Storyboards – Necessary evil or outdated relic?

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I’ve observed a lot of discussion about the role of storyboards in the elearning design and development process of late. Some of you want to kill them off for good, labelling them a relic of the past, while for the rest of you they’re either a necessary evil or a crucial part of your process.

The best process is a flexible one.

Here at The Learning Hook we believe the best process is a flexible one. Nothing raises a red flag for me more than an attempt to create a ‘one size fits’ all approach to doing anything.

The most important thing is to hone the process based on the budget, timeline, client stakeholder matrix, nature of the content and the vendor team’s structure, each of which can vary from project to project.

You can’t get rid of them, but you can control where they fit into your process.

We’ve weighed up a variety of options when considering the place of storyboards in elearning and we keep arriving at the same point: you can’t get rid of them, but you can control where they fit into your process. We see it going one of two ways in most cases:

Option #1: Storyboards are reviewed and signed off by the client prior to commencing development.

Option #2: Storyboards are reviewed internally (we call it quality assurance, or QA) before commencing development, i.e. the client doesn’t see them at this stage. The storyboards are then handed to the client along with the online course for the purposes of collecting feedback in a manageable, trackable way.

Each approach has its benefits depending on the nature of the client’s stakeholders and their appetite for detail, and each has its own ramifications on budget and schedule.

Option #2 works best if the subject matter and the client are known, predictable quantities, and/or if a detailed high level design is reviewed and signed off by the client prior to storyboarding commencing. Even then it poses the greatest risk to budget and schedule and so it suits arrangements that allow for an iterative workflow, read: bigger budgets, relaxed schedules.

Oh wait… They’re rare, right? Which brings us back to option #1 in 99% of cases.

The best thing we can all do is include as many visual cues in our boards as possible.

Ultimately, if your clients (be they internal or external) don’t like reviewing your storyboards, those clients may not be the problem, it might mean you or your supplier needs to get better at presenting storyboards in a way that makes more sense to reviewers. (Don’t forget that storyboards ultimately drive the development process, so it’s important to balance the need for clarity with all the necessary detail that will enable developers to build effectively and efficiently.)

Sounds easy, right? Not so. We’re still working on our storyboard templates and always looking for ways to improve. One thing we feel we can bank on is that since humans are wired for visual stimuli over and above every other sensory input, the best thing we can all do is include as many visual cues in our boards as possible.

 

What do you think, are storyboards a necessary evil or an outdated relic? Maybe you love them… Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Justin Cruickshank is a media production specialist with 12+ years industry experience across film and video production, journalism, music and audio production, digital production and elearning production. He’s now enjoying life with The Learning Hook as our Design & Production Manager.

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