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Get Your Story Straight with Storyboarding

#becomeanidol #elearning #idolcourses #idtools #instructionaldesign #instructionaldesigner #motivation #storyboarding Feb 19, 2020

 GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT with storyboarding. No matter which instructional design model you choose almost all of them have some version of storyboarding as part of the design phase. This article will address 4 common questions that have arisen during discussions with others in the Instructional Design (ID) field about storyboarding:
  1. What is storyboarding?
  2. Is storyboarding really that important?
  3. Is it OK to skip this step?
  4. What needs to be included in my storyboard?

After you have conducted a thorough analysis of “all the things,” you can begin to brainstorm how to present the material to the learners in the best possible way. Once you have decided on the best modality for instruction and how you want the training to go, you need to present your ideas to your stakeholders, clients, and boss. That is where storyboarding comes into play. 

  • WHAT IS STORYBOARDING? Storyboarding is a way to organize your thoughts and ideas for delivering instruction. You will see storyboarding done mostly with eLearnings, but they can be done for all modalities. It is often an illustrated and typographical representation of each main step in a training program regardless if it is one lesson or a whole complex training program. It's a quick overview of the order in which topics will be taught and how they will be taught. The design of the storyboard can range from a simple comic strip design to an extremely detailed PowerPoint template. 

  • IS STORYBOARDING REALLY THAT IMPORTANT? This question and the next one seem to have a split vote, or (in some cases) a conditional response. I say, YES, storyboarding is an important step to the design process. Aside from helping an ID stay organized and focused, the storyboard is how you pitch your idea for training to your stakeholders. They will need to envision the idea you have in your head. That is difficult to do without step by step illustrations/graphics or descriptions of what will take place during the training. This is especially true if you are going to introduce a new or different approach to an existing training. For example, my company has an instructor-led new hire training that is all day long for five weeks. My boss and I collaborated on how to improve this training and reduce the time it takes to complete it. She came up with the concept of an Amazing Race themed blended learning that involved a Storyline interactive game board, eLearning, instructor led training, and on-the-job training. It was a hard sell when we described it as I just did. People were confused as to how the Amazing Race theme connects with our line of business and new hire training. I was tasked with creating a storyboard with a prototype of how the game would work. Once the stakeholders could see our vision, they bought into the idea to drastically change a training that had been in place for years. Storyboarding is also very useful if you are part of a team. Having a storyboard of the training you are producing can be an extremely helpful tool if you are unexpectedly out or reassigned to a different project. Your teammates will be able to understand how to execute the development of the training through your storyboard.  

  • IS IT OK TO SKIP THIS STEP? I admittedly struggle with this question because I am a visual thinker. Therefore, I conceptualize what I want to build as I am thinking about it or writing a script. If you are like me, you just want to get right to the building and development. Some of my colleagues have expressed that storyboarding is an unnecessary step that adds to our timeline of development. Despite my urge to get right to development, I do so cautiously. There are a few exceptions where I can see skipping this step MAY be OK (if you are the daredevil type). The rare exceptions are an extremely tight deadline to produce a training, if you are your client, you already have a detailed design document and it’s not an eLearn, or you are making minor updates to an existing training. Due to the controversial nature of this topic, I conducted a very informal and unscientific survey on LinkedIn recently where I posed this very question. The responses I received were similarly conditional to my opinion, but ultimately everyone said it was very risky to skip this step. Tim Slade responded, “While it’s possible to skip a storyboard, there’s a lot of risks. It would be like skipping a blueprint and going straight into constructing a house.” I found his analogy to be spot on. Would we want to construct a house without a blueprint? No, we wouldn’t. The storyboard is where an ID works out all kinks in the design. It is much easier to fix or rearrange something on the storyboard than it is to go back into a completed eLearning to make those changes. Or, as in the case of the new hire training redesign I mentioned previously, if we went directly to the development phase of building the training, presented to stakeholders, and were denied approval for this new training we would have wasted an extraordinary amount of time and work. Also, if you are part of a collaboration, the visuals in your head can’t be seen by your teammates if you don’t have a storyboard. Bottom line: You should always strive to include a storyboard. 

  • WHAT NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED IN MY STORYBOARD? The complexity of a storyboard can range as much as the complexity of different training programs. However, there are four main things I aim to include in my storyboards:
  1. Slide Title 
  2. Description of the lesson or what is happening in the scene
  3. What types of animation that will be included in the scene
  4. Script for that scene 


Of course, more details can be added to any storyboard. It depends on the ID’s preference, what the stakeholders/SMEs need to know, and the complexity of the design. I have included a downloadable template for PowerPoint. Dr. Robin Sargent also shares a more complex version of a storyboard template and more information on this topic in her IDOL Courses Academy. 

By: Gretchen Johanson


Connect with Gretchen on LinkedIn.

Gretchen is an Instructional Designer and former public educator. Combined, she has over a decade of experience in learning and development. She considers herself a life-long learner and is always looking for opportunities to grow and develop her skills.Work-life balance is important to her. She enjoys kick-boxing, traveling and family time when she is not working.