Storyboarding for eLearning

Storyboading (aka Mindmapping) is a big part of any instructional designers tasks.  There are many who struggle with this task as it does require a little creativity, imagination and resourcefulness.  I always equate it to coming up with “Big Fish” tales, it’s a skill you develop with practice.

I’ve come up with some great stuff that I have never been able to implement.  Why? Well because everything is great “in concept”.  I’ve learned that it’s best to keep it simple and keep it workable.  Trying to get too elaborate will definitely take away from the purpose of your elearning module and you can risk spending a serious amount of time trying to figure out how to make the darn thing make the move from concept to learning module.

It’s imperative that you work with your clients (the person or organization who needs the training developed) and your SMEs (subject matter experts) to determine your client’s vision, the purpose of the training and the tone of the training.  These are just 3 of the many bits of information you will need to obtain either through a needs assessment or formal/informal conversations with your clients – you should be having many conversations just to make sure you are on track.  I personally use an “iterative process” when developing elearning but I’ll share more on that in a different post.

Once you have enough information to begin storyboarding, these are different methods you can use.  I’m the queen of napkins and post-it notes when it comes to storyboarding.  I find that I can easily move ideas around to come up with a few versions of the story I’m trying to create.  If you’ve never storyboarded before I suggest you pick up Dan Brown’s book “The Back of the Napkin“, I was using this method before he even wrote the book and he does a great job of chunking down the concept to help you get started quickly (NOTE: it’s not an elearning development book, it’s a problem solving book.)

I also use Freemind and Inspiration to mindmap – my method of choice depends on the complexity of the project and whether or not there are more complex requirements that need to be addressed.  Freemind is a free application that is similar to Inspiration.  Other notable mindmapping applications are: Wikkawiki and Vue.  These are not the only players in the game, they just happen to be games I’ve played.

HOWEVER, I do find that I’m a bit slower when using these applications as it’s just one more thing I have to concentrate on and it can be distracting for me. Just because there are tons of applications out there that will help you gather your thoughts  and put them in an order that makes some sense, doesn’t mean that you have to use them.  I mean you could just keep it simple and use PowerPoint to storyboard if you wanted to.

So what does a storyboard look like?  Well I’m going to use an example, I was asked to develop HIPAA Refresher Training for my corporation, the target audience are non-medical employees who handle protected health information.  I got a crash course from my SMEs and a 152 page PowerPoint which they really thought was already elearing – after I stopped laughing (no I didn’t laugh outwardly, my brain was laughing) I took a few days to sort through and come up with a storyboard for the training.  They wanted some really dumb quizzes that didn’t do anything to enhance learning or promote information retention – it just encourage regurgitation.

I came up with a few storyboards that I presented.  The first was just an information session that would be video taped, broken down into clips and put into training (no real story).  I also presented a scenario based setting, where each section would hold a different piece of the scenario that would cause employees to pay attention even if they didn’t want to.  I removed all their quizzes and created 1 quizz with a few scenarios that fell into the theme of the storyboard – “What do I need to know to do my job – Just the Facts

Here is what my initial mindmap for the quiz:

This set me on the path to developing the scenarios and finding images that were relevant to the scenarios.  I’m big on finding learning opportunities and so feedback given during quizzes is one area where I try to capitalize on this, especially if the answer is incorrect.  I get irritated when I give a wrong answer but I don’t receive a reason why I’m wrong.

From this storyboard, I created the quizzes separately from the training and then integrated it into the training. I like working in chunks so I can move parts around, remove part and make changes without having to change or re-do the entire training.

Here’s a link to the final product: Scenario Quiz

(I created the quiz in Articulate QuizMaker ’09 but I could have create the same scenarios in PowerPoint.)

There a lot of ways to storyboard and as always, I really encourage you to find the a method that works for you and stick with it.

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