Storyboard E-learning: the rules of the perfect course

The E-learning storyboard is the main tool of micro design in Instructional Design. This is a file that typically collects all the information, content and features of an E-learning course. In this in-depth study we understand together what an E-learning storyboard is, how it is made, and what it is used for.

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Storyboard E-learning: what it is

Have you ever heard of storyboards? Maybe, if you are passionate about cinema, yes. In fact, the storyboard is not just the document that sequentially collects the key images or sketches of a film or television production. If you work in the world of E-learning, or if you are passionate about digital training, this word surely also tells you more. In fact, storyboard in E-learning is a term that has a definite meaning. And we are here to explain to you in full what it is, what it is for, what it consists of, and how to make a storyboard for E-learning.

First of all, if you are here, you know that a digital learning course is the fruit of a complex project, the result of a broad set of elements that, combined with the right mastery, aim to make a content as easily usable by users as possible. A course is made up of pictures, videos, words, voices, games, quizzes, infographics and more. Too many things, you say? No. In fact, all it takes is to give the elements the correct weight, distribution and space to put together the recipe for the “perfect” course. How to do it and, most importantly, where to start? One of the first aspects to be taken care of in detail, after the necessary preliminary investigations (needs gathering, interviews, analysis of available materials, etc.) is precisely the E-learning storyboard, that document that collects and details textually, graphically and visually the structure of an E-learning course and the contents that will constitute it. It is the number one document that those in the E-learning design profession work with; we are talking about theinstructional designer. The storyboard of an E-learning course, What we might call the “script of a course”, to maintain the cinematic metaphor, comes before the course itself, and, if done well, should contain all that information necessary for any E-learning developer to, once it has been viewed, Is able to develop the course exactly as the designer envisioned it. Potentially, even without ever having to talk to them directly. It is a super-detailed map for navigating the course implementation project, a booklet of instructions that will make its assembly simple and unambiguous.

Why the storyboard is so important for E-learning

We had explained it thoroughly here when we talked about design, but let’s quickly pick up on the reasons why the creation of the E-learning storyboard is one of the most delicate and, perhaps, too often underestimated stages in the complex process of producing a course.

Here is a very simple example that can help clarify the concept. When you read a novel, short story, or text in general, as your eyes glide over the pages your mind is filled with images: ideas, connections, thoughts. Visualize words and situations. Your imagination works. Surely, if we “feed” that same text to another mind-different experiences, backgrounds-the “pop-ups” will be totally different. Same words, more pictures, and more links. That is why the simple script of a course, i.e., the textual transcription of the audio/video component, cannot suffice to make it unambiguous in the interpretation that, as instructional designers, we are designing it, for those who will have to develop it or even simply for those who will have to “imagine” it to give us approvals or suggestions (client referents, collaborators, colleagues). Here, then, is the need for a storyboard for our E-learning. A document that places graphical interfaces, previews and prototype visuals alongside the script, directions regarding where to go to graft interactions, games and everything else that will make our course unique. Without these details, it will be difficult for the developer to work in the direction we envisioned; and it will also be difficult for others involved in the process to give you feedback. The storyboard will be for our E-learning course as the extremely detailed outline of the way forward, so that anyone reading and watching it will have the same pop-ups in their head, imagining the course before it has even been developed.

Another fundamental reason why storyboarding in E-learning is important and absolutely necessary is time. Although at first such punctual detailed design might seem very challenging and “time-consuming,” you must always remember that every hour spent on micro-design, equals many hours saved in development. Because getting the storyboard signed will shelter you from misunderstandings, “unspoken” and subsequent, costly rework.

When to start thinking about creating an E-learning storyboard

If you’re wondering when it’s time to start working on creating a storyboard, the answer is: now. Or, better yet, as soon as you have all the elements and addresses useful for detailed planning. After the macro design, to be clear, because it is in the E-learning storyboard that the micro design, the detailed design, is developed.

