Storyboarding techniques have been around since the early days of filmmaking and still form the basis for most feature films and cartoons today. In the case of creating learning material for use on a VLE or web site; storyboarding is the process of breaking down the story or in this case the Learning Point into its component parts. This allows the creation of images or animations which either adds to the effectiveness of the text, or replaces large sections of the original text. This is achieved by providing learning information in a highly visual format which needs minimal text to ensure effective learning takes place.
A storyboard can take various forms, the creation of some cartoons involves the use of single page storyboards formed from the initial story idea and the sometimes hand drawn image. Feature films use a different device which includes details of set design etc but usually involving the creation of whole scenes which can last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
The storyboard format favoured for use in the creation of most learning material uses a two box format, one for the text and one for the image or the image prompt, i.e. where the image can be found. These double boxes are in turn used to form a page and the one used for this exercise is formed from 16 double boxes on an A4 page, which is a convenient device if writing storyboards on a computer. For those who feel more comfortable roughing out their ideas by hand A3 size provides extra space and a more accessible format.
The use of the format described above has some benefits; it gives a guide to the amount of text which can be used to support a single image or animation. The 16 boxes also provide a useful guide as to the effective length of each learning point. It is usually a good idea to regard each 16 box storyboard as a single learning point; however, it is not always necessary to fill the storyboard.
In addition it is usually a good idea to regard each box as a limit for the amount of text, experience has taught frequent users that if the amount of text exceeds the box except for bulleted lists etc it is usually too much information for a single box and can be further broken down.
Before the process of creating storyboards can begin, a number questions should be asked plus a number of judgements, decisions and assumptions are usually required. For example:
What is the purpose of the learning material?
What subject are you going to cover?
What is the target audience for the material?
If aiming at a qualification, are you aiming at L1, L2 etc?
Do you have a structure of how are you going to break down the subject into its individual learning points. If not create one?
How many learning points are there?
How do the learning points fit into the overall structure of the learning aim/qualification?
Use acronyms without explaining them – it is good practice to introduce an acronym as early in the learning point as possible once explained you can re-use the acronym as often as required.
Be over ambitious about depth / breadth of content – break the material down to its individual learning points and then check that others understand the structure.
Encourage deviations from storyboard plan – stay focused on your original plan unless the need is overwhelming or you are overtaken by circumstance.
Economise on the editor role – an editor even if this is a peer review process should ensure that mistakes are minimised and that focus is maintained on the development plan.
Just focus on the good points of e-learning – be realistic as to what you can achieve and regularly review what you have achieved
Accept information at face value – ensure the accuracy of any and all information you put into the material, the use of a subject expert to write the text is always advised if not it is vital to get one to review the text and the final material.
Accept mediocre performance in terms of value for the learner – insist on excellence in learning value for the learner, you won’t always achieve it but it does no harm to try.
Assume levels of prior knowledge within the target group of learners, even those who think they know the subject can benefit from the reiteration of the basic principles of the subject matter, perhaps from a different perspective. However, it is a good idea to structure the material to allow those who can prove their knowledge to fast track to the sections of the learning material they need to study.
Positive guidelines for creating e-learning material
Have a storyboard structure – usually in the form of a storyboard development plan which includes the whole of the subject being developed.
Have a planned number of storyboards – it sounds obvious but plan the number of storyboards you are going to create and try to stick to it unless it is obvious that you have missed something vital.
Break information down into individual learning points – this is usually fairly straightforward for a subject expert and a required skill for anyone wanting to develop e-learning material
Ensure that you use a suitable true font for your text, i.e. Arial, Comic Sans etc.
Use images to replace text – the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is apt and even more apt when it come to the use of animations to convey accurate and easily digested information about complicated systems and process.
Be concise with text – if writing a storyboard using the format described above if the text looks too much it usually is. The use of précis and editing skills is vital to ensure that the message is retained while dumping all the dross.
Be focused about your target audience – some learning materials have a wide audience, IAG for example, other materials have a limited audience and as such should be entirely tailored for this audience.
Be realistic about what your material can do/look like – you are not Steven Spielberg or Pixar and you are unlikely to have the same sort of resources at your disposal. The acronym of KISS is apt here, i.e. keep it simple stupid.
Ensure that storyboard writer/s stay on track – once the skill of storyboarding is absorbed and perfected some people can get carried away; it is the editor’s role, if you have one, to keep people focussed.
