StoryboardTrek – the Search for the Sweet Spot
I originally was going to make a comparison between Storyboards and educational quicksand, but having seen reactions to similar polemics, I figured I needed to adjust my stance somewhat.
The concept of planning out a highly interactive learning asset has its roots in film-making and – in principle – is a good idea. After all, movies are expensive enough to make without wasting time and film on shots that will end up on the cutting room floor. But the storyboarding process for media is pretty well understood and (I think?) follows some generally accepted conventions so you can(I think?) go from one production to another and make sense of what’s going on.
That hasn’t really been my experience with storyboarding for interactive learning assets. In fact, it’s anything but.
It seems like everyone has their own approach to storyboarding, and each one seems a little bit different. The common threads seem to be that designers are producing a flat document and attempting to capture – in written form – interactivity, inputs, and responses. They key words in that description are: “flat”, and “document”. McLuhan would remind us about that whole “medium is the message” thing. That’s OK if all you want to produce is Level 1 or Level 2 materials, but when branching is involved, or when more learner control is required, well, that’s where things get interesting. I know I’m not alone when I share tales with colleagues about SME or stakeholder reactions to storyboards when compared with the actual user experience. In short, something gets lost in translation.
Let’s examine a parallel situation: For years, car manufacturers developed new models from sketches, concept drawings, and full-sized clay models. When it came time to really sell Execs on the design, there was little doubt as to what the car would look like. I’ll even go so far as to guess that the designers and engineers had enough component familiarity to guess what the ride and handling would be like based on geometry, size, weight, etc. Now, imagine the design process following what IDs do with storyboards. The designers provide a long, convoluted document that is challenging to interpret, but is still required for sign-off by various stakeholders before a car can be built. This document, of course, includes all sorts of specifications and other technical details. When the prototype model rolls out of the shop, the reaction might be something like this:
“well, that’s not what I thought it would look/work/drive like…we need to change a few things before we go any further…”
That, folks, is often what happens with storyboarding for learning. What’s really scary is that the storyboarding process can take weeks or even months, and you may not even get anywhere close to designing a user interface because you’re still stuck trying to get approval on stakeholder interpretation of flat paper descriptions of a highly interactive experience**.
So…there’s the challenge in the nutshell.
What can we do about it? How can we get off this merry-go-round?
Stay tuned for part 2…
* The general trend for storyboard documents is some kind of descriptive, but non-interactive example, usually created in Word or other similar program.
** Assumption being made here is that ADDIE is the process instead of another flexible ID model.
Posted on May 31, 2012, in blog, commentary, Instructional Design, opinion, rant, rapid development, reflection, thoughts and tagged better methods, Instructional Design, interactive, polemic, process, stakeholder, storyboard, tools. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.