How to use collaborative storyboarding to create engaging elearning

Save your designs from boring content! Get your hands on the collaborative elearning storyboard template we use on all our own projects. We often hear elearning authors struggle to produce engaging designs when faced with streams of technical content from subject matter experts. This essential tool will help to unite stakeholders around a common goal, speed up production and help to prevent losing a great design to heavy-going content.

A great authoring tool helps you create learning content super fast, but we all know that making effective learning experiences is much more than a copy and paste job. Yet too often, an author will set out their vision for an elearning design before coming across a roadblock: a PDF or content dump from an SME. Technically accurate, but dull and unengaging. How can you pair up this dry content with your elearning design?

Whenever we create content, for example in our Concept Creator service or elearning showcase pieces, we use a key tool to ensure that content and design match: a collaborative storyboard. It enables you to plan out and create effective, tailored elearning content, with subject matter experts’ participation. No more mismatched or boring content!

Download the free elearning storyboard template to supercharge your next projects.

Why use an elearning storyboard at all?

You have a broad idea for your elearning – now what? Let’s imagine you know what your elearning project needs to do and for whom, and have developed a design concept that sets out what kind of experience it needs to be, how it might look and how it might be structured. Within our 5Cs elearning framework – a helpful process for successful elearning projects – doing the above will have landed you on step two of five. (You can read the above guides to help you get to this point if you’re not sure how).

However, next up is a whole new challenge, and one that usually falls to elearning authors and designers to battle through: the Create stage.

How do you put that high-level concept into action and elearning that works?

Many authors reach out for content from technical experts (SMEs) at this point. In comes a yawn-making jargon-filled PDF, or a conversation that may feel more like a verbal dumping of knowledge than something fit for learning design. There are then three common project pitfalls:

freeze up: authors cannot see how to pair up their ideas with the stream of content, nor how to put ideas into practice at a page design level… the project stalls.


 – fill in: authors start to copy and paste the technical content into their authoring tool, forgetting to consider user engagement, user needs and the fact that learning is experiential, not “content.”


– fall out: authors keen to retain their exciting elearning design vision battle against subject matter experts who don’t share the vision, and both parties leave the process feeling a bit grumpy (and the solution isn’t so good either).

Enter our collaborative elearning storyboards

Opening page 2 storyboard

What is a collaborative elearning storyboard?

A collaborative document where elearning content is created together with a subject matter expert (and other stakeholders, where relevant). To make it easy to collaborate, every page and interaction starts with why – its learning purpose in the project – and includes a simple image of what the user will see so everyone is clear of the end goal. It’s set out as you’d see the content on the page.

But most important are the questions asked of SMEs. This is our secret to success!

Rather than ask an expert to add their content into a blank slate or have an author write the content solo with the help of a manual, a collaborative storyboard contains specific guidance and prompts that explain what kind of input is needed from experts, explore why and give examples. 

Instead of getting all an SME knows about subject X, designers or authors can ask for a story about X in 50 words, a way for users to practice doing X and the best practice answer, plausible incorrect answer options to a question about X and more. Why? Because learning needs to be engaging, contextualized, and active. Plus, the main thing an SME can bring to the table isn’t a life-size manual – it’s their experience.

A step by step guide to using Elucidat’s elearning storyboards for best results


STEP 1: Set out the overall structure and flow upfront

structure for storyboard template

It’s key to have clarity around the overall flow of your elearning before you reach out for contributions from your SMEs, so they understand how the content will come together into a learning experience. Create a content map and include this upfront.

STEP 2: Set up each page with clear goals and visual examples

opening page of storyboard

For each page:

  • Write the purpose of it in terms of the learning experience it’s aiding. Is it to engage, contextualize, give practice, consolidate?
  • Include a visual to show what this might look like – this can be a wireframe created in Google drawings or similar, a screenshot of the Elucidat interaction thumbnail, or an actual screenshot of the sample page designs if you’ve set these up already. 

Pro tip: Remember that you don’t need to design each page from scratch. Look for opportunities to work efficiently, such as using the same sequence of pages in multiple topics; it makes life easier for you and gives learners a more consistent navigation experience. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with the sections or topics that feel easiest to get the ball rolling.

STEP 3: Create prompts and guidance for SMEs

example elearning storyboard template 1

Think about what you need from an SME to bring the experience to life. What can they bring to the table that you don’t have?

For each page:

  • Use a different color to highlight what you need from SMEs to support the purpose of that page/interaction.
  • Don’t ask for facts – here, we ask the expert to create an “elevator pitch” to help them come up with a people-centered way of introducing the module for the opening page.
  • Provide specific instructions around what you need and guiding word counts – see how we’ve done this in the pink text.

Ideas for prompts you can use to avoid dull content!

Graph 1

All of these prompts and more are included in our free collaborative elearning storyboard template.

Pro tip: Make a feature of “expert views” in your design and have your SME give tips and advice to the camera or as an audio clip that they can record on a phone or in a quick interview with you. You can then decide to use that recording directly in your elearning, perhaps spliced up into sections, or use it as inspiration for written content you produce.

STEP 4: Collaborate!

Either pass the document over to SMEs to work on by themselves, or sit down together to populate it.

Here’s an example of an SME providing an example story for a case study…

Case study 3

And here’s how an elearning designer might make a few changes and suggestions, without affecting technical accuracy, to boost user engagement with the content.

Case study 3

STEP 5: Build sooner than later

If the odd bit of text, video or audio is missing, don’t feel like you have to wait for it all before you can start building. 

If you are using a collaborative and easy-to-edit tool like Elucidat, it’s easy for these minor tweaks as well as these details and assets to be dropped in later. Plus, we find that working iteratively, in sprints, tends to work better than polishing your paper design and building it out all in one go.

Key benefits of storyboarding collaboratively for elearning

Storyboarding is the crucial step between a theoretical design and the elearning end result. It helps you break down and structure an experience that helps users engage, understand, practice and take away actions. But this is a challenge if you’re working with dry content. 

Collaborative storyboarding joins up the expertise of an SME with a learning purpose. It specifically helps stakeholders on many different levels, like those outlined below.

Graph 2

Download your free, collaborative elearning storyboard template here

Make storyboarding part of what you do on your elearning projects, and see how it improves the end results and your overall project efficiency.

Download your expert-created elearning storyboard template for free.

Take full advantage of Elucidat’s enhanced project structuring

Storyboarding can also take place directly in Elucidat  – saving your authors valuable time. Build your pages and chapters, then move and arrange until you create the best learner journey possible. There’s no need to dive into editing content until you or your team needs to, meaning you can get the structure of your content right – from order to page type – straight away. No more rebuilds or reworks needed!

This is a new and exciting way to plan and structure your elearning projects. Just use our seamless drag-and-drop interface to create a robust structure for your courses and bulk move or duplicate multiple pages at once with just a couple of clicks. Plus, you can use your existing course content or layouts as templates with an enhanced import function.

And, as always, we recommend you collaborate with your team while using enhanced project structuring.  With our first-in-class collaboration features that won’t be a challenge.

Start saving valuable authoring time with Elucidat’s enhanced project structuring. Book a free tailored demo and we’ll set you up with a free trial. 

What else will help you design your elearning?

A storyboard is a fantastic tool, but a successful elearning project involves more than just that. Involve SMEs in all of these too! Here are some other tools to add to your belt.

    • SME guide – how best to work with SMEs and build an effective relationship
    • Capture – how to capture needs and ensure your elearning delivers for its audience
    • Conceptualize – how to come up with the big idea for your elearning, based on needs
    • Create – how to approach building your elearning in Elucidat
    • Best practice elearning guide and production processes to follow

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