Storyboards: Friend or Foe?

As a designer, demonstrating or pitching your instructional methodology to a potential client or to your leadership usually requires the production of a storyboard.

Each time this kind of mock up is suggested or requested of me, I let out a little sigh and close my eyes.

eyes closed
ID storyboard request look.

Depending on how you work, storyboarding can be your greatest ally or your greatest roadblock.

As a teacher, lesson planning was essential, especially when state and federal standards were required and it was expected and necessary that accommodations be considered and incorporated. In fact, during my classroom days, my principal required me to develop weekly lesson plans that had to be printed and readily available on my desk so that if she came to observe, she’d know where I was and what my students should be doing, at any time on any given day.  It wasn’t easy but there was no other way to be in compliance on federal, state or school levels.

The predicament that I face today with storyboarding isn’t about the amount of work required, it is simply the structure itself preventing my creativity!


For instance, I was recently asked to produce a storyboard for a potential contract and the subject matter was Native American culture. The audience was children in third through fifth grade.  I thought, “I got this!  I am a history nerd and especially fond of the indigenous tribes of North America.  I taught fifth grade in a former life!  No problem!”

Then the next six hours happened.

Client provided the template, the instructions and the turnaround requirements.

Considering the subject matter and audience, I had to define the learning objectives, construct the content that aligned, make sure it was scaffolded, chunked, interactive and inviting…as well as create the measurement for mastery.

I do this each and every time I develop content, this is nothing new.  However, I have my own “way” and being required to place it into a certain format blocked me a bit.

First, I created the assessment. What do I want the audience to have learned during this session/module/unit?

Seems counterintuitive but trust me, it is the ONLY way. I did this from the perspective of a former elementary school teacher: what would be the point of a child learning this particular segment of history?

Doing this helps you formulate your objectives at the same time. They must align with the assessment or there is no meaning to the learning.

Second, I had to do the research to actually teach my audience something.  This is the part of curriculum development that takes the most time, the discovery phase.

Third, I developed the content to set them up for success.

This involved collecting artifacts, creating visuals and developing a color scheme for the theme.

I used Articulate Storyline as my sandbox so that I could treat this storyboard activity the way I would approach design when the parameters are up to me.

I captured each screen from Articulate using SnagIt and then placed it into the template.

Storyboarding also requires you to create narration and functional instructions, meaning each segment has the correlating narrative and triggering/variable functions spelled out within the frame.

                Screen 1

Screen 2
This would not be two separate visuals in the eLearning. There are animations and triggering described in the Functional Instructions of the Storyboard.

I developed fifteen or so frames to describe my methodology.  This by no means would be the final blueprint as I was only to provide evidence I could create the above, not deliver a final product. Oftentimes, this along with a portfolio is sufficient to get you some work.

I realized over the course of developing this storyline that storyboarding has some redeeming value that I should consider when working on everyday projects.  I don’t have to stay within the lines per se, but using a specific format does force you to work from the end or the assessment of your module.  True to my quote posted on the Heroes forum a few weeks ago, creation can begin with the ending.

With that,  I might not be so quick to close my eyes and sigh but will begin inviting this challenge so that I can innovate new ways of blueprinting going forward.

So, storyboarding was a perceived foe, which ended up being my challenging friend.

Signing off for now…

Have a safe and happy Independence Day, hopefully designing some meaningful memories!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *