What's your workflow for efficient, rapid development? Please share!

May 07, 2017


A long spring and summer ahead for me developing lots of elearning programs! I'm taking time now to think through the very best practices to employ in executing these projects. My goal: A calm and orderly approach that can be iterated over and over for on-time, on-budget completions.

I've got the big ADDIE-type schedule all worked out. What's concerning me are all the many sub tasks hidden in those innocent looking Ds! 

In what order do you execute design and development? For example, do you work slide by slide to develop your programs, or across slides (for example, adding all audio, then adding all graphics, then completing timings)? Do you develop all graphics beforehand, then work on slides? 

These are just a few examples of the kinds of things I'm curious about. Bottom-line, what development-related processes do you employ to avoid time sinks, deadline crunches, and lost weekends!

Looking forward to learning from you!

20 Replies
Valorie Engholm

I've worked with the ADDIE and SAM models, but what really works best for me is do it and not worry about the models. I work backwards by taking the outcomes and creating the assessment, then I create the slides in sections according to the outcomes and take care to address everything that appears in the assessment. I don't usually show my work until I'm finished with it to my standards, that way I don't have to waste my time explaining what's in my head. I can just show it, and then make adjustments as needed.

Brett Rockwood

I almost always create a framework with placeholder slides when working in Storyline. It helps me visualize the structure and organize into logical units. I can then develop content more on a scene by scene basis or slide by slide. Often times when beginning a new project I don't have all of the content from the SME and this allows me to work on sections that I have while I await sections still be worked out by the SME.

Louisa Fricker

I prefer to start by working on the content, first in a text document and then on slides. If I have an idea for a graphic, I'll add a colourful shape on the slide with text saying something like, "Image of X goes here." That way I'll remember the idea but I can postpone doing the graphics work until the content is finalized. For me, graphics work takes longest so I don't want to redo it whenever the text changes. And any audio content comes last, even after the graphics, because if you have to make a change and redo a section of the audio, it can be difficult to make the new bit of audio sound exactly like the rest of the audio track.

So basically: (1) text, (2) graphics, (3) audio.

Kristin Savko

I kinda work through things in phases or passes. It's an approach that I kind of grew into. 

After the storyboard is done, I create a wireframe version in Storyline. That first pass is usually text that I know will go on screen and a lot of place holder shapes that say "image of xyz" in them. They layout isn't necessarily even done, it's just to get an idea of what needs to go on the slides. I add in question slides during this pass too. Then I start at the top again and work down though on things a bit more...start cleaning up and replacing place holders with images. I would work though any uncertainties I have (like is this crazy interaction idea going to actually work?!). After that, I send out for narration (because we get narration from voice talent). While I'm waiting for that, I start to really polish my slides. Then I'll do another pass where I put in and time narration. I will also polish the slides at this point and create all my triggers and variables.  One last pass at the end to check and make sure all my settings are as I want them to be.

If I get really stuck on a slide in the sequence, I'll skip it and come back to it. Or I might just skip that slide all together that pass and get it caught up in the next pass. I do the same thing if I'm waiting on feedback or information from a SME. 

It's not an exact science. Sometimes I work through it a little differently depending on the project, or frankly, my mood. Ultimately though, working in passes/phases like this has really cut back on the amount of rework that I do. My projects feel a lot more cohesive when I use this approach (in contrast to when I used to focus on one slide at a time). 

Good luck!  

Brooke Schepker

I like to jump into the tool and use Storyline to do all my storyboarding...because you are half way there once you've set up the number of scenes and slides.  Then, I start with the content, using the Notes pane to write the "script" for each slide, publish that out and get it approved before I start development.  Changing content after development can be so time consuming, so I always want to ensure I'm starting with the best content I can.  From there, I build out each slide's interaction, imagery, etc...but leave the audio until the end.

Hope this helps and good luck!


Jackie Van Nice

Like Brett, I think it's really helpful to create a framework of slides in SL first.

Like Ashley, I guess I do tend to work slide-by-slide for the most part, ideally focusing on the most complex and/or reusable ones first.

If I'm doing something really detailed and complex that has to happen on a number of different slides I'll jump around and get those out of the way all at the same time so I don't have to continually go back to that same procedure, too.

Laura Brown

I use PowerPoint to storyboard my courses, including knowledge checks.  Once I'm sure I've included all the information from the Product Manager I go through and make sure there aren't any duplicated slides or information.  Now I start my favorite part, the script writing.  I've fallen down the rabbit hole a couple of times while writing so I make sure to keep track of how long I spend writing the script so I can meet my deadlines.  Then I record the script and lastly I animate the slides and add interactions.  By sticking to this method I can usually stay on track for deadlines.  

Ben Sewell

I tend to Storyboard in Storyline where possible, unless there is already a PowerPoint deck available. 

