Storyboard vs. Rapid Prototype

Hi everyone,

Lately, I've debating myself about whether is the best approach for planning and designing an e-Learning course: Storyboard or Rapid Prototype.

Both approaches have their ups and downs, and I can't really decide for one of them, but keep falling somewhere in the middle.

Storyboard is a good way to plan the course. It gives a good view on how navigation will work, content sequencing (especially when you have learning activities with multiple outcomes), and can also give a feel on the course design. However, it does not help when it comes to interaction. Of course, for me it's easy to understand the interactions because I'm the planning them. But when it comes to have them reviewed by someone else (like the client) is easier to show how the interaction works than to explain it in words.

This is where I believe rapid prototyping pitches in.

Having a course prototype is great when I want to show interactions. The client can almost try them for himself, instead of reading an explanatory note about it. It's a lot more effective in conveying the idea behind the interaction. On the other hand, it lacks the planning specs a storyboard offers. And, well, yes I can still plan the course, it's navigation and sequencing, but doesn't that end up being a mix of the two approaches?

I would really like to know how you approach e-Learning design, and what are your ideas on the Storyboard vs. Rapid Prototype duel.

Thanks for your input!


33 Replies
Lisa Karpuk

For me it depends on who will be working on it, what it involves, and how much time you have (which are reall descriptive rules I know!).

Personally, I have been doing less and less formal storyboarding (drawing) and getting more of a simple text/content one and then doing a prototype. I agree with Sheila that what a storyboard is depends on who you ask.

What I have found more beneficial lately is mapping, especially when you have scenarios. I feel I can get a better view of what the course will look like this way without getting stuck on the visuals.

My major head scratching question is what is the difference between rapid-prototyping and your actual development when using a program like Storyline? I understand it when you are doing more highlevel development in Flash, but I get get worried in Storyline because I keep thinking "am I just building my course or am I creating a prototype?". Maybe this is why I still feel compelled to do a traditional storyboard all the time.

Jonathon Miller

Of course it all depends on the situation. I'm sure freelancing you encounter different requests/requirements depending on the vendor.

I am still an employee, just can't seem to make the jump. My SMEs tend to like storyboards - especially when it is a technical SME. It allows them to look very closely at what is being said and evaluate any screen shots. For other folks, more soft skills type projects, my stakeholders tend to like rapid prototyping. They like to really get involved with interactivity and animations.

I have found a way that seems to satisfy both needs. I will do the rough sketch of a rapid prototype in story board. If I have to explain anything I will drop a text box with italicized text to do so. They're easy enough to delete later. I type my script out in the software. This allows me to provide a prototype. If a story board makes more sense I go to the export function and print as a Word file. My SMEs can make there edits to the script and see the screen shots, and the other stakeholders can take the prototype and play with interactions and what not.

Rebecca McGee

For me rapid prototyping and storyboarding are a good marriage of techniques that I use together to get everyone moving in the same direction and nailing down details before any development gets going.  I loathe rework and I use storyboards that I specifically designed for e-learning to organize the flow and keep the content true to the objectives.  It really saves me and my team tons and tons of reword because my SMEs and sponsors collaborate more actively with the storEcreate storEboard tools.  

These tools are brand new and in alpha version so if you want to get them for free, I'm looking for some dedicated guinea pigs who would be willing to try them out and give me feedback.  Any takers?  Download a preview of the storEboard here:

Greg Smith

I'm also finding myself jumping to a prototype. I'll start with an outline and go to a rough prototype after that. I've had better luck received better feedback when I have even a non-working shell of what I'm thinking. Plus I can't draw to save my life so my storyboards often look like cave paintings.