Design Thinking Process (Part A): Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity


Below you will find our submission for part a of Assignment 1 – Design Thinking Process for the course LRNT524 – Innovation, Design, and Learning Environments.

The prototype is entitled Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity

Comments Cutoff Date: Sorry. We will no longer be accepting comments at this time.

Saturday, December 2 at 8:00 p.m. UTC* time (12:00 p.m. PCT, 3:00 p.m. EST) 

* UTC is the acronym for Coordinated Universal Time and is used as the standard unit of time measurement to help keep clock synchronized around the world. Subtract eight hours for PCT and three hours for EST. Below is a key to refer to the time difference based upon the UTC:

Authours: Katie Brown and Darin Faber

APA Formatted Document Link


Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity

Katie Brown & Darin Faber

An assignment submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course

LRNT 524

Dr. Susan Crichton
Dr. Deborah Carter

Assignment Due Date: November 2017



            The introduction to an online learning community (OLC) can overwhelm and intimidate first-time participants of any new cohort. Effective instructional design specialists are traditionally empathic to the learner’s first time experience (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, & Koskinen, 2014). The primary introductory activity of any OLC should promote active engagement, create a sense of inclusion within the cohort, and foster intellectual risk-taking. This paper will provide the outline of a participatory prototype activity entitled Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity. This storyboard activity is designed to be implemented within an online integrated program for both educational and corporate training resources. The design of the activity was parsed using the framework of the ICARE model, which includes the components of introduction, connect, apply, reflect and extend (Hoffman and Ritchie, 1998).

A storyboard is a tool to help in the process of telling a story, create a narrative of a process, or share experiences with other people (Lillyman & Bennett, 2012). Storyboards make use of a combination of visual imagery accompanied by descriptive text. Storyboarding is an effective pedagogical tool to help learners express their thoughts and ideas through a cathartic method to share with others and develop inner self-reflection (Harrington, 1994). The subject of the storyboard activity, preparing a favorite meal, will give the learner the ability of self-reflection, to share with their peers, and to help create a sense of inclusion (Harrington, 1994). The activity can be completed by any learner regardless of age, background or educational level.

The overall storyboard activity will give each learner the opportunity to explore the online learning community through the process of active engagement. This storyboard learning module is designed to be flexible enough the fit within any style of OLC, which could include a learning management system or social networking site. Other styles of OLCs will be addressed in the future. Upon their first visit to the OLC, the learner is presented with a welcome screen that consists of a step-by-step process of the Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity. Each step in this storyboard activity is set up to empower the learner (Harrington, 1994) to help self-direct themselves throughout the process, thus allowing the learner to open themselves to the potential of intellectual risk-taking. The primary step will include material to help educate the learner on the topic of storyboards. The outlined process will recommend formats, online apps, digital or manual tools, and methods of submission of the learner’s storyboard. The allowance for a wide variety of suggested variables enhances the empathic design of the storyboard prototype (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, & Koskinen; 2014). Upon completion of this activity, the learner will have demonstrated principles that revolve around problem-based learning, which include personal inquiry, self-directed learning and the use of critical-thinking skills (Thomas, 2010). The final step will instruct the learner to openly share their storyboard with the cohort and provide feedback on other students’ storyboard submissions within the OLC environment.

Over the past few decades, storyboards have been effectively used as an education tool, which engage the learner, promotes intellectual risk-taking and create a sense of inclusion (Harrington, 1994). The use of a storyboard also allows the learner to engage in deep self-reflection (Lillyman & Bennett, 2012) while sharing their experiences with others in an online learning environment. While the activity has many benefits moving forward, some challenges and options may remain, such as language, time allotment and ease of OLC installation. Future prototype testing will be implemented in an OLC by OLC basis.



Harrington, S. L. (1994). An Author’s Storyboard Technique as a Prewriting Strategy. The Reading Teacher, 48(3), 283–286.

Lillyman, S., & Bennett, C. (2012). Using storyboarding to gain appreciative reflection in the classroom. Reflective Practice, 13(4), 533–539.

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to empathic design? Design Issues, 30(1), 67-77.

Thomas, P. Y. (2010). Learning and instructional systems design. In Towards developing a web-based blended learning environment at the University of Botswana. (Doctoral dissertation).