Ensure you use either your own or licensed images – purchasing images can be expensive creating your own can be a steep learning curve but they are your own and not liable to be challenged in terms of legality
Ensure you have permission to use images of people – a simple form for the person to sign is sufficient as long as the use of the image is explained and the text on the form is clear, the form should also be archived for future reference.
Ensure that any animations you are going to create/use are based upon the information in the storyboard. Animations based on the operation of an object or system should be constructed in such a way as the component parts of the systems operation can be separated out.
Ensure you are aware of the connotations of the use of colour, for example a significant proportion of people are red/green colour blind for example therefore the use of shades of these colours are not advised for use when indicating pressure, movement temperature gradients etc. One tip is to use graduations of blue for these areas.
Ensure that any learning material you complete complies with DDA requirements, if you are unsure about these requirements, there is a host of information available on line, but always involve your line manager and or your equality and inclusion representative.
Do make sure that if you are using video it covers all the points on the storyboard and these are identified as separate entities. This can be achieved by breaking the video down into small clips with a facility to play the whole video at the end of the learning material.
Trial the material with as wide a range of target groups as possible both learners and staff.
Think about what image to use in this first box, if it’s an introduction then maybe a collage of images based on the requirements of the task or information in the learning point (see storyboard example).
In the next box begin the first stage of information giving based on the agreed process, as mentioned on Page 5.
Either create an image or obtain an image which fulfils the function of the text for each box. Digital images are the easiest to use and can be cropped and altered to suit the requirement. If you are lucky enough to be using animations, ensure that the animation can be broken down into the components parts of its operation.
It is usual for those writing their first storyboard to concentrate on the text for each box and then think about sourcing images. This is quite OK and once the first few storyboards are completed you will normally find that you are thinking about the image when writing the text. It is of course quite possible to do this the other way i.e. begin with the image and then write the text.
Once all the text is complete, and images sourced or created, the completed storyboard should be read / edited by someone else. This peer review process will hopefully remove all the common mistakes we all make and ensure that the information on the storyboard is not only accurate but covers all aspects of the required learning point.
Review the edited storyboard against the plan and see if it fulfils all the areas intended, if so it is ready for conversion to e-learning format.
Once converted the trialling process can begin.
Storyboard No: 1
Making a cup of tea using an Electric Kettle
You will need all the things below to complete this exercise: An electric kettle, a flat work surface, a tea bag and waste bin, a mug and teaspoon, some cold water, milk and sugar, an electric power point.
Step 1: Remove lid from kettle and pour in the water. Replace the lid and place the kettle securely on a flat surface. Make sure there is enough water to make the tea this stops the kettle boiling dry which may damage it.
Step 2: Look at the flex and plug attached to the kettle. Fit the legs of the plug gently into the slots and push the plug into the power point. Please make sure the switch is turned off before you put the plug in.
Step 3: Move the switch on the wall to the on position, this is sometimes indicated by the switch turning red. Then put the switch on the kettle to the on position. The kettle should now begin to heat up and eventually boil the water.
Step 1: DSCN06540003.JPG
Now go to Step 2 DSCN06550004
Now go to Step 3 DSCN06560005
Go to Step 4 DSCN 06570006.jpgDSCN06580007.jpg
Step 4: While you are waiting for the water to boil put the tea bag into the mug and add any sugar you think you might need in your tea.
Step 5: You will know when the kettle boils as it will either turn itself off with a click or it may make a whistling noise or both. Be careful, boiling water can be dangerous, treat it carefully.
Step 6: Carefully lift the kettle and pour the water into the mug until it is near the top. Remember to leave enough space for any milk you might want to have in your tea.
Step 7: Return the kettle to the flat surface, if it’s a work surface push it to the back of the work surface so that you do not accidentally upset the kettle.
Go to Step 5 DSCN06590008.jpg
When the kettle has boiled Go to Step 6DSCN06600009.jpg
Go to Step 7 DSCN06610010.jpg
Go to Step 8 DSCN06620011
Step 8: The water will become brown as the tea bag becomes soaked. It may help to speed this process up if you use the spoon to stir the tea.
Step 9: Once the tea bag has soaked for 1 or 2 minutes use the spoon to carefully remove it from the mug and dispose of it in a bin.
Step 10: Now pour some milk into the tea and stir it using the spoon. If the tea looks too strong add some more milk and stir.
Now you can enjoy your tea but be careful, tea can be hot enough to scald skin and hurt you.
David Rowe and Tracey Morris (JISC RSC South West) E-Guides National Event 2009