Converting Print to eLearning
How do we turn static content into dynamic eLearning courses? It begins with a storyboard.
What is a storyboard, you ask? For starters, think of your favorite comic book. Those frames depicting Superman’s actions in different scenes are, in essence, a storyboard. Storyboarding, a technique often associated with filmmaking, is the process of sequencing actions, like a visual script.
So how does storyboarding translate to eLearning within the life sciences industry? One form of storyboarding that accommodates the medical/legal/regulatory review process is to develop a tabular storyboard that outlines both the content and the programming/video/audio direction of a deliverable. This way the client is able to visualize the finished product, and the digital team has explicit (if only a bit interpretive) instruction on what to create.
Another type of storyboarding is to work within a structured-framework, writer-friendly platform. When an agency uses this method, a proof of concept is approved first. The writer then works directly within the eLearning platform. Next, the digital team gives it a once-over to maximize the number of appropriate features, and finally a review file is prepared as an export from the platform.
An even more advanced form of storyboarding relies on a graphics-first approach. Instead of having the custom design and user interface approved at the end of a project, they are presented for approval up front in the form of the storyboard itself, which is designed to emulate the final deliverable. Writing can continue as usual in the meantime and can move into the storyboard once approved. A good custom development platform should possess the ability to reliably subsume the content, graphics, and even animations of a visual storyboard, saving tremendously on both conversion time and the overall timeline.
Now that we have a storyboard, what’s next? Programming, of course! Assuming we’ve used the graphics-first model, the remaining components of programming are triggers, layers, and variables.
A good storyboard is like the outer shell of a shiny wristwatch, without all the cogs and wheels. If we want the dial to turn, we need to add those components in.
The fundamental way of interacting with an eLearning module is through the use of triggers. Triggers are action events that cause the eLearning to do something. Action events can be things like clicking “Next,” selecting a specific object, dragging an object to an intersection point, or more player-centric events like “when timeline starts” or “when variable changes.”
Triggers are used in layers, which are basically slides on top of slides. Instead of jumping to a new screen, a layer can be activated to show on top of the existing screen. For example, if the base screen were an image of a man smoking a pipe, and the top layer were a GIF of 3 bubbles, activating the top layer would make it seem as if the man were suddenly blowing bubbles from his pipe.
Finally, there are variables. Variables are largely used to capture, store, and recall data throughout a project. A simple example would be if there were 2 boxes (numbered “1” and “2”) on the first slide. A variable could be created to capture which box is selected by the learner. If the learner selects the “1” box for example, a trigger would tell the variable to be equal to the value of “1.” Then, on the second slide, we might have a brief line of text that reads, “You selected box %variable%.” In this example, the learner would see a “1” in the place of “%variable%.”
Combining these 3 core components—triggers, layers, and variables—with other features, such as animations and the player timeline, opens up a seemingly infinite number of possibilities when it comes to custom eLearning development.