QUESTION: I’m in the process of working with a client who would like to eliminate the storyboard process altogether. In your professional opinion, would you agree that Storyboarding is the Best Practice for e-Learning development and that eliminating this step would be detrimental to the creation process?
Note Originally asked and answered 11/23/11 and updated 3/16/16.
The question of whether or not to use elearning storyboards depends upon a variety of factors. Before answering this question, I recommend diving deeper with your client to find out what benefits they believe they will enjoy by eliminating this step. For example, will the quality of the final product be improved, or will the process be sped up and easier for the client and their subject matter experts? Understanding the client’s perspective will help you determine the merits (or lack thereof) of their request. From there you can share your perspective and come to some form of agreement. We also invite you to download our free eLearning storyboard template.
- Serve as a blueprint for the course, on which the client can sign-off
- Protect the vendor from scope creep, as the storyboard sign-off sets the deliverable
- Ensure that errors in narration, graphics, and other details are caught early
- Help everyone involved envision what to expect in the final product
- Allow everyone in the process to collaborate and document what will be built – this includes the client and their subject matter experts as well as the vendor’s project manager, instructional designer, content writers, graphic artists, media developers, quality control/editing folks, etc.
If you are developing courses as a team effort (rather than as a one-man band), then eLearning storyboards are crucial to the process, and I’m not clear exactly how a quality eLearning product could be developed without this important step.
If you are developing courses in PowerPoint and using a do-it-yourself eLearning tool like Articulate, Lectora, Captivate, etc., then PowerPoint itself is serving the role as a pseudo-storyboard, helping you and your client agree upon (and sign-off on) what will be produced. If you are creating complex eLearning (audio/visual, scenarios, branching, etc.) and using a team-based development approach, then you need something to document and communicate to the team what you are building, and that something is called an eLearning storyboard.
The Bottom Line
The more people involved in the eLearning development process, the more important the storyboarding process becomes. If you or your client is dead set on eliminating this step, then I recommend you outline a new process that works to address the challenges you’ll have, thereby minimizing the exposure to the new risk that you will take on as a result. Done properly, a storyboard does not add extra effort nor complexity to the process and actually saves everyone time and frustration in the end.