How to Storyboard Your eLearning Course

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is part of a blog series on creating elearning courses by Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP. Sharlyn is a HR pro turned consultant with more than 20 years of professional human resources experience.

Once you’re satisfied with the branding and learning objectives of your elearning program, it’s time to focus on the actual design. Believe it or not, we’re still not ready to do any actual hands-on development work. As you begin the design process, a few key points from previous posts to remember:

  • Learning objectives need to be specific. Everything on the storyboard should align with the objective. It’s easy during the design process to lose sight of the outcome.
  • Colors and fonts matter. Training programs can have some pizzazz but they also need to stand the test of time. Overdesigning can have an impact on learning.

This next step, called storyboarding, is the process of visualizing what your elearning module is going to look like. It includes the visual elements, text, and audio. It identifies where interactions will be included. And it creates a roadmap of where the user will go in the module. The idea with storyboarding is to put your concept together visually and then start building it. Clearly, storyboarding is important. The last thing you want to do is start building a program and go back/forth during development. Storyboarding allows you to work out the flow and hopefully minimize errors. There are a three ways to create a storyboard:

  1. Pen/Paper – Old school is still a very popular way to storyboard. Many designers enjoy the creative process that drawing a storyboard allows. 
  2. Template – Designers can use Word and PowerPoint to create a storyboard. You can create your own template or designate a single page/slide for each screen in the resulting elearning program. Depending on your platform, this could make an easier transition during the development process.
  3. Software – If you are a designer that prefers working with apps and mobile devices, there are plenty of options available. Katie Hurst, marketing manager at OpenSesame, says a couple of her favorite storyboarding software programs include Articulate Storyline and Storyboards 3D (iTunes, FREE with some in-app purchases).

Once you begin storyboarding, I find it similar to instructional design. Everyone has their own process that works for them. However, there are a few best practices that can help our storyboard process.

Give storyboarding the time needed.
Even when we have a clear vision in our heads regarding what the final program will look like, we need to storyboard. I often find little details that I need to change or want to add during the storyboarding process. Storyboarding allows me to set the design on the side for a few hours to gain new perspective. This isn’t a step to rush.

Polish previously used content.
Let’s be realistic, we want to create elearning elements that we can use again for other projects. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. In fact, that’s the beauty of elearning. . That being said, when we do incorporate previously used elements, they need to have a little update to fit into the project we’re working on.

Mix it up!
While we do want our project to have a certain branded look and feel, the course doesn’t have to consist of one font, one color and one background. Figure out creative ways to use your branding elements to keep users interested in your visuals.

Edit the content.
Don’t overload a screen with too much stuff. If it’s too busy, the content will be hard to comprehend and that will impact the success of your program. Consider separating concepts into multiple pages and using click-to-reveal actions to help users actively process information.

Proofread your work. Ask others to proofread it as well.
Once your storyboard is complete, do a self-proofread of your work to pick up any grammar or punctuation changes. Then give it to a colleague to review. Having a fresh set of eyes on your storyboard can be a valuable asset.

A detailed completed storyboard finishes your planning process. At this point, all the key elements have been discussed and decided. The pages have been tweaked and reviewed. Now it’s time to build the course.

P.S. If you’re looking for more information about how to storyboard your next eLearning project, check out this OpenSesame course from, “How to Implement a Stellar Storyboard Process”.

Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender, whose blog is a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When she’s not “tending bar”, Sharlyn is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. Her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet. Connect with her on Google+ or follow her on Twitter.