What is a storyboard?

According to Kevin Thorn, an award-winning designer, developer, consultant, and owner of NuggetHead Studioz, “A storyboard is a contextual map outlining the flow of instruction and navigation behaviors that provides a better understanding of the project. It is a powerful collaborative tool because it allows eLearning designers and developers to clearly communicate to stakeholders, clients, or other partners what the final output will be like.”

When do you need a storyboard?

Storyboards are essential when the desired outcome of your project will be action on the part of the person applying the instruction. This is especially true for eLearning video projects, but storyboards are the key to successful projects delivered in other media, with one exception. If your project involves delivering a panel discussion or a podcast (“talking heads”), what you want is a script, not a storyboard. (Thomas Spiglanin, senior project manager at The Aerospace Corporation, offered tips about scripting in his 2017 Guild Using Video for Learning Spotlight, "Preproduction Practices for Better Workplace Video". Scripting is not covered in this article.)

What are some ways to use storyboards?

Storyboards are important for planning your workflow, for shot-blocking, setting the pacing of the production, and visualizing camera angles.

Storyboards are how you communicate the vision of the project to your entire team, in simple terms that will relate to each team member’s role.

Video expert William Everheart says, “When you are shooting video, even if it's going to be one of those on-demand, or just-in-time learning type of situations, storyboarding will save you a lot of time in the editing phase and trying to figure things out. Storyboarding allows you to figure out the shots that you want ahead of time, before you go and set up the cameras, lights, and microphones. So when all that is set up, you don't want to have to re-position the camera every time —‘Oh, that didn't look good, let's do this…’ Storyboarding is a great way to just pre-visualize the story that you're going to tell and the way you're going to tell it through video.”

Storyboard development

How do you create a storyboard? According to Thorn, “There’s no single ‘right’ way to storyboard. The process will differ depending upon the requirements of the project and one’s role in the organization. If you are the sole person responsible for the entire project, for example, your process will be different than if you are part of a larger team.”

Storyboarding is a preproduction task. The first step is always to identify your project objectives. The storyboard must support your project and your team.

From the experts: Best practices during preproduction

  • Build your storyboard around clearly defined objectives.
  • Max Yoder, CEO of Lesson.ly and founding director of The First Fund, suggests that when creating a product demo video, you should write the script first and then create the storyboard. He gives three reasons for changing your workflow in this way: You’ll think about what you’re saying; you’re planning without realizing it; and editing doesn’t become tedious.
  • Decide how much detail each of your team members need in order to execute the project. Identify who is on the project, what information they already have about their role, and what else they will need.
  • What apps will be used in the project and does everyone on the team have the necessary skills to use them?
  • What learning activities and skills will be included in the finished product?
  • Select a storyboarding app that matches what you have identified so far.
  • Pick a template that fits—you can use your development tool to put your storyboard together.

Build a storyboard that matches everything you have documented about your project. The storyboard needs to be not too much and not too little. Some projects require everything from camera angles to photos of the location, to simple sketches and card notes. It is better to have too much information than too little.

Best practices overall

Use your storyboard!

If you have a sponsor or client, make sure the storyboard matches their expectations. Make notes on the storyboard during client review, and revise as needed during production. Go over the storyboard with your team and solicit their suggestions.

Let's get specific

On June 9, Andrew McGuire and Brok Howard will present "Storyboarding and Miro: Collaboration that Makes an Impact" as part of The Learning Guild's Online Conference Pushing the eLearning Envelope. Miro is an online whiteboarding tool that can be used to create storyboards and address some of the biggest challenges of online-only collaboration.

Andrew and Brok will show how you can begin using a free trial of Miro to collaborate in the identifying and mapping of key concepts and then demonstrate how to apply them to a custom storyboard template where ideas can be further advanced using images and icons.

You'll leave the session with a clear idea of how Miro storyboarding can be used to increase visibility into the design process, enhance communication, and support your team’s overall strategy.

Register today for Pushing the eLearning Envelope today so you can attend this session that will take your team design process to the next level!