TGIF: Ah, We’re Changing the Course’s Title…

While Storyboarding in PowerPoint, I Got the Call

When I’m developing an e-learning course in a PowerPoint-based tool, like Articulate Presenter, I obviously create the storyboards in PowerPoint (PPT) most of the time. Most of my SMEs use PPT at work anyway, so they’re comfortable with it. In Notes View, the upper section of the page shows my mock-up or rough sketch of the screens, and the Notes Pane below contains my notes about the OSDs (on-screen directions), programing notes, course content, and audio/visual ideas.

My gratitude for the Master Slide feature in PowerPoint knows no bounds! This post is about a 127-slide storyboard for an e-learning course on a 401(k) plan, for a non-linear course where learners can choose the topics they want to review. And, once viewing the selected topic, the learners go through branching scenarios in a non-linear fashion.

The PPT storyboard successfully completed two review cycles! Then, one day, about a week or so before launch on the enterprise LMS, I got the SME phone call:

“Ah, we’re changing the title of the course…. ”

From: [ ACME’s Retirement Plans ]

To: [ ACME’s ACRONYM 401(k) Plan ]

Because I had built the storyboard/course on PPT’s Master Slides, I could keep my cool and calmly tell the SME

“No problem! That’s an easy fix.”

With the course background and main title on the storyboard’s Master Slide, I only needed to change the title one time, and that change was applied to all 127 slides.

Okay, I can hear you now:

“That’s a no brainer!”, you cry out. “We all know about that. It’s old news.”

I’m a Mentor, You’re a Mentor….Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Mentor, Too?

True, the above is a no brainer perhaps, but not everyone thinks about using the Master Slides, especially SMEs. I often mentor SMEs in rapid e-learning course design and development. I tell them that it really pays to think through, plan, and try to capture everything needed (requirements) at the very beginning of a project.

During the A-Analysis phase of ADDIE, the SMEs need to thoroughly brainstorm not only the course content and outcomes, but how they will use their design and development tools such as PPT. And, that’s where you and I, as Learning Consultants, come in as mentors.

As a mentor, that Analysis phase includes sharing with my SMEs the PPT storyboard tips-and-tricks that keep the project on time and within budget. This is important because many times SMEs will throw a PPT slide deck at e-learning designers and developers and say,

“Make this an online course. I need it in a month.”

When we all mentor our SMEs on how to effectively and efficiently use PPT as a tool, we can all relax a little bit more during Alpha and Beta review cycles.

If you have your favorite PPT tips-and-tricks, please share them in your Comment on this post! Or, tweet them to me on

@jenisecook  on

The mentor role ensures that I’m “Always Learning”, and that I pass on lessons learned to my SMEs.


e-Learning Storyboards: Using Both Word and PowerPoint

Many instructional designers (IDers) have a variety of tools at hand to design and map out the client’s e-learning course for the client’s review, and to provide a detailed roadmap for the team who will develop the course. Most of the IDers I talk with use Microsoft Word to write out a detailed storyboard. Others like to do rapid prototyping by writing up the storyboard, with generic graphical elements, inside PowerPoint itself.

I’ve used both processes as either/or but not together. Recently, I decided to use both processes simultaneously, and I sent out a tweet about it on Twitter. A couple of “tweeples” replied that they were interested in hearing more.

Simultaneous Storyboarding in Word and PowerPoint

Screen shot of Word and PowerPoint for simultaneous storyboarding

SimulStoryboarding: Word & PPT

The screen shot to the left shows my desktop on my Apple MacBook Pro laptop. I have Office for the Mac. Word is open on the left, and on the right you can see the Thumbnails view in PowerPoint (PPT).

The Word document shows the storyboard template for two screens (click the image to enlarge). The PPT file shows the draft prototype for each screen in the course, and the generic elements (circles, squares, rectangles) I added as placeholders for the actual photos, text, and graphical elements I’ll add later.

I begin by writing the “business story” in Word. As I begin to think in terms of on-screen content and navigation, I use PPT to prototype what I’m thinking in terms of the navigation and content “load” on each screen. I really enjoy this process because PPT helps me to “flesh out” what I write in Word, and make corrections where needed.

This post is brief, so if you’d like additional information, feel free to contact me at this e-mail address:

info AT

And, in the Comments, please share your storyboard tips and tricks so we all can learn from each other. Thanks!


Why I Entered the 2010 Articulate Guru Awards

Logo for the Articulate Guru AwardsDo you have what it takes to be an e-learning guru? That’s the question Tom Kuhlmann and other staff members at Articulate ask the e-learning community each year.

This year, I finally submitted an entry to the Guru Awards. I’ve been using Articulate’s suite of e-learning software since early 2007. I’ve sat on the sidelines and watched as previous entries earned an honorable mention as well as those who win the top three awards each year.

However, as I submitted my entry, I knew in my heart that others would have more bells and whistles, more whiz-bangs, more wow-factor than the project I submitted. And yet, that didn’t bother me because I submitted an entry for a particular reason. (See my entry at the end of this post.)