5 thoughts on “Design Thinking Process (Part A): Life Reflection: A Storyboard Activity

  1. Hi Darin and Katie,
    I want to start by saying that I love the activity you outlined! In fact, your blog has me sold and I want to participate in it! I love the idea that the first step would be educating learners about storyboarding. I only know about storyboarding from an e-learning design context and I would be interested to learn about it from another perspective! You have listed quite a few things that you would cover during this step. How long do you think it would take the learner to review and understand this information (“recommend formats, online apps, digital or manual tools, and methods of submission of the learner’s storyboard”)? Is the time they will spend on learning about storyboarding, creating their own storyboard including learning new tools and reviewing and commenting on others storyboards reasonable compared to the length of the online training they will be engaging in? Sometimes in a corporate setting training hours are rationed quite strongly. Could this potentially be adapted to focus on an experience related to course material rather than a meal?
    It appears that you have outlined a very interesting activity that is well-grounded in research. I only wish that we were actually creating these learning opportunities so that I could try yours out!
    Thank you for sharing a very interesting blog post.

    1. Hi Lorri,

      Thank you so much for your feedback. You’ve given us some great things to take back and consider during our critique. Something we didn’t really consider was the time it would take, and you’re right, corporate vs public settings have different expectations around this and the investment in both time and money that it would take.

      We chose the “making your meal” as a way for online learners to share a little bit about themselves (much like we did when we made a video during the Link Course about our favourite place). I agree with your point though, with time being a potential restriction, it would be wise for us to determine how critical it is for us to add the “human” element, or to keep it strictly course related.

      Thanks again!

      1. Hi, Darin and Katie:

        As your previous comments attest, you have definitely piqued interest combining the ICARE model and a storyboard activity to actively engage and provide a platform for intellectual risk-taking. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools humans have for making sense of the world (Brown, 2015; Boje, 2014; Smith, 1999). This combination and your choice of a favourite meal activity definitely support your claim “the activity can be completed by any learner regardless of age, background or educational level” (para. 5).

        As many peers have pointed out in other places and spaces, 500 words are not enough to explain every part of your prototype in detail. At this point, your critical friends, lweaver and amarechal, have addressed my concerns in their responses. Once you have had a chance to review the ICARE model while addressing their questions, I am sure your claims will either be adjusted or supported in Assignment 1, Part B.

        For me, I am hoping you will clarify your thinking when you responded to lweaver: “ I agree with your point though, with time being a potential restriction, it would be wise for us to determine how critical it is for us to add the “human” element, or to keep it strictly course related” (para. 2). If you are choosing to take out the favourite meal activity, what will you replace it with to support your prototype? Or possibly you see another place in your OLC that would be more appropriate considering time restrictions?

        Given that time may be a potential restriction for this activity as well, I understand you may not have time to adequately address my concerns or the responses to other critical friends’ responses before submitting your Assignment 1, Part B. Hopefully, once the pressure of submission is over, you might find time to return to this blog post and let us know how you addressed our concerns.


  2. I loved your first statement about how a new online community can overwhelm first-time participants – that was us in residency just a few short months ago!

    I like that your solution can work in both educational and corporate contexts and for learners with all ranges of abilities, but after reading your post, I’m still not sure I understand the type of learner this would be best suited for. Aside from the attribute of being new to OLCs, what more can you tell me about the type of learner who would benefit most from this activity? What common learner attributes did you discover during your design thinking process together?

    You mention the activity is meant “to be implemented within an online integrated program for both educational and corporate training resources,” but I’m having a hard time picturing what this might look like. Can you elaborate on or provide a few examples of how the activity might fit with these other components of an online integrated program?

    I’m also curious how you landed on “preparing a favorite meal” for your storyboarding topic, as it relates to neither educational nor corporate contexts (unless you are a cooking school or chef). What were your intentions in selecting a “life reflection” topic? Why did you select this topic and not a topic directly related to the purpose of the OLC? What are the benefits to readers?

    Lastly, since you are asking learners to understand not only how to navigate a new OLC but also how to storyboard, what impact do you think this activity might have on your learners’ cognitive abilities to absorb the information? How might storyboarding detract from learners’ understanding of their new OLC, and how could you mitigate that impact?

    Hopefully some of those questions will help you dig deeper. Thanks for sharing!

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