Best Practices

The Advantages of Visual Storyboarding for eLearning Production

What if I Just Make the Font Smaller?

If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking similar thoughts in order to jam more content onto the screen of your e-learning course, there should have been alarm bells going off in your head. Unfortunately we’ve all succumbed to pressure to add more content even though it may detract from the learning outcome. Make sure to use visual storyboards to help you literally see what will be on each screen.

This is a common problem that I see in e-learning development – the urge to continually add “just another explanatory paragraph” into a module or onto a screen. It’s easy to add a lot of words into an outline in a Word doc, but trying to cram a lot of content onto an e-learning screen not only causes design issues, it creates learning barriers. Visual storyboards help people realize in the early stages of development what is and is not possible or more importantly, useful. Best of all, you get to see these things BEFORE the course goes into production.

Storyboarding is an often overlooked, powerful development step that should be utilized whenever possible in e-learning production. I have seen many types of storyboards from clients over the years; Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, paper outlines and even audio recordings. I have found that the best type of storyboard is one that is visual; that graphically shows what will be on the screen at all times and indicates how screens relate to each other navigationally. PowerPoint and Keynote seem to be the most common and best tools for this task. As a best practice, include on each slide the background graphic of the course at real dimensions, this way you will really know what will actually fit on the screen and be readable.

Placing photos, text, video and graphic placeholders and temporary navigation allows you and your team to see final screen mock-ups while in the early stages of development, saving you time, money and re-work due to information overload on screen.

Benefits of Visual Storyboarding

  1. Pictorially depicts the entire learning module from beginning to end; providing a big picture look at the module.
  2. At a granular level, it allows everyone on the team to actually ‘see’ each page and judge its readability and clarity of message
  3. Helps to better understand placement of all elements within your course and how objects relate to each other
  4. Aids in figuring out navigation, interaction and feedback sequences for each screen and its content.
  5. Serves as a visually clear consensus document for all stakeholders to review and sign off on, helping to avoid surprises down the road.
  6. Is a helpful communication tool to programmers/authors by demonstrating interactive activities, such as when a pop–up occurs, when a quiz is introduced or when some kind of supporting audio or video clips should be played.

If you find yourself asking; “What if I just make the font size smaller?” or, “Can’t you just put that in a scrolling text box?” Don’t succumb! Let narration, graphics and images speak for you; use text only when necessary. Use white space to your advantage, and keep your screens clean, organized, and interesting. Retention and interest will improve as well as your learners’ attitude toward the course.

Ron Trilling
Author of Learning Lines | Founder and Partner, at Media Dynamics
Ron is a great source of information when it comes to eLearning. He has a background in instructional design and has worked with many companies to help develop their eLearning content and courses.
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