Hi everyone,


There is a topic that I would really like to know how other e-Learning professionals are seeing it, gather a few ideas and learn with all of you, which is the best approach for planning and designing an e-Learning course: Storyboard or Rapid Prototype?


Both approaches have their ups and downs, and in my case, I keep falling somewhere in the middle.


Storyboard is a good way to plan the course. It gives a good view on how navigation will work, branching (especially when you have learning experiences with multiple outcomes), and is very useful for defining content with SMEs. However, it does not help when it comes to interaction. Of course, for me it's easy to understand the interactions because I'm the one planning them. But when it comes to have them reviewed by someone else (like the client) is easier to show how the interaction works than to explain it in words.


This is where I believe rapid prototyping pitches in.

Having a course prototype is great when I want to show interactions. The client can almost try them for himself, instead of reading an explanatory note about it. It's a lot more effective in conveying the idea behind the interaction. On the other hand, it lacks the planning specs a storyboard offers. And, well, yes I can still plan the course, it's navigation and sequencing, but doesn't that end up being a mix of the two approaches?


I would really like to know how you approach e-Learning design, and what are your ideas on the Storyboard vs. Rapid Prototype duel.


Thanks for your input!



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I think you need to use both. The storyboard is the ultimate vehicle for designing and reviewing (and signing-off) but as you say some clients (especially those new to e-learning) struggle with visualising how the storyboard translates into interactive content. So after the initial rough draft storyboard I build an early prototype then run through the storyboard and the prototype to help the client with visualising the final interactive content. Once they see both side by side the penny drops (usually). 

Clients who have already developed e-learning are much happier with the storyboard approach and some even get pretty good at supplying the content almost storyboard ready.

By the way, I use PowerPoint storyboards that are very visual - clients, instructional designers, Flash developers ALL struggle with Word (text) based storyboards. They only work if you have some sort of template driven LCMS (if they can be considered to work at all).

Since I also use Articulate Storyline there is sometimes the temptation to storyboard directly in Storyline. This is good for getting a rapid prototype out fast but I prefer the freedom of PowerPoint and the ability to share it with others before starting on the build in Storyline.

Here's an article on storyboarding that I wrote back in 2011: http://www.designedforlearning.co.uk/the-storyboard-art-or-science/

I agree that PPT is the easiest format for a visual walkthrough of the course. I've had bad experiences with 'programmer-ready material' in other words scripts designed by an instructional designer for a programmer, which had to be signed off before anything could be built. The business sponsors and SMEs were left to visualise it in their heads and what they imagined and signed off bore no relation to what the programmer produced. 

Using an online tool for the actual development allows them to see the final thing taking shape - I guess that's rapid prototyping, but you can't beat PPT with temporary images to focus their attention on the structure and flow and wording without getting bogged down in the details of the final screen design and interactivity.

I agree with your point about scripts (usually in Word) that are passed to a programmer from the ID. These may be efficient for a development team but the client usually ends up confused and disappointed by the outcome.

Thanks for your thoughts on this! It's always good to have different opinions :)

I end up always using both approaches. Storyboard is a great tool to sign-off on content, but I use a rapid prototype (directly made in the authoring tool) to give a sense of the feel, look and structure of the course. It's a time-saver!

John, thanks for the article. It's great to reflect on the subject!



My pleasure Rita...happy storyboarding!



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