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How to Design eLearning Storyboards and 4 Key Elements

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Growing demand for eLearning solutions amidst a global pandemic gave serious impetus to the development of online courses and training programs. According to statistics, by 2025 the Massive Open Online Course Market (MOOC) would surpass the mark of $25 billion. Being such a crescive niche, it attracts more and more individuals who want to share their knowledge but who don't have prior experience developing training courses.

In this blog, we will share some insights on how to design eLearning storyboards, will examine the interactive storyboarding design elements, and provide some other handy tips that you can use when designing an effective eLearning storyboard.

What Is an eLearning Storyboard?

Today, storyboards are heavily used in the video industry where they come as sketched-out illustration sequences that visualize key scenes of a video and help you better understand the story pace. While the eLearning storyboard fully inherits its ideas and goals from the sketched storyboard, its appearance is quite different.

The eLearning storyboard comes in the form of a document that is created prior to the development of the actual course. In it, producers outline the entire structure of a future course and all its elements: visuals, text, audio, page interactions, navigation, etc. Such a document includes a set of screens/pages, each of which corresponds to a particular slide on the eLearning course.

In the same way as the sketched-out storyboard, the eLearning storyboard works as a blueprint and helps producers keep all their work in line with the course subject and learning objectives. Now, let's take a look at the four key eLearning storyboard design elements that should be present on every page.

Four Key Elements to Create an Effective eLearning Storyboard

Header area

The header area is the upper part of the screen that holds all the brief information about the current slide. It may contain, in particular: slide number, name/title, and slide subjective. The latter element is crucial since it specifies why each slide is there, to begin with.

Text

One of the most important elements of storyboards for designing interactive eLearning and an area that will most likely take the largest part of the page. It may include such components as:

  • Visible text — text that will actually be present in the final course slide.
  • Navigation notes — text that specifies where a user will actually go after interacting with the elements on the slide. 'Moves to the next/previous screen,' 'activates popup,' 'jumps to a quiz,' etc.
  • Development notes — all extra guidelines that need to be taken into account by a developer or designer.

Audio instructions

This component is very important since it outlines the actual narration text that will accompany each slide of your eLearning course. We do recommend paying extra attention to this element and working on it separately — especially in those cases where you plan to involve a professional artist to do a voiceover for the course.

When writing out the audio narration text, make sure it matches the amount of learning material present on the page — to avoid voice gaps or even overlays. The narration copy should also come with guidelines for a voiceover artist regarding tone, jargon/acronym pronunciation (if any), instructions for special symbols like brackets, etc.

Instructions for visuals & media

Here, the course producers provide all the drafts/references or thumbnails for the illustrations. If the course is supposed to also include animation and/or videos, then the corresponding instructions need to be provided, as well: what type and style of animation is preferred, does it need to include branding elements or not, how the video lessons should be paced (format, camera angle, background, etc).

How to Design an eLearning Storyboard: Step-by-Step Development Process

Outline your course goals and objectives beforehand

The creation of a new storyboard — and eLearning course in general — starts with answering one single question: What outcome are we aiming to achieve here?

The more detailed answer you get to that query, the better. Let's say you want to create a course on full-stack web development for beginners. Assuming that, the expected outcome regarding the course may be as follows:

  • To educate learners on the basic terminology — HTML, CSS, responsive design, semantic markup, server side scripting, etc.
  • To teach them the difference between web development and web design.
  • To make them grasp the basics of website debugging.
  • To teach learners how to publish the website with GitHub pages, etc.

The course objectives will directly reflect on the structure, kind, and contents of a storyboard.

Gather all the content

This is one of the most important stages in the custom elearning storyboard design process. Here, you collect all the information that a future course will be built upon: the definitions, concepts, course messages, research data, infographics, statistics, information from subject matter experts.

Set up assessment criteria

Identifying assessment criteria at the early stages of the storyboard design process will help to improve proficiency and boost learners’ productivity. The assessment methods — or criteria — are inseparably linked to the course structure, and define 'points of assessment' that have to be present in any interactive eLearning course.

The points of assessment can come in the form of tests, quizzes, task-based simulations, open-ended questions, etc. These are the most basic examples which need to be taken into account and embedded in the storyboard structure; however, if we take more complex methods — such as branching scenarios that involve multiple decision points, for example — these will have a stronger impact on the storyboard navigation and, thus, need to be thoroughly structured in advance.

