Design and Production ProcessStoryboarding

What Manufacturers can learn from middle schoolers about eLearning

Follow pre-teen intuition to develop a good eLearning design document

Recently I had the honor of speaking to a group of middle school students in a FIRST Lego League, which is an international competition that introduces young people to the fun and excitement of science and technology. One of the components of the competition is to find a better or more innovative way to help someone learn. The team decided to help kids with ADHD learn how to play soccer by building a learning App for an iPad. I was asked to consult with the team on how to build their app.

My first reactions were:

  1. “How do I get them to realize all the tasks they need to perform?”
  2. “How do we pull this off?”

I’ve been working with industrial manufacturing firms to develop training programs for over 20 years. In that time it has been the rare occasion that a project team kicks off the development phase with all the information necessary to start production. There are usually gaps…sometimes canyon-sized.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised! The Lego team had nearly completed the groundwork necessary to begin production. Their terminology may not have been accurate by ID standards, but the tasks had been adequately performed and the groundwork laid.

This really reinforced my view that good instructional design is a clearly defined process for what is a fairly intuitive practice with good research, planning and strategy at its core.

When I received an email from the teacher the day before our team meeting, my fears were alleviated. The email contained notes of the research that they had already done including interviews with:

  • Subject matter experts about soccer technique
  • 3 medical experts about the audience (ADHD and the best methodology for presenting the information to them)
  • Experts on how to best deliver the content to this audience

They even had a well thought-out list of questions that they needed answered before they began production.

Unknowingly to them, they had outlined a pretty clear production design document.

Intuitively, the Lego team is well on their way! Here is what they had; all key items for a good design document:


The Lego team had defined their goal of helping someone with ADD/ADHD learn how to play soccer by building an App for an IPad.


They defined their audience and had even done research into what methods work best for kids with ADHD.


They had defined the iPad as the platform and even provided rationale for it.


A brief content outline had been provided and was expanded in the elaborate storyboard.


They developed very comprehensive storyboards and even included:

  • Graphic look and feel
  • All content needed for the course
  • Simulation of the key elements of the course
  • Description of the gaming elements
  • List and description of all activities


Most of the requirements were also outlined, including:

  • Game breaks and descriptions of how the games functioned
  • How the instruction is to be delivered (video, audio, pictures, etc.)
  • Use of music
  • Leaderboard
  • Assessment
  • Feedback

It was exciting to see a group of young adults so excited about developing e-learning. And it reinforced my belief that much of what we do to design eLearning is intuitive. If we could only bottle the commitment and enthusiasm that these kids had and apply it to our instructional design process….

Now there’s a winning combination.

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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