Typically, to work on a storyboard you will already need to have:

  • Interviewed project keyusers to gather training needs.
  • Identified and focused on the training objectives of your course, to answer many questions (who will take the course? How? What will users need to learn? What results do I expect from this training?).
  • Imagined a basic idea, a common thread, a basic metaphor on which to develop the course idea (e.g., an escape room for a security course, a guards-and-robbers role-playing game for a cybersecurity course, etc.).
  • Chose a course outline, user interface, and visual style.
  • Identified the storyboard template useful for your type of project (there are several types, we will see later).

This is how we work: once you have completed these steps, you can set to work with good will on your E-learning storyboard and break down the course in detail in your head, to try to make it as concrete as possible in the file. Harmonize words, images, renderings, interactions and return as detailed an X-ray of the project as possible.

Types of storyboards

Company what away, storyboard template what you find. That’s right, there are no unambiguous, predefined types of storyboards in E-learning. Depending on the standards followed in the company, in the division, in the office there will be different types of storyboards to adhere to. There are those who work with Word or Pages, those who prefer Powerpoint or Keynote, and those who prefer other tools. Those who are accustomed to giving more prominence and importance to the textual component, those who opt for an approach that is as visual as possible, those who work on a streamlined document and infuse it with notes for graphic designers and developers, those who frame every element with the precision of a surgeon in rows and columns, and those who, if they could, would stick post-it notes on the monitor. All clear, right? 😊

Joking aside, E-learning storyboard types tend to refer to two particular types, related to the programs you choose to use:

  • Word/Pages
  • Powerpoint/Keynote

Let’s look at them together.


Storyboards for E-learning made with text editors are usually developed as horizontal tables in which, by columns and rows, every characterization of the course is attempted to be x-rayed.

It is a preferable choice in some specific cases, especially if you feel it is the best choice considering who you are dealing with and what elements you have.

For example, if I have to make a course whose graphic and visual line has already, roughly, been identified, because perhaps part of a catalog or course series that have a common visual identity, and therefore certain choices have already been made upstream and do not need evaluation or approval, it may be useful to reserve more space for the text component and accompany it with a few simple graphic references.

The various columns report some elements that tend to be recursive and in the rows go through the entire course in detail, slide by slide.

Sometimes what also determines the use of one program over another is the degree of confidence your contacts have with the tools you use. We may choose one program over another simply because our contacts handle revision better from Word.


E-learning storyboards can also be made in Powerpoint. Try to think about it–if your mind works primarily by visualizing scenarios and images, you may be better off working on a storyboard, so-called, visual, in which the image component generally finds a larger space and a greater degree of detail. Powerpoint allows us to set up our storyboard with special insight into layout, graphics, interactions, perhaps even going into the appearance of buttons and how they work. Here’s an example for you:

Are they more challenging to implement? Perhaps so, but it really depends on many elements. If the instructional designer will also fill the role of developer in the course, going into more detail about the visual part as well will not be a waste of time at all, but will allow us to take advantage of the development phase and, simply, to anticipate some implementation efforts.

What does an E-learning Storyboard consist of.

Regardless of the program you have chosen to use, what makes up an E-learning storyboard in detail? There may be different elements, but what tends to recur are some specific informative and descriptive data, which, below, we try to list for you:

  • Screen number, module, section
  • Course title/module title
  • The Text of Speech/Narration
  • Keywords written prominently on slides/ Texts on screen.
  • Sample images
  • Notes for development
  • Interactions entered
  • Etc.

Please note, this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are those who will prefer to go into even more detail, going into specifying everything from the audio effect of an incoming item to the second a particular pop-up appears on the screen. However, we believe that it is important to report the listed items in order to create a useful and complete E-learning storyboard.

E-learning Storyboard Examples

Here are a couple of examples from E-learning storyboard excerpts, created by us, to give you a better understanding of what we are talking about.

