An architect uses blueprints to graphically depict his or her building plans. The blueprint provides stakeholders with a visual representation of what the proposed project will look like and serves as an impetus to jumpstart communication. Storyboarding can do the same thing for eLearning designers.

Kevin Thorn, an award-winning designer, developer, consultant, and owner of NuggetHead Studioz, believes that storyboarding is crucial to the eLearning design process. He maintains that it benefits designers and stakeholders alike and should be standard practice after a design is approved but before development begins.

Thorn will expound on the value of storyboarding at The eLearning Guild’s live online Super Spotlight, Get All You Need to Create Effective eLearning, December 12 & 13. Thorn’s presentation will take place December 12, from noon until 1:00 PM.

Learning Solutions recently spoke with Thorn about storyboarding.

Q: What is a storyboard?

A: 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.

Q: What are some of the benefits of storyboarding?

On a very practical level, it can help organizations avoid costly and time-consuming revisions. It is also a beneficial practice for designers and developers because it can be used as a guide in the project management of an eLearning project. While storyboarding adds a bit of time up front, it allows users to easily test design options, thus saving time and effort in development.

Q: How does one create a storyboard?

A: 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.

Q: What tools are commonly used for storyboarding?

A: Although you may have the urge to reach for a laptop, I find it helpful to start with a pen and paper. Beginning with an analog approach will give you a sense of the bigger picture. Once all the moving parts seem to be in place from the visual design and model, you can transfer the design to MS Word and/or MS PowerPoint to polish them up for the documentation process. Again, there are countless digital tools available, and there is no one “right way” to do this. The importance is the storyboarding process itself. Find the tools you’re most comfortable with.

Q: In today’s digital age, why would one revert to manual storyboarding?

A: It’s good to step away from the computer! Unplugging from the digital world is healthy—it separates your brain from all the digital noises and distractions. When your hands are writing, sketching, or drawing, they are helping you think and focus. Try it and you’ll be amazed!

Q: Do you have to be an artist to leverage storyboarding?

A: No, although storyboarding does require time and practice. The visual side of storyboarding is a simple understanding at a high level of how the instruction flows. The only skill needed is the ability to draw a rectangle and a few arrows. The rest is creativity.