Though an established crucial step in e-learning development, Storyboarding is also often forced to be the most hurried one.
There are various stakeholders working together on a storyboard – the client, subject matter experts, graphics team, programmers and of course, the ID team. But overall, it is the responsibility of the ID team to present a strong and meaningful storyboard. I have tried to capture some of the common roadblocks faced by instructional designers while developing storyboards and how we deal with them at G-Cube –
The dilemma of too little or too much: dealing with detailing – While detailing out a storyboard, this is often the first problem encountered. A client may be new to the concept of technology-enabled learning and may want details of every nuance in every slide. On the other hand, for e-learning savvy clients, seeing too many details may be regressive. Also, graphics and animations are creative concepts but need to be understood and visualized well. If the storyboard fails to capture them, it is bound to create conflicts at a later stage.
An instructional designer needs to bring a balance in detailing the storyboard. This is best accomplished by setting up the expectations in terms of time involvement and detailing requirements upfront and having buy-in from the client or SMEs, for they have to finally sign off the document. Detailing of graphics, animation, and programming notes should be done accordingly, and depending upon client/SME preferences you may want to create SB with two views – one with relevant info for client/SME review and another, a detailed one, for internal teams. Unnecessary detailing can be avoided, for instance, the image size in a slide may not be mentioned but left to the discretion of the designer that it will comply with aesthetic standards. But if an animated mentor is incorporated in the course, detailed specifications of colour and size should be mentioned. This may not be included for every slide, but can feature in the introductory slide.
Going round in circles: Dealing with multiple rounds of changes – Storyboarding is a complex process and changes during storyboard development are to be expected. But these cannot go on for an unprecedented amount of time that it starts to affect the timelines and ultimately, budgets. Basics like client preferences in language usage, colours and tone should be captured in the initial analysis phase itself, so that rework on textual content or layout can be avoided at a later stage.
The main roadblock, though, is when a storyboard fails to give clear directions to the client for visualization of a course. G-Cube has developed an innovative Flash-based application interface, which is a powerful tool at the hand of an instructional designer. It is a simple-to-use template set and is similar to storyboards prepared in PowerPoint. It has assigned places for audio scripts, OST, interactive elements and graphics. It also has the capabilities to render navigations and show animations. An added advantage is that it also has the ability to save versions of the storyboard and track changes. This keeps the team at par with proposed changes and going back to previous versions is also possible, if the newer ones are not approved. A tool like this can help a client clearly visualize how a course will shape up, thus reducing rework at later stages.
Similar success can be found with a regular PowerPoint storyboard. In the absence of track-record options, the ‘notes’ section at the bottom of each slide can be used for the purposes of client communication, comments or suggestions. Additionally, text boxes can accompany each slide, giving out details of text, graphics or interactions. Making the storyboard visually expressive is an option that can be exhaustively cultivated in PowerPoint – again a powerful tool at the hands of an instructional designer to create a storyboard that gives a clear visualization of the course.
Limited timelines: Storyboarding in a hurry – Storyboarding is a detailed process, but some courses just have to be made in a hurry. While templates, stock images and simple animations can be incorporated to hasten the transition from storyboarding to actual development, rapid authoring tools can also be used for storyboarding when working on the rapid development of e-learning. Many rapid authoring tools, like PowerPoint (for Articulate), Captivate etc can be used to create a storyboard. In this approach, content and graphics can be prepared and incorporated into the developing storyboard itself. This process is successful if all groups working on the storyboard are in sync and are not averse to regular review sessions that enable all stakeholders to simultaneously finalize the storyboard, content, and graphics. Being built on rapid authoring tools ensure that, once finalized the content can be converted into e-learning friendly formats instantly.