LINGOs and the e-Learning Community

Earlier this year, through The eLearning Guild, I learned about LINGOs. The Guild and LINGOs promoted the first-annual Global Giveback Contest. They challenged e-learning instructional designers and developers to donate time and talents to help Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with their online learning initiatives. (Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson of Articulate also created a course through LINGOs.)

Mauricio Gutierrez, Leadership Development, World Vision International

Mauricio Gutierrez – Select to view his LinkedIn Profile.

Mauricio Gutierrez, Leadership Development at World Vision International (WVI), had listed a project request for designing and developing an online orientation for World Vision International’s Global Leader Orientation (GLO) program.

I partnered with Mauricio, and over a couple of months, we created a brief and fairly simple Orientation, or overview, of WVI’s eCampus, its online learning activities, and the three phases of the GLO program.

About the Course

The learner audience consists of newly hired and existing WVI leadership staff. And, many of these staff members work in very remote locations in countries with limited Internet access. Bandwidth, a key issue, played a huge role in the course’s simple design. In addition, WVI’s standard PowerPoint template provided the required framework for our design elements.

Mauricio wanted the course to tell the GLO story, so I created a basic look-and-feel of an open book for most of the screens. The Engage Flipbook interaction didn’t provide the screen real estate we needed, so I used an image of an open book from my image library.

As the learners “turn” each “page” of the story, they discover more about the three phases of the GLO program.

Oh, and Mauricio had previewed some of my voice over demo reels, and he asked me to record, edit, and produce the audio narration for the course. As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was scheduled to record the narration the day after I was down three days with an nasty, summer flu bug. The show must go on, and it did.

How We Worked

Mauricio and I both have Skype accounts, and we communicated constantly either via Chat or Skype voice calls. We also used email messages, my DropBox account, and WVI’s CMS for larger messages, the transfer of files, and communication with Mauricio’s colleagues in Australia and other countries.

We also began with a written storyboard in Microsoft Word so we could establish and refine the design with his colleagues in other countries before I began the rapid development of the course itself.

Mauricio was great to work with! And, in June, we met in person at The Guild’s mobile learning conference, mLearnCon, in San Diego, California.


When I think about the GLO program, and the WVI staff members in remote locations around the world who may view this Orientation, I feel connected to a larger purpose, one far beyond my own client work and my billable projects.

I submitted my Guru Awards entry for two reasons: (1) to thank Mauricio and World Vision International for the privilege of assisting them with their initiatives, and (2) to encourage my e-learning colleagues to visit the LINGOs site and then do the same for another NGO. I hope they don’t wait for another Global Giveback Contest. NGOs are waiting for help now, and people can begin at any time.

Image link to the elearning course.

Click to view the course.

And now, the course! Just select the image on the left, or this link (not yet HTML5-compatible; may not display on mobile devices):


How to Resolve Conflict with Client and Vendor Storyboards


I’m going to discuss my role as “The Liaison” on various project teams. It’s common for instructional designers, technical communicators, business analysts, and others to find they are acting as diplomatic liaisons as well as doing their assigned tasks on a project team.


I was assigned to an e-learning course project as the client-side Instructional Designer to work with a virtual e-learning design and development vendor. The client’s required Compliance/Code of Conduct course was deployed to about 3,000 in-house and field staff.

The Vendor’s Storyboard

Previous client-side instructional designers struggled with working in the vendor’s storyboard format. However, when I began working with the vendor team, I found their MS Word, Detailed Design Document easy to use. I let the vendor know I would use their storyboard document, and they immediately expressed their appreciation.

My ability to adapt encouraged a very positive business relationship between the project manager at the vendor site and the remote Instructional Designer. It also greatly shortened the course development life cycle, and increased the vendor’s effectiveness during their internal QA phase.

The client trusted my ability and my decision, and the internal project sponsor benefited as well. We deployed the course on time.

The Client’s Design

I’m used to using PowerPoint storyboards for rapid design of e-learning courses. So, when the Sponsor of this Compliance course had a unique format that he wanted developed, I first designed it in PowerPoint so he could see the potential interactivity.

This PowerPoint storyboard also helped the vendor understand the unique interactivities the Sponsor wanted. We clearly saw how many image files would be needed, and how the potential learner activities would (or would not) work. I then worked with the vendor to “translate” this PowerPoint storyboard into their preferred Word storyboard.

It didn’t take very long at all! Sadly, I no longer have my project log. So, I can’t give you the total hours it took for me to use two storyboard formats as The Liaison between the client and the remote vendor. My process did save project time, and it eliminated the frustrations the team members felt in the past.

I’m “Always Learning…” how to build good will and facilitate the processes in a project team.

And, I invite you to share your experiences as well in this post’s Comments section.

May 2016: Minor updates. I will use this post in a free eBook on project management in the learning world. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to receive the free eBook. I’ll add you to the book’s mailing list.