

Within ADDIE, it should be created during the Development phase. That’s because the Analysis phase will inform much of what you decide to include in the course. So you must have the analysis complete before beginning your storyboarding for eLearning development. 


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eLearning Project Plan Template


Why should you use storyboarding for eLearning?

Training project management is time consuming and your project timeline might feel full enough without dedicating more time creating a visual blueprint. But eLearning experts know that the results are well worth the effort. Here are some reasons why creating a storyboard is worth your time:

Save time

It might seem counterintuitive given that it takes extra time to create a storyboard. But having that blueprint at your side can save a lot of time further down the line in your project.

Much of the discussion around structure, flow, and content can be had over the storyboard before your designers and developers even begin to create the course. So you avoid the common pitfall of time wasted on course content that ends up being scrapped halfway through. 

Improve collaboration

If all your stakeholders and project team members get to have their say this early on, it sets the stage for improved collaboration throughout the duration of the project.

Disagreements or conflicting opinions can be ironed out right from the beginning. So your team is aligned and singing from the same hymn sheet.

Clear expectations

With all the planned eLearning content and course elements outlined at the start, all contributors will understand expectations. They can more easily predict the workload that will be involved in their own contributions, such as how much time they will need to spend in authoring tools to create specific assets.

This helps to avoid missed deliverables or overstretched resources when deadlines are looming. 

Change documentation

Having a storyboard gives you the opportunity to document any changes that are requested from stakeholders and contributors and ensure those changes are transparent to all. That way you can avoid awkward conversations about these decisions when it may be too late to change them. 


Hear what the experts have to say about eLearning project management in this on-demand webinar recording with award-winning eLearning designer, Tim Slade:
An Expert’s Guide to Keeping eLearning Projects on Track and on Budget


How to create an eLearning storyboard

Pre-Storyboard Items

Since storyboarding takes time, it’s important to have all your ducks in a row before you develop one.

An effective storyboard means understanding and clearly establishing:

  • The target learning audience
  • The learning objective(s)
  • Instructional delivery format (scenario-based, microlearning, etc.)

Tools for storyboard creation, development, and storage

Many eLearning teams use something as basic as a Word document for their storyboarding process. Others turn to Powerpoint or similar tools.

While these might technically do the job, they’re not specifically built for creating storyboards. They also don’t offer very robust solutions for collaborating over the blueprint or updating specific course design elements. Ultimately, you can end up with messy, unclear storyboards and multiple versions floating about between various inboxes or file shares.

Instead, try to source a solution that allows for visual storyboard templates and real time collaboration and flexibility. That way, you can easily make adjustments and work with the wider team on their individual contributions.

What to include on your storyboard

Your eLearning storyboard should be as in-depth as possible, no matter how light or complex the end course will be.

Each section or slide of your storyboard should centre around one single idea or concept of your course. Be sure to include the following:

  • Overall course information (course name, audience, etc.)
  • Lesson titles
  • All planned content elements (text, video, audio, animation, audio narration etc.)
  • Flow and navigation (buttons, on-screen interactions)
  • Anywhere existing content will be used
  • Any content that needs development
  • Detailed outlines of any branching to be included
  • Planned assessments or knowledge checks

Anyone who looks at your storyboard should have a clear idea of exactly the experience your learners will go through on your course from start to finish.

Next Steps

Once you have a storyboard developed, make sure it is accessible to the full team. Use it as a cornerstone for your project throughout. The storyboard should be continually updated as changes emerge or new decisions are made. That way you and your team are aligned from the start of the project right through to the deployment of the finished product.

Training teams that use Agile methodologies can better adapt to change and build better relationships. Hear all about it in this upcoming Agile Learning webinar with industry-renowned expert, Megan Torrance:
Harnessing Change: Agile Methods for L&D

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