A lot of my work focuses on instructor-led training – whether in person or virtual. Over the past year, I’ve returned to elearning design as well. Just like a lesson plan is the cornerstone for helping me to organize all of my instructor-led thoughts into a coherent, engaging learning experience, I’ve found the elearning storyboard template to help me in the same way as I design tightly-focused, engaging elearning.
Why Use a Template for eLearning Design
There is no template that works for every project. We start with this template and with each project make adjustments based on the project’s needs. For example, we may not always do voiceover. We may need more complext numbering of screens to track what sections and menus.
Having a template has not only helped us keep our own thoughts organized, but it’s helpful when I pass a project along to a colleague to convert this from concepts on paper (the storyboard) to an actual elearning module that can be designed in Storyline or another tool and uploaded to an LMS.
Here is the simple template that we use at Endurance Learning.
What should be in an elearning Storyboard Template?
This section is self-explanatory. What are you calling your elearning module?
Any good, focused learning program begins with learner-centered objectives. By the end of this module, what should your learners be able to do new or differently or better?
It is easy to skip writing learning objectives, but at least once in every course design we find ourselves struggling with whether we’re on the right track. We may question an interaction’s value or whether it is addressing the right pain. Returning to the learning objectives to validate what we’re trying to achieve is essential. It may also reveal that our objectives are inaccurate and should be revisited.
This section helps keep your content organized as a developer (perhaps that’s you, perhaps that’s someone else) begins to label each screen in your elearning module. If you are going to include these in the course design, you should note that.
You may also use this column to number screens so that you can always refer back to the content in this row. For example, you may label the first row A-1. You can then use this as a reference in discussions with stakeholders, design conversations within the team, voiceover requests, and tickets. If we delete this row, we don’t reuse the A-1. The first section would be A-2.
Tracking these individual rows will prove vital if you need to translate the course to another language. We’ve tried many systems over the years, but having unique labeling of each “chunk” of content has proved to be a life-saver.
It’s a whole lot easier and quicker to have key stakeholders comment on the on-screen text and imagery before you actually begin developing and programming your elearning module. Making sure the right words are being used and you’re using the exact images that your stakeholders want to see at the storyboard stage can save you a lot of time, effort, headaches, and money down the road. Make it as accurate as possible in the storyboard. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes when you and your stakeholders see text and imagery on screen, but reacting in a document can prevent major changes later.
We also try to keep this section as clean as possible so that a developer can copy text into a course without having to decipher notes. It may seem like a good idea to add notes to the developer about how this text should appear on screen, but it is much quicker and more accurate to be able to move this text directly into the development tool rather than having to read it closely.
We are not a one-person shop. If you are, you won’t have any problem interpreting your own intention! But, if you are not a team of one, or you occasionally forget what you meant when you wrote a document, then the details you add here are critical.
While we call this “Developer Notes” this section is also critical for your stakeholders. While you have the text that will be on screen, this is where you paint a picture of how the learner will interact. We often use this for more traditional storyboard images that we mock up in PowerPoint, Balsamiq, or even hand-draw! Would you like any visual effects, animations, or special syncing between what appears on the screen and the voiceover? Here is where you paint a picture of what should happen on the screen, and how. This is the equivalent of the stage directions.
You may also want to include links to images to be incorporated or use this to engage the developer in a conversation about how best to develop this section. You don’t have to define every action that a developer takes. In most cases, if you’re handing a project to an elearning developer, that person will bring their own creativity to the project and add value.
This should be a verbatim script of what a Voiceover recording should include. Hopefully, this is different and more detailed in terms of content than what you have in the Screen Text column (please don’t make your learners read all the words and listen to the same words being narrated through voiceover).
In the past, we would create a separate voiceover script because we certainly wouldn’t hand this to a voiceover artist. What happened? We made a change to the content on-screen and forgot that there was voiceover associated. Our goal is to keep everything in one document as long as possible and when we know we have approved text, we create a separate document that keeps our unique numbering so that we know where the voiceover files will fit in relation to the course.
I’m sure there are additional fields and columns that could be helpful for some elearning projects. What I truly appreciate about this form is that it’s simple, straight forward, doesn’t take a lot of extra time to use and seems to facilitate communication between the instructional designer, elearning developer, voiceover artist and the client/customer.
If you’d like a digital version of this template, sent me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to send you an electronic file!