How to create an E-learning storyboard: the complete guide

Okay, let’s move from theory to practice, and let’s try together to review in a comprehensive guide all the useful steps in creating a storyboard for E-learning.

Preliminary analysis

What am I going to do and why? Let’s get the right answers before we leave, shall we? Before we throw our fingers on the keyboard, let’s ask ourselves, and let’s ask the project contact persons, about the course.

  • Breakdown of topics
  • Times
  • Duration
  • Distribution methodologies

These are just some of the elements that are absolutely necessary to have clear in your head before you leave. Removing any doubts, at the cost of sounding punctilious and repetitive, will shelter us from mistakes down the road.

Goal setting

We will never tire of repeating it, it may sound obvious, trivial, so simple as to seem unnecessary, but it is not. The first thing we need to do is to ask ourselves very specific questions in order to define the objectives that the course on whose E-learning storyboard I am learning to work will have to pursue. Questions such as:

  1. Who is my audience? Who do I turn to? Who am I talking to? What tone of voice do I intend to have? What level of digital literacy does my audience have?
  2. What should my audience be able to do once they have enjoyed the course and hopefully learned what it contains?

Let’s take a very simple example to make sure.

We are working on the E-learning storyboard for a training course on the use of a new in-house IT tool for a client company, e.g., a Password Manager.

I will precisely define, before starting with the storyboard, if it has not already been done in the design analysis phase, the user population to which the said training is aimed: for example, the entire corporate population. Composed of seniors and juniors, anagraphically diverse, made up of people whose degree of digital literacy is different. My tone of voice should therefore be simple, direct, not too formal but not overly friendly either.
Upon completion of the training, my users should be able to independently use the Password manager with ease and immediacy, without risking making mistakes or clogging up the internal IT support service with requests.

Organization of materials

What do I have available? What materials are the basis for my work at the E-learning storyboard? Here’s what to ask yourself immediately afterward. Perhaps my client sent me a meager Powerpoint presentation of the project, but pressed by my questions he might remember that he had in his cylinder a video tutorial that the IT department had prepared a few months earlier. That would be most useful, for me, right?

The corporate Brand Identity document could, for example, immediately direct me with respect to certain style choices. And it may not necessarily be provided to me in the first instance by those who entrusted me with the project.

Are there any images, videos, screencasts, screenshots, quizzes that the company can make available to me?

Let’s also ask whether a contact with figures from inside the processes the course will specifically deal with would be useful for additional information. If the answer is yes, let’s try to request it.

E-learning design model

We have already talked about this in depth in our article oninstructional design, but it is worth revisiting it to understand how, in the work of creating a storyboard for E-learning, we may find some rather popular reference models useful.

– It stands for the words Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. YES is a guideline for implementing courses.

A – Analyze. That is, study and ask who I am addressing and in what way. One question above all others: who am I talking to and how do I want to do it. Does this ring a bell? We are heavy, we know 😊.

D – Design. Design, speaking of instructional design, amounts to figuring out how best to convey my content: from the tone of voice to the media to use, from stylistic to methodological choices.

D – Develop. In other words – when it comes to ID – “Storyboarding” (Dante don’t turn around, please). Here we are, then, at the E-learning storyboard.

I – Implementation. Implementation is the phase in which the course is implemented and entered into the platform.

E – Evaluation. Evaluation. We always have to wonder how it went. To improve ourselves, it is essential.

– is a model by which the pedagogue to whom it owes its name delved into the mental conditions for learning, that is, the key steps necessary for a specific training content to be received and learned.

It consists of nine “events.”

  1. Gaining attention;
  2. Sharing training objectives;
  3. Stimulating prior knowledge;
  4. Presenting the material;
  5. Providing guidance for learning;
  6. Encouraging performance;
  7. Providing feedback;
  8. Evaluating performance;
  9. Strengthen memorization and transfer of skills.