Decide on the design method

Picking an appropriate design methodology helps to ensure that you won't get lost when developing an eLearning storyboard or an entire course. In general, there are four design models that you can choose from to build your course:

  • ADDIE (Analysis Design Development Implementation Evaluation) — an instructional design framework that breaks down the course creation process into five stages, each of which is executed in a particular order with a focus on revision and iteration.
  • Action Mapping Model — by using this methodology, the course producers map out each step of the course production process to ensure that it stays aligned with the general goal of the course.
  • Knirk & Gustafson Model — a pretty straightforward methodology that consists of three steps: problem determination (define what learners already know and what else they need to know), design (come up with strategies and activities that will solve the problem), and development (produce training materials, course models, etc.)
  • SAM (Successive Approximation Model) — a simplified version of the ADDIE approach that has only three stages, instead of five: the preparation phase, where all the course information is gathered; the iterative design phase, where all the course modules are prototyped and reviewed; and, the iterative development phase, where prototypes are fully developed and deployed.

Map-out course navigation

Course navigation will define the experience learners will get when going through your course and, to a significant extent, affect how well they complete the course. So, in order to provide a seamless UX, you should decide in advance where to position your buttons and how to denote certain actions you want learners to take. Plan what happens if an incorrect answer is provided to a question on a slide or where to put links to third-party websites (If any are required).

Prevent cognitive overload

Since the well-written storyboard serves as a kind of 'guide,' it's vital to keep it clear and easy-to-process. Before doing a final revision of a storyboard, assess the amount of content that you will be delivering on each page/screen of your course. If some pages (or lessons) contain large chunks of text, try to break them down into smaller 'bite sized' sections.

This will help to ensure that learners grasp the material in full before they move on to the next slide. Also, if possible, use visual or auditory instructions instead of plain text in so as to not overburden the elearning course.

Choose an appropriate authoring tool

An authoring tool is a software that will actually help you create the storyboard once you've sorted out the content and structure of your future course. These solutions may come in different forms — for basic courses, elearning developers commonly use Microsoft Word or Powerpoint, while for more sophisticated training programs the use of dedicated software (such as Elearning Art) is more preferable.

All these tools can suit the creation of an eLearning course so, when picking a particular tool, we advise you to focus on your actual goals first. Like "What features do I want to see in an authoring tool?", "Will this tool make my life (read course production) easier?", "Is it able to provide me with all the needed interactions and custom elearning storyboard design elements?", etc.

Concluding Remarks

As you can see, storyboards play a major role in the development of eLearning courses. They help producers to correctly structure the future product, witness possible gaps, and organize course narratives more effectively. Before proceeding to create a storyboard, we recommend establishing a clear development plan and figure out what your goals regarding the storyboarding process are, and what outcomes you expect it to bring.

If you are looking for professional help in creating an elearning storyboard or an entire training solution, reach out to WTT-Solutions. For more than five years we've been providing software development services for SMEs and large enterprises across a wide range of niches and markets: Martech, Edtech, BI and ML, Mobile development, AI, and more. To get a FREE consultation from one of our managers, fill out the form in the top right corner of this page and we'll get in touch with you in no time!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

💻 Who uses storyboarding software?

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Storyboarding software is normally used by course developers, video agencies, independent writers, directors, producers, and motion designers.

⌛ What are the best storyboarding software tools?

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The best storyboarding software is the one that 100% matches your needs; however, if we were to recommend an off-the-shelf eLearning solution, here's a list of the most popular ones today: Storyboarder, Boords, Plot, StudioBinder, Storyboard That, and Elearning Art.

💵 How much does it cost to develop an eLearning course from scratch?

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If you consider producing an eLearning course with the help of internal resources, then the development costs will boil down to the number of working hours spent by your team (normally, it takes up to 200 hours to produce one hour of eLearning content). If you consider hiring a third-party contractor, then the cost of online course development may go from $2,000 up to $10,000, or even higher (depending on your requirements and course length). Contact us if you want to get more information in that regard.

🚀 Can I create my online course without designing a storyboard?

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Since storyboards serve as a foundation for all the future work that will be done during course production, we highly recommend you don’t skip this step. Otherwise, it will result in unwanted expenses, time losses, and your development process becoming ineffective as a whole.
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