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Storyboard Requirements for Microlearning Videos

Storyboards are a critical step in the video process following my new MASCI (Micro Analysis, Storyboarding, Creation and Integration) model. They are the vehicle that relays content for each microlearning video to the developer during the Creation step.

The microlearning video developer, however, may not be familiar with the application, site or topic that is provided in the storyboards. For example, I was asked to create a series of Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs) on an application I’d never heard of. I worked with the subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop the storyboards which allowed me to create over 10 videos on the application. This is why it’s important that the storyboards be well-written and properly formatted.

As mentioned before in a previous article, there are two types of storyboards that we use to develop our microlearning videos – demonstrations and presentations. Both types of storyboards should be created in PowerPoint. I’ll explain the different requirements for each.

Demonstration Storyboards

Demonstration-based storyboards should consist of the following elements:

  • Screenshots of the system, application or site. We recommend one screenshot per slide. Also, only add a new slide or screenshot if the screen changes during the demonstrated process.
  • Text instructions should be added and numbered with basic steps based on the specific actions. There could be multiple text instructions depending on the number of steps taking place on the same screen. For example, “1. Click the Search icon. – 2. Enter search term. – 3. Press Enter key.”
  • Annotations can consist of arrows or shapes drawn on the slides to help the developer know exactly where the action is taking place.

Please note: these demonstration-based storyboards are typically not used in the SHOTs videos. Instead, they act as a guide for the developers while they record themselves interacting with the system, application or site “live.”

It’s important that the developer is provided access before recording the videos. If access can’t be given, then a workaround will be needed. For instance, I’ve had SMEs do a desk share while I recorded them interacting with the site or application. I’ll then record the narration separately and edit it to sync with my captured video.

Presentation Storyboards

Presentations are typically informational or provide soft-skill content. The title of the video should be all that is discussed in the storyboard. The most important element when drafting presentation-based storyboards is understanding good instructional design.

These storyboards should consist of the following elements:

  • Slide Titles which help identify the topic of the slide and should be six words or less.
  • Scripts should be added to the Notes section and consist of no more than one to three sentences per slide. This will help avoid the videos from “sticking” or lasting too long on one slide which isn’t interesting to watch.
  • 10 Slides or less. This will keep the videos short and to the point.
  • Conversational narration is far more interesting to listen to than reading a series of bulleted statements. You want to write as if you are explaining the content to a friend.
  • No Repetition because these videos can be paused, rewound or replayed over and over. Provide the information once and move on to the next point or slide.
  • Graphics “are worth a thousand words” and should consist of images that relate to the script. Please, no clip art! Ensure you follow proper copyright policies. The narration is what relays the core information. The slides simply help reinforce what’s being said.
  • Limit Text on the screen. There are times when there isn’t a graphic that relates to the script. If text is needed, add it in a creative way. For example, a video I worked on asked a series of questions of the viewer. I found a chalkboard image and overlaid some summarized text of those questions as if written on the board. You should never put word-for-word text on the slide of what is being narrated. People are expecting to watch a video, not read an e-book.
  • Resources should be provided and linked to at the end of the videos. This keeps the “nice to know” information out of the narration but is still accessible if the viewer wants to learn more about the topic.

Presentation-based storyboards do require quite a bit more design work than demonstration-based storyboards. However, the editing process is far quicker as compared to creating demonstration videos.

The final step for either storyboard process is to get all customer and stakeholder approval before moving on to the Creation step in the MASCI model.

It’s often difficult to try and match your original recording voice if your customer comes back with script changes. Therefore, getting final approval of the storyboards is very important. I’m not saying that there will never be changes, but getting this approval will help reduce them after you’ve spent all the time to record, edit and produce the video.

I welcome you to contact me for more information on the SHOTs program that I started at the IRS. Also, please leave a comment if you find this article informative, as I truly believe that microlearning videos are the way of the future for more effective just-in-time training.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our Winter 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.

Kelly Barrett has worked for the IRS for over 22 years, starting as a Data Entry Transcriber and working his way up to a Human Resources Education and Knowledge Management Specialist. Kelly has over 12 years of training project management experience with expertise in elearning course development and is a certified Instructional Designer (ISD) and Online Training Professional (COTP).

Seven years ago, Kelly began researching microlearning videos and how they can increase retention of training, and, using his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting, he started a program called Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs). He has since grown the program to an enterprisewide initiative with over 500 SHOTs videos for all 80,000+ IRS employees to view, anytime they need to.

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