In this case, I would go through the deck, restructuring it and getting some rough ideas for interactions, to then base my Storyline SB on.

I will skip sections that need clarification or review, so as to come back to them later, when my understanding has improved.

Courtney Peeler

We usually start with a storyboard in Word with the text content on the left and a description of the visual on the right. Then we pop it into PPT and start mapping out what it will visually look like, along with adding narration in the notes section. After all that is approved, we move to creating it in Articulate and start including the animation and images. This then goes for feedback and final approval.

Sam Lincoln

It depends what I'm doing. If it's a short intervention or a game I might just have a rough idea in my mind or research similar examples then get stuck into content production. If it's something longer like a branching scenario or mini-course/module I'll mind map an outline and maybe collate content I know I'll use then get stuck in.

I always regret this approach especially if there is some form of assessment because I then have to tweak the content to make sure there's enough content to enable the learner to properly complete the assessment. But I just like getting started ... I'll procrastinate otherwise!

Sharon Ravid

I tend to storyboard in PowerPoint and use that to create a backbone for my course.  I also try to create a style guide (or I have one for the client already).  I include fonts, colors, sizes, background graphics and color schemes, so I can then have the course match others for the client.  I then try to do text and graphics, going slide by slide, but saving audio to the end.   I need to be careful about how I spend my time on text and graphics, I can get very caught up in this and try to keep myself in check for how long it takes.

Ulises Musseb

I have a flexible framework developed in SL, but a lot of is comes directly from my mind. I'm good at visualizing, and I have great imagination. I also work by myself most of the times. The process that works faster for me is ensuring that the A and D of the process have been finalized and as final as possible.

To me it's a combination of client management (including relationship building), and ensuring that when development time comes, all that is needed is present, revised, finalized and ready for development. 

Wale A

We have been using the agile process for the development of a current work statement. I have found that the agile methodology has trimmed a lot of fat from the development process.

Initially there were challenges with implementing the process as with anything new. However once the teeething process had passed. I found that the development cycle was much faster and there was more communication, meaning issues were addressed sooner. Having a lighter weight storyboard and less documentation means  that more time is spent doing activities that contribute to the production of Learning Objects.

Veronica Budnikas

Great tips everyone!

I don't have a strict process that I follow each and every time, but in general these are some of the things I do:

- Start on paper with sketches of overall flow, visual design, screen layout etc.

- Assuming I've been given the content in Word or PPT, edit the content and organise it into chunks, and at this point I jot down any ideas for how to present each chunk, i.e. what type of interaction I'll create. However, if I get stuck on any given chunk, I just move on and figure it out later.

- Go straight into Storyline and create the basics: screen size, font and colour scheme, basic layout, and player or custom player features.

- At this point I normally start working slide by slide like many other above have said, but I generally start with the more complex interactions, and leave the easier/quicker ones to do after (kinda like when you leave your favourite part of the meal for last!). As I work I create layouts and styles, which I can very quickly start re-using. For example, when I create the first question, I also design the feedback layer, and then add that design to the feedback master slide. 

- I almost always leave for last the intro and outro screens, gate or splash screens.

- While I do mostly work slide by slide, there are a couple of things I also do once the whole course is built: if using voiceover narration, this is last, and also any entrance animations or slide transitions I usually leave to the end. I don't know whether this is the most efficient or not, but I find that if, for example, I start timing things to enter gradually and animate each object, I then have to keep going back to these slides to remind myself what type of animation I used, how long it went for etc etc. Of course I could just document this info, but I also find that half-way through I change my mind so I have to go back and re-do it. Anyway, it works better for me to do it at the end, and also, it makes previewing as I work a bit faster. 

- Then, once all built, like everyone I go over it with a fine toothcomb and refine, refine, refine.

Good luck and hope all these responses help!

Glow 2D

Sadly enough there turns out to be now way to respond to each of you separately. (Learned the hard way, of course.)

Thanks so much to all who have posted so far! It's really interesting to read about your workflows.

I've noted a few great notions already, which I've listed here in no special order.

  • Employ in-Storyline storyboarding. (Or PowerPoint, that works too.) Placeholder graphics can be a useful approach and at least put you further down the line to completion.
  • Prep everything before launching into development (i.e, Analysis and Design of ADDIE fame).
  • If working slide-by-slide, always have some other tasks available, just in case you get maxed-out.
  • In contrast, a phased approach can be good to keep the work moving forward and look, feel, animations, etc. cohesive across the program.
  • Remember the many types of slides that are repeats across modules--quick wins!
  • Beware the rabbit hole! Self-awareness (where one's own rabbit holes are), lists and other reality-checks, and smart planning seem all to be key in this.
  • Do the most difficult tasks first (i.e. eat dinner before dessert).
  • Get up, get going, keep going.   haha, added that one! =)


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