What is a storyboard?

In higher education, a “storyboard” is used to illustrate a narrative sequence of events, in this case, your students’ learning journey throughout your course. In this sense, a storyboard is like a blueprint of your course; it maps out the content, learning activities, and assessments that you will use to support student learning for each week or module. In your storyboard, you will also consider through which modality (or modalities) the content and activities will be delivered and the general sequence that students will follow from week to week.

Why should I create a storyboard for my course?

The purpose of the storyboarding process is understand the whole picture of your course, rather than the specific details of each content item, activity, or assessment; in this way, you might think of the storyboarding process as painting a forest, rather than painting the nitty-gritty details of each tree.

Understanding the “whole picture” of your course and the learning experience that students will follow as they progress from week to week in your course will allow you to take a student-centred approach to course design, and reflect on how the various elements of your course come together to support student learning.

Taking the time up front to outline how content, activities, and authentic assessments integrate to construct the learning experience will also allow you to build your course more rapidly and efficiently. Understanding the “whole picture” before you invest time to create each component in your course will allow you to identify and address any gaps or redundancies in your course design before you begin building out your course content, activities, and assessments. In blended course design, a storyboard will also allow you to intentionally plan how these components will be delivered through an integration of online asynchronous, virtual synchronous, and/or in-person real-time modalities. Note that this guide also includes the opportunity to investigate more deeply into what modality is the better choice for each component through the section on the Course Delivery Decision Framework.

How do I create a storyboard?

Note: This process was informed by the University of Western Ontario Centre for Teaching and Learning’s “ABC Online Course Design Workshop: Part 2: Independent Storyboarding (Asynchronous Option)

Step 1. Start with Your Syllabus

There is no “right” way to create a storyboard; however, your syllabus is a logical and useful starting point! Review your syllabus, note down your response to the following*:

  • What learning activities and assessments will provide students with opportunities to demonstrate the course-level learning outcomes?
  • Are there any gaps or misalignments among my planned activities, assessments, and the learning outcomes in my current syllabus?
  • Which learning activities or assessments would best lend themselves to an online format and which to a face-to-face format? What combination of online and in-class activities would best address the course teaching and learning objectives?
  • What types types of content will I provide to students to support their learning (e.g., pre-recorded lectures, synchronous classes, textbook or chapter readings, podcasts, external media, etc.)? What modality (or modalities) will I use to deliver this content?

*Note: Questions are adapted from Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation: “Getting Started with Designing a Hybrid Learning Course.”

Step 2. Storyboard Your Course

Option 1. Low Tech

Using your syllabus and your responses to the questions above, begin storyboarding your course using the documentation tool below. For each week or module of your course, consider the learning outcomes and the types of content, activities, and assessments (as applicable) that you will use to support students in achieving these outcomes. Map out the content, activities, and assessments (as applicable) in sequence, considering the teaching and learning narrative from the perspective of your students.

When you are finished, download the document for your reference.

Option 2. No Tech

  1. Grab a pen or pencil, three different coloured Post It notes, and as many blank pieces of paper as you have weeks/modules in your course. Have your course syllabus readily accessible.
  2. Label the sheets of paper based on your weeks/modules (e.g., Week 1: Course Introduction)
  3. Jot down the content, teaching and learning activities, and assessments you plan to use in your course on individual Post It notes.
    • Use one colour of Post It note (or one colour of marker) for each component.
    • Mark whether the item will be delivered online asynchronously (A), virtual synchronously (S), in-person (P), or as a combination (e.g., S/P).
  4. After generating all the content, teaching and learning activities, and assessments for your course, it is time to storyboard these components into specific modules. Take your labeled sheets of paper and your syllabus and write down the topic and intended learning outcome(s) for each week/module. Then, take your Post It notes and place them in the rough sequence that students will follow for each week.

Step 3. Review and Revise

Storyboarding is an iterative process! After entering in the content, activities, and assessments (as applicable) that your students will work through each week, pause and review your storyboard.

  • How satisfied are you with the layout?
  • How clearly does the sequence of content, activities, and assessments scaffold to support student learning?
  • How manageable will the workload be for both you and your students?
  • How clearly do the modalities you have selected integrate with one another? Have you achieved your desired balance?

Edit your storyboard and add or remove items as needed. Keep your storyboard handy as you continue to plan your course and as you make your way through the guidebook to incorporate any further revisions you would like to make.

References

  1. Part 2: Independent Storyboarding (Asynchronous Option). Centre for Teaching and Learning – Western University. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://teaching.uwo.ca/elearning/ABC_online_course_design/Part_2.html.
  2. Getting started with designing a hybrid learning course. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://teaching.cornell.edu/resource/getting-started-designing-hybrid-learning-course

License

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Blended Teaching: A Guide for Applying Flexible Practices during COVID-19 by Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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