Storyboarding advice

Nov 25, 2015

I'm fairly new to Articulate Storyline and to building online courses for large corporate's. I wanted to ask for expert advice for what to do when a client seems to have a continuous moving target. I am collating the materials for the client, doing all the content & course development and design work on Articulate Storyline and getting more involved with the client whilst providing an online training solution for software that wasn't initially well received. I've learnt the software that needs to be taught and collated all the issues being experienced by the users and mind mapped the course plan in Excel. I'm now working through a 500 page manual and converting that into online training material.

I would so appreciate knowing what the norm is in terms of what you provide to clients. Do you normally get the materials given to you or do you learn everything required to put the materials together? Do you insist on sign offs for each module that you prepare before developing? How do you provide what will be covered in each module without spending hours on this when you could be building the course? I have provided a mind map of all that will be covered on the course but that doesn't cover every bit of development detail.

I also wanted to share an excel spreadsheet story boarding idea that I am working on as a way to collate materials. I am always so blown away by how generous people are with their time and advice on this community and thought I could throw this into the pot in case someone wanted to use this and add on from here as it is not 100% complete. 

I'd be grateful for any advice on this subject. I fear that all I will be told is to storyboard every detail and get it signed off but it is the time of doing it all that I am struggling with!! I understand that a moving target also wastes time so I am just looking for the most efficient solution

4 Replies
Steve VE

C U:

Much depends on the client and their expectations. Some clients will have nothing more than a vague idea of what they want and you'll be in charge of figuring things out and producing everything. Other clients will provide everything including subject matter experts to provide any information not available in manuals or other sources.

It sounds like your client has plenty of material to work with but does not know how to convert it into a useful course. Your value in this situation is to make sense of the material and translate it into a course that meets the instructional goals.

I do insist on a finalized and signed off storyboard before moving to production. While it may seem to take a lot of time to create, once the storyboard is finalized the course creation time is generally quite short. If you start building the course before the storyboard is finalized you will be wasting a significant amount of time redoing portions of the course that the client is not satisfied with or when they change their mind. The choice is then "invest a significant amount of time on a good storyboard or waste a significant amount of time redoing the same slides over and over again."

A signed off storyboard is also a clear indication that the client has reviewed the material so you can start production. If they have major changes after sign off it's pretty simple to go back and say that they approved it and the changes will cost them. There will be no excuses that "that's not really what I meant so can you make this change (at no charge, of course)". A finalized storyboard makes it their responsibility to get it right, not yours to make changes ad infinitum.

As for the level of detail to include in the storyboard, that's between you and the client. I provide the script and photos that will be used if I have them. I occasionally describe some interaction (e.g. "explanation will appear when user rolls over the word"). But generally, the client is restricted to subject matter expertise. I have been hired to provide instructional design, graphic design, and Storyline expertise. The storyboard reflects this relationship. If the client expects me to create new templates, that is a separate approval process.

Sometimes you won't be developing the actual product, just the content. If this is the case then you must provide in-depth detail for the developer so that they are not creating something that doesn't reflect what you want. But this doesn't seem to be your situation.

Hope this helps.


Wow this is really helpful. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and guidance. I am right now story boarding every detail as I can totally understand what you mean about wasting time on development before sign off. Now that I have started I can't believe I didn't just start here before although at least the client has an idea of what the text will look like as developed material. Maybe next time I will storyboard 1 module and then develop it and work piece meal through it so that they feel like they are getting results?

Thank you so much!!

Expedite Learning

Hi C U,

It really depends upon the type of course. The client may or may not provide the content.

Here are some of the observations-

  • In case of technical- and industry-specific content, the client usually provides the content.
  • In case of soft skills training, the client may ask us to do a research on the topic and identify the content that satisfies their learning needs.

As a norm, you can ask the client to provide the content since they are the subject matter experts and would be in a better position to identify the content that is relevant and accurate. After a thorough review of the content, you may ask for specific information or examples, to fill the ‘content gaps’, if any. 

In either cases, a sign-off on the content is essential. Ask the client to review and sign off all the deliverables such as requirement analysis questionnaire, design strategy, content outline, and storyboard before starting with the actual development.

In your case, you have gathered the necessary content already. However, the challenge is to identify the content that is relevant to the training need.  Here is what you can do:

  • Understand the business need and learning objectives of the course. Communicate with the SMEs to understand their requirement and expectations.  
  • Ask the client to provide you a walkthrough of the content. Understand what the learners need to achieve with this course and what challenges they are facing currently in this regard.
  • Use your understanding to categorize the content into must-know and good-to-know information.
  • The must-know information will become the core course content. The good-to-know information can be linked as an additional resource.   
  • Identify the lessons/topics to be covered under each module, if it is a curriculum.
  • Develop a design strategy and a content outline for the course (or each module, if it is a curriculum) that illustrates a perfect Module, Lesson, Topic, and Page (MLTP) structure.
  • Provide a walkthrough of the design and help the client or SME visualize the course. 
  • Develop a template library or prototype of few slides to help the client understand how the course will appear.  

These steps will help you set expectations with your SMEs and minimize the risk of surprises in the later stages.

Building the course without having the content design signed off is not a good idea. You cannot build your dream house if you do not have a blue print and proper plan. Therefore, finalizing the content, developing the design strategy and content outline, and obtaining a sign-off is essential before you develop the course.

Hope this helps!

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