In a recent conversation, the issue of storyboards came up. It was in the larger context of representations for content development. In particular, for communicating with stakeholders (read: clients ;). The concern was how do you communicate the content versus representing the experience. So, the open question is what is the role of a storyboard?
So, there are (at least) several elements that are important in creating a learning experience. One is, of course, the domain. What are the performance objectives? Moreover, how are you providing content support. Specifically, what models are you using, and what examples. Then, of course, there’s the practice. Ideally, practice aligns with the performance objectives, and the models and examples support the practice.
There’s also the experience flow. How are you hooking learners up front? We are concerned with balancing the quantity of content with the actual practice, keeping engagement throughout.
In both cases, we need to communicate these to the clients. Too often, of course, clients raise concerns about making sure ‘the content’ is covered. In many cases, they really don’t understand that less is better, and have a large amount they’ve heard from subject matter experts (SMEs). Not knowing, of course, that SMEs have access to what they know about the domain, but less about what they do! Thus, they’re looking to make sure the content’s covered.
There will also be concern about the experience. This, likely not ideally, comes after assurance about the content. I personally have experienced situations where stakeholders say ‘ok’ to a storyboard, but then balk at the resulting experience. Some (surprisingly high) proportion of folks can’t infer an experience from a storyboard. This has been echoed by others.
The question is what is the role of a storyboard. In game design, there is a (dynamic) design document that captures everything as it develops. Is this the right representation to communicate the experience? It communicates to developers, but is it good for clients? I argue that we want more iterative representations, for instance getting sign-off on what we’ve heard from the analysis and documenting what will be the focus of the design. We also want to separate out the domain from the experience.
Overall, I advocate representing the experience, for instance in (mocked up) screenshots with narration to represent a sample interaction. That can accompany the storyboard, but when folks have to sign-off on an experience, and they can’t get it from the usual representations, you’ll need an augment. I wonder whether we should fight against presenting the content that’ll be covered.
We should show the objectives, models, and examples, but fight against content ‘coverage’. Cathy Moore does a good job in her ‘Action Mapping’ to argue that what the minimum is to achieve success on appropriate performance tasks is a good goal. I agree, as does learning science. The role of a storyboard is to capture development for developers. It may not be the right communication tool for stakeholders. I welcome your thoughts.
Rafael P. says
Transitioning to corporate L&D in the last few years, I’ve had a really tough time finding examples of “design docs” that satisfy what I think I’d want SMEs, trainers, stakeholders, and sponsors to be weighing in on that point. For me, this post hits home with what that dissatisfaction is in a way I haven’t been able to articulate.
Going too far presenting an abstract experience flow, and I don’t get quite as much discussion and input going “until we have something we can really look at.” Going too far in the prototype direction, and the input focuses more on the content and rough development work that goes into that prototype. Middle-of-the-road design docs I’ve experienced don’w quite convey it well either way. Many examples of design docs I’ve had shared with me look suspiciously like storyboards.
I’d like to think more on this through the lens of experience flow, and how I can strike a balance to get meaningful and iterative collaboration on experience as much as I do with content coverage and accuracy.