BLOOM – Bloom’s taxonomy, named after a famous U.S. psychologist is often held up as a model of instructional design and thus also in the creation of E-learning storyboards. It is a cognitive framework that classifies critical reasoning to help educators improve learning goal setting. In other words, try to imagine it as a pyramid that helps visualize the levels of critical thinking required by an activity.

Bloom’s taxonomy originally consisted of six categories, which over the years have been “revised” and adapted to result in six specific actions:

  1. Remember
  2. Understand
  3. Apply
  4. Analyze
  5. Assess
  6. Create

Models, let’s be honest, are not always followed when approaching course writing/design. However, it is extremely useful to know them, to understand them, to keep them in mind, because, depending on the course we are implementing, the type of design and the E-learning storyboard we want to set up, they could come in really handy.

Storyboard E-learning templates: why they are useful

Okay, but where should we start? Quickly said: from a preset template. Here, in fact, is a useful tip to never forget. Design setting-the design of design if we want to be sophisticated-is most important. Do not give in to the temptation to start off in writing/designing without first asking yourself what kind of template is right for you. Imagine having to fill in boxes, rather than having to write like a raging river. That already makes our work easier, doesn’t it? Moreover, in this way, every single element that makes up your course, and which will go to be diligently reported in your E-learning storyboard, will be exactly where it belongs, helping to minimize the risk of misunderstandings in the “assembly line” ID – project contact person – E-learning developer. That’s exactly why, starting with a template, the right template, will be the most strategic choice you can make. You can find some online, you can create them ad-hoc, or you can be inspired by templates from other courses you have already done, but, always remember: lead the writing and don’t be led by it.

Storyboard E-learning: a summary in 7 tips

We have stimulated you with lots of information and lots of advice, haven’t we? Okay, okay, so let’s try to get things in order and, with a nice bullet-point summary, go over together all the most important things we said about the E-learning storyboard.

  1. THE ID TOOL – The storyboard in E-learning is the key document in the work of the digital training designer, the instructional designer.
  2. THE TABLE THAT EVERYTHING CONTAINS – It is the outline of the project, the backbone and script of the course, but including each and every element that will make it up: from spoken to written words, from graphic layout to buttons, from animations to interactions, passing through the voices, sounds and propaedeuticity of the individual modules that make up the course.
  3. THE FIRST THING TO THINK ABOUT – When to start working on the E-learning storyboard? Immediately after the project analysis. And never start developing the course before the storyboard has been finished, approved and signed off.
  4. TELL ME WHICH STORYBOARD YOU CHOOSE, I WILL TELL YOUWHO YOU ARE – You can make some with simple text editing programs, such as Word or Pages, or with programs we usually use for presentations, such as Powerpoint or Keynote. As long as you start with a precise template that will make your job easier.
  5. OBJECTIVES AND ORGANIZATION, FIRST OF ALL – Let us never forget to define, at the outset, the objectives of our course and the target audience. Equally important is to organize the materials at our disposal. There, now we can start working on our storyboard.
  6. QUESTION OF MODELS – In instructional design, there are several design models to consider when approaching course design: Bloom’s Taxonomy, ADDIE, Gagné are just a few examples. That said, learn the art and put it aside-you will not always be able to take advantage of them.
  7. DON’T LEAVE – Remember: there will come a time when yet another E-learning storyboard revision will seem like a gratuitous and vicious form of violence against you, and you will curse that obsession with detail and accuracy. Well, at that moment you must be mistaken: later in the project, you and your colleagues will realize this. So: hang in there!

Storyboard E-learning in Frog Learning

Now that you know everything, but everything, about E-learning storyboards, you have the elements to challenge yourself by creating your first storyboard for a project, attempting to improve the way you work if you are already a seasoned ID, or just to get to know us. If you would like to rely on our instructional designers for a course you would like to implement, or for the design and development of a digital learning strategy for your company…what are you waiting for? Write to us!

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