technology tip of the month Using Storyboards in Online Course Design
Virgil E. Varvel Jr.
2004

Why Use Storyboards

There are many reasons for using storyboards:

  • Visually displaying an overview of information
    Storyboards are graphical by nature and can give one a simple means of seeing how the information on their Web pages will appear prior to going into the Web development phase. Problems such as oversized information chunks, image placement, presentation organization, and others can be avoided.
     
  • Stimulating divergent thinking
    As your storyboard is laid out, you can begin to think holistically about your information presentation. New ideas can be stimulated concerning where students may want to go for additional information on topics. You may also notice ways that students will use Web navigation logic as described below.
     
  • Organizing Judgmental Problem Solving
    You often have to make many decision during an instructional design process such as what to include and where to include it. You also have to consider whether an element will make pedagogical sense including whether a particular element will add value to the course or help to meet objectives beyond those that can be met by simpler means. Your goal is not to add time by doing a storyboard, but consider ways that you can avoid mistakes later on. You may find from your information overview that a particular media element will not fit into your plans the way that you anticipated and should therefore be reconsidered, redesigned, or left out.
     
  • Generating a Plan of Action
    Time management is a difficult issue in anyone's life. Having a well laid out plan of action in course development helps one to properly allocate time to various responsibilities during the development process.
     
  • Demonstrating Functionality of Elements
    As your information linkages and navigation elements develop, you are able to visually see how the various chunks of information within your course are interrelated.
     
  • Showing Navigational Schemes
    While certain navigation schemes are obvious within a course design, by placing the design in a graphical context, you can begin to see how the navigation elements will interact with content elements in your course. You can also consider where various styles may be most appropriate in your color and text attributes.
     
  • Choosing a Style
     In an environment where text and multimedia elements are integrated, it is important to choose how this information will appear to the user. Part of this choice is color and text attributes, logo design, metaphorical image development, etc. Storyboards can help one to visualize this information for better choices across the course as a whole. With storyboards, you can simultaneously look at various pages throughout a course and better see how such choices will affect the whole.
     
  • Checking Completeness
    Once the entire course has been laid out, you can take a step back and see whether something is missing. Perhaps there is an objective that is not currently being met by the content choices made thus far. It is better to notice these negations prior to further development so that extensive editing of content is not required later.
     
  • Evaluation of Design by Peers
    When working by yourself, or in a group, it is usually a good idea to get the opinions of others before beginning to place your content within your course. Others may have ideas that you had not thought of or ideas of how what you have designed may not be appropriate. You can then take these ideas and develop a better and more effective course.
     
  • Building a Consensus among a Group of Designers, Content Experts, etc.
    It can be a difficult process to develop a course in a group. For example, a designer may have different ideas about content placement and organization than a content expert or multimedia creator. Storyboards provide a common element upon which all those involved can fall back on. They provide a means by which the developers can attain a consensus prior to getting involved in the project. They also allow for simplification of the allocation of projects to various individuals involved with the project.
     
  • Graphical Sizing
    When creating a graphic within a graphics program, it may look great. However, when you place this graphic within the context of other course materials, you may see that it is too big for your anticipated use or that its color clashes with other elements. Having a graphical representation prior to completing graphic design helps to avoid poor image sizing, etc. You may also feel that the information presented in the image is important and requires a large amount of space. You can then see whether a thumbnail to a larger image is appropriate or whether the page layout should be modified to accommodate a larger image.

It is my personal belief that the following two reasons are perhaps the most important when considering to use storyboards. 

  • Understanding the Relationship of Individual Elements to the Overall Scheme of the Course
    When you can place all of the elements of your course into their context in a simplified visualization, you can see the relationships of all of the elements. You may see items missing and even redundancies.
     
  • Finding Cross-Referencing Linkage Possibilities
    By placing all of your information in an easily digestible visual format, you can begin to see how the various information elements of your course are and/or should be linked. Since online students do not navigate in a linear fashion, it is important to understand where students might link, and how they can get there and back.

All of that being said, I must admit that there is a reason not to use storyboards. Especially if it is your first time using them, it is likely that they will add time to the design stage of your instructional development process. On the other hand though, if this time can be minimized through knowledgable and simplified uses of storyboards as outlined in the following pages, and if the use of storyboards results in a more effective course, that time may be well spent.

 

arrow image Introduction
arrow image Why Use Storyboards
arrow image Creating Storyboards
arrow image Putting Storyboards into Practice
arrow image Simplified Storyboard Template
arrow image Example Storyboards
arrow image References


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