My position on storyboards for eLearning has changed quite a bit over the years. Previously, I was in the frame of mind that storyboarding was only necessary when filming. Why? Well, not to be cliché but “time is money” and if you’ve ever had to pay for studio time, a crew, or compel your busy friends and coworkers to moonlight as unpaid actors in your training video then you already know the importance of having every aspect of the shoot planned so that you don’t end up having to pay more, or beg your volunteers to come back for a second day of shooting. The shift in my mindset regarding storyboards occurred the day my project and I was taken down by two strokes known in the Computer-Verse as Big Delete and his accomplice Sneaky ERB (as in, Empties Recycling Bin)! That’s right… No script! No storyboard! Just Captivate and I enjoying a Han Solo adventure before abruptly being swallowed up by a black hole.
Today, I have the learned experience to know that most people need some type of blueprint to collaborate and grow their ideas and for us Instructional Designers this usually takes the form of a Storyboard. Aside from the logistics of staying on budget and on schedule and NOT losing your project… here are two other reasons you should consider using a storyboard with your next eLearning project:
1. Storyboarding Helps Identify Grammatical Errors and Inaccurate Content
Most eLearning software utilizes timelines and layers that do not support spell checks within the application. The best way to make sure that your content is free from errors is to copy and paste it into your project from a Word document. This can at times feel tedious, but you know what is more frustrating than the repetition of copy and paste? The professional embarrassment of presenting a project to your peers during beta testing that is riddled with errors! Yikes!
2. Storyboarding Can Put the Anxiety of Ambiguity to Rest
One thing I learned early on as an Instructional Designer is that you are given an enormous amount of trust and responsibility in your role. The hand holding and the oversight you may have received in your previous positions is in the past. Often, Subject Matter Experts (SME) will simply hand over their existing training materials in the hopes of never having to deal with it (or you) again, in which case the storyboard becomes an even more vital tool because it might be one of the few opportunities for you to collaborate and get feedback from a busy SME.
I remember building a project where I customized some of the background slides by shooting images of the common areas in the office building using my DSLR camera. One photo was of a beautiful mural in the lobby, which I incorporated into a scenario scene with cut out people for a soft skills training about respect in the workplace. To this day that is still one of my favorite interactions that I created with Captivate. Later, to my disappointment, I found out that the mural included images and logo’s that couldn’t be used in any internal company documents.
While it’s your responsibility to ensure that the content is interactive, engaging and andragogic you must also be careful that their mandates don’t kill your creative efforts. This can be achieved by having your stakeholders view the storyboard prior to building the interactions, ensuring the content is accurate and that your efforts won’t have to be duplicated.
Recently, I read a blog post by Steve Penfold where he wrote, “It’s said that when Mozart wrote down musical parts for the first time, he never made a mistake. The music was fully formed and flawless in his head before he started writing. Sadly, you and I probably don’t have this ability in music – or when developing eLearning”. I wish I would have received this insight prior to entering the deep space of my first eLearning internship and course build.
Ultimately, storyboards will ensure the expectations of all the stakeholders are being met, the production is efficient, and your creativity won’t be killed by policy or black holes and keystroke ruffians from the Computer-Verse.
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