November 13th, 2017 Instructional Design

It isn’t uncommon for people to just start creating lessons in their course, but a course without a plan, or storyboard, may face serious problems down the line.

Would you go hiking on an unknown trail without a map? You could, but it wouldn’t be very smart.

The same is true when you create an online course.

Before you start adding lesson content at random it pays to think about the actual structure of your content by creating a storyboard. With one in place you will always have a place of reference for the course layout and experience.

The mistake that many people make is that they think a wireframe is good enough. Storyboards are not wireframes, they include wireframes. They are more elaborate.

Storyboard vs. Wireframe

You are probably already familiar with a wireframe. It’s the structure (or framework) of your course. If you’re using LearnDash you can actually create a wireframe really quickly, as shown below.

But this is only one facet of your course planning process. The storyboard is a more comprehensive overview of the course. It not only outlines the flow but also includes the content, gamification elements, learner expectations, and any other component that is part of the course experience at one particular point in the course.

It also includes things like course objectives, target audience, pre-requisites & post-requisites (if applicable), styleguide for visual elements, and estimated time for completion for each lesson in your course.

It’s not so much a “30,000 ft. view” of your course, it’s a “300 ft. view”.

Storyboarding can actually be one of the most time intensive parts of your entire course as for much of it you will be creating the actual content. If you have text you paste the text into the document where you’re building your storyboard. If you have videos then you include the video link for future reference.

One reason why so many people bypass a storyboard is because it’s not really that fun. Usually a storyboard is created in a program like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. This doesn’t get people excited. They want to jump right into the fancy course creating technology and begin playing around.

The problem with jumping right into these programs though is that you actually end up wasting more time than being productive. The settings and features that learning management systems have in place are all well & good, but they might not actually be applicable for your course. A storyboard helps you determine this upfront so that your time is spent wisely.

If you want to get started with storyboarding then you will need a template. Here is the ultimate list of storyboard templates. Some are more elaborate than others. If it were me, I’d opt for more detail rather than less. You can always modify the template you choose to include the elements mentioned in this article.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


7 responses

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shouldn’t it be:…a course without a plan…

Avatar Wilco

Yup, you’re right! Updated 🙂

Justine, we use LearnDash for both and We are presently creating the online course for Cultural Mastery and the way we are doing storyboarding and asset allocation is through Trello. This is working quite well for us as we have an asset list and then each lesson is a new list and then you can easily input your assets to a card, and then drag that card anywhere you want. I love this use of Trello and wonder if you know of a better way to do this than that or if you have seen that used by course creators before?

Trello is a great tool! I have not used it for those purposes specifically as whenever I was storyboarding we needed to obtain sign-off from a client, and Word/PPT were more conducive to this.

It’s very visual and, although not a true mind map, does allow for great implementation and manipulation of assets until you get it just the way you want it. Then, once that is completed, it is much easier to put into the LearnDash LMS as each list can become a page and the cards can become topics, etc.

A one-click from Trello to LearnDash would be amazing! Perhaps something Zapier could do or some third-party connector.

Storyboard is crucial in my Spanish course as it helps with the official syllabus compliance.

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