If you’re new to e-learning, you might’ve heard the word “storyboard” tossed around and wondered exactly what it meant. Is it a visual map of the course? A narration script? A design document? A list of technical development specs? A tool to help you get client signoff before you start building the actual deliverables? All of the above?

The short answer is, it can be whatever works for you and your project. Storyboards are like blueprints. They mainly serve as a tool to help you formulate enough of your course design & content to move forward with the actual course-building. It's like the old "measure twice, cut once" proverb. By investing a little time in creating a plan up-front, you can avoid expensive and time-consuming re-work down the road.

What's in a storyboard?

Typically, a storyboard includes details about the visual elements of the course (like what’s going to appear on-screen and when), the narration, and the way learners navigate. It might also include screen mock-ups and, if you’re building a branched course, the storyboard usually contains details about the different learning paths a learner might take. You might also include a flowchart-like diagram showing how the learner moves through the different screens or sections.

The cool thing about rapid tools like Articulate Studio is that once you’ve roughed out a basic framework for your course, you can get right to the fun part: developing it. In fact, many rapid e-learning developers opt for a pretty simple storyboard format like the one below, because it gives them just enough of a content plan to build a course prototype, which they can then share with their clients or SMEs.

Need a starting point?

Here's a storyboard format you can experiment with if you want. It's got a few screens' worth of sample information from an actual course, so that you can see the type of stuff that a designer might include in each column. Be sure to also peruse the variety of other storyboard formats we've been collecting for you in the downloads area. Feel free to download them, modify them, and make them your own! If you come up with a new format that you find especially effective, spread the love by telling others about it in the forums.