Tips and Tools to Writing a Storyboard


Instructional Designers


Christopher Caldwell, M.E.S., M.Ed.

Writing content for instructional design


In a fast-paced world of complexity, uncertainty and necessity, content is king. Fast management, lack of direction and ever-evolving pressures of work and life create challenges and barriers to adult learning so we must think ahead. Because learning is so fundamental to work satisfaction, innovation and personal development, it is an integral part of a successful organization. Designing good learning requires great content. These tips will help keep your storyboard on track.

What Learning is NOT

Perhaps you have heard the term ‘read this over’ and get back to me. You may have had a link sent to you leading to a document full of graphs and bullet points which left you wanting to jump off a cliff. A facilitator comes into your group session and leaving you so dry you escape into your phone under the table for the next hour.

Learning is not Obligatory

Learning done under obligation yields the ‘just get by and finish’ approach. It may remind adults of what it was like to sit in a lecture in which they had no interest.

What learning IS

Learning is engaging

Engaging the mind in such a way for the adult to see the benefits and elicit curiosity in the learner. Organizations often go straight to the lowest common denominator, maintaining the ‘business as usual approach’ but with new makeup. Doing something new is not easy. It means change. But change can be motivated in a positive light.

Learning is challenging

Language and instruction should be just equal and above the group potential to push learners out of the complacent zone. There is no sense in learning something they already know. Keep them stimulated. Use new terms and functions valuable to job success as part of the lesson with a link to continue to learn those things they may not be familiar. Encourage peer-to-peer learning as social learning is a rapid and enjoyable knowledge transfer activity. Be sensitive about cultural and language differences and encourage cultural learning for adoption.

Learning is an Organizational Asset

Basically, learning is essential to personal and community growth. A formal organization is no different. Organizations treat learning as something that needs to be done when there is a problem, which is too late. Encourage constant on-the-job learning. The motivation for learning comes from a culture of learning and leadership that is a permanent fixture. Hold leaders accountable. The interest in continuous learning and innovation must come from the top. In this way, the organization is always performing at a high level because the employees are trained to think and behave like leaders. Take this opportunity to develop champions along the way.

Designing Content for Instruction

Just like any blog, website, corporate literature or marketing media, content is the medium in which you communicate. If the message is unclear or unattractive, the learner does not latch onto the thinking and adoption leading to the necessary outcome.

When producing content, there are a few things to consider:

What are your learning outcomes?

Who is your audience?

How much time do they have?

The goals drive the research and craft the information but it must be incremental – that is, it must lead the learner. With access to all kinds of media, this can be easily planned. The content must also be aimed at the audience for their particular function and future. If the work is too burdensome or boring, the learners can lose interest. Leave time to digest the information, work with it, discuss it with peers and contribute something back. Feedback is a great teacher.

Follow these tips and steps to write successful outlines for your lessons:

  • Keep in mind your timeline.
  • It’s a STORYBOARD. Tell a story. State the objectives up front. Write it in the style that takes someone through with a lesson. This is not PowerPoint. Don’t bullet your participants to death. Language is also important. Tell the learner what to do by giving numbered, step-by-step instructions that use command verbs, short sentences, and precise terms for materials, tools, and measurements.
  • Use graphics that illustrate your information. Stick to the topic and keep extraneous material to a minimum. No distractions.
  • Keep the developers in mind. It’s not just about the learners. Include the screen layouts and needs for the learner.
  • Diversify the delivery of content. We have cool tech. Use it to create interactive screens, videos and quizzes and remind students to recall what they have learned.
  • A storyboard template will aid you in your design and instruction. Use these types of headings:
  • Module, Purpose, Content, Developer
  • It’s all about psychology. The purpose of learning is to improve cognitive reasoning, and skill-building behaviours that lead to better outcomes and communication. Keep in mind, there are adult learning principles at work and apply them. They include:
    • Bloom’s taxonomy
    • Gagne’s nine events of instruction

When delivering your content, stick to the design, provide support and use examples. Activities and discussions will integrate the new information. Don’t forget to evaluate the learning to see if the outcomes have been met. Quizzes, surveys and interviews can provide feedback. Remember! Knowledge is not learned unless internalized. Let the learner demonstrate their knowledge through generating their own examples, mind maps or by paraphrasing content. If it is job related, consider developing job aids or templates to reference the learning.


Christopher Caldwell is an author and organizational learning specialist specializing in social responsibility and leadership.

Please do your best to recycle and lower your environmental footprint by reducing waste and energy use.

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