Why storyboarding is important for eLearning development

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

If you’re new to creating eLearning content, there’s something you absolutely need to know before you get started – and that’s the importance of storyboarding. Good eLearning courses have one thing in common. They all use effective storyboarding in the development phase.


In fact, many eLearning professionals consider storyboards to be the most important element of online course creation. Why are they so important? Let’s take a look.

Storyboards give you a map of your content

Think of a storyboard as the foundation of your eLearning course, a map that illustrates your ideas and design elements. The storyboard document will clearly show all the visual, text and audio elements of every screen in an online course. The learning objectives of your online course can also be added to this document.

In this way, you use your storyboard to communicate your ideas and objectives to clients and developers. Diving straight into the development phase, without this solid foundation, makes production more difficult for everyone involved.

Storyboarding helps your development team

Having a strong storyboard for your development team to work from will make this phase far more efficient and also make your content flow more easily. The storyboard document will clearly show your programmer, graphic designer, illustrator and narrator exactly what they need to do.

For example, your storyboard may contain notes to developers like what media to be used, what elements get synched with which part of the audio narration, which elements would be clickable, and the resultant reaction. If you have a lot of people working together on your eLearning course, a storyboard will greatly help the collaboration process and keep things in order. As Denielle Richards writes, “the more people involved in the eLearning development process, the more important the storyboarding process becomes.”

“If you are developing courses as a team effort (rather than as a one-man band), then eLearning storyboards are crucial to the process, and I’m not clear exactly how a quality eLearning product could be developed without this important step,” she says.

Use your storyboard to see what works

With this, it’s also a lot easier to see if a concept will come together well – or not! When you show a storyboard to clients, they can easily approve or pass on your concept at this stage, meaning you won’t waste any further time or money in development if the idea isn’t hitting the mark. In the case of complex animations, where it takes a lot of time and budget to develop the final product, it is a good idea to have an approved storyboard from the client first.

You’ll also be improving quality control, as your storyboard will allow you to pick up on any errors and make sure everything flows well, screen by screen. Any dialogue and media elements can be tested in this stage of development. You might even decide to use a pilot, or test, group to see how your concept works with a relevant audience.

Storyboarding allows you to make changes to content

Because your storyboard is like a blueprint of your course materials, it makes it very easy to update content at any time. You can simply edit and update your storyboard document whenever you like, as your one central file. This means you don’t have to worry about different versions or any confusion.

This is also very useful if you want to easily translate your eLearning course into another language at some point in the future.

How to create a storyboard for your eLearning course

Now you know the benefits of using a storyboard when creating your course, you might be wondering how to get started.

Connie Malamed, writing for The eLearning Coach, outlines the four main ways to go about creating a visual storyboard:

  1. Create a template in Word (in landscape mode) and let each page represent one screen
  2. Create a template in PowerPoint and let each slide represent one screen
  3. Create a template in a commercial storyboarding application
  4. For the rapid development approach, begin writing the course directly in the authoring tool, such as Storyline, Captivate, Articulate Presenter, iSpring Presenter or any of the other hundred tools. In some tools, you can write the script and other notes in the Notes section below the slide. This integrates storyboarding with actual development.

You then choose the multimedia elements you will incorporate into your eLearning course, such as videos, audio clips and graphics, and describe each element in the corresponding part of your storyboard. Make sure you leave room on each screen for these elements – simply note their position on the page with a quick sketch or text description.

As you can see, storyboarding is a very powerful development tool for creating online content. Using storyboards in eLearning production will save you time, money and potential stress later down the track.

Want to discover more about what storyboarding can do for your eLearning? Enroll in this free online course, Instructional Design Essentials: Storyboarding, for more best practice tips on using text, mockups, and rapid-prototyping tools for storyboarding. You’ll learn how to publish your project, incorporate feedback and share storyboards with others.


Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
Latest stories and insights