Scenarios play an integral part in much of the elearning content that we produce here at GLAD. While creating relevant and engaging scenarios isn’t always an easy task, the effort is well worth the reward. The best scenarios in elearning complement the information contained in a course and also provide a range of benefits – for both the learner and the organisation they work for.
Scenario-based learning is part of a wider branch of learning methods called guided discovery, which is regarded by many experts as more effective than standard forms of learning because it encourages independent thinking while still providing guidance, structure and focused goals. Think of it like learning to ride a bike. At first you need someone to hold onto the saddle and offer some help, but in a short period of time you feel confident that you can do it alone.
One of the biggest plus points of using scenarios is that they allow your content to come alive. By making the learning process as realistic as possible and by placing the learner at the centre of the course, they become emotionally engaged in what they are doing. This makes it far easier for learners to absorb content, and then retain and use that information when required.
Scenarios in elearning help to accelerate expertise by compressing the real-world experience that a learner would gain into a much shorter time period. Learners are able to make important decisions, implement them and experience the repercussions all within one exercise. Scenarios also give the learner the opportunity to experience the consequences of their decisions, but without any real-life outcomes. In other words they provide a safe place to fail, allowing learners to ‘fall forward’. This gives them the confidence to make decisions – whether right or wrong – which in turn helps to build the capacity to correct mistakes as they would have to in real life. This increased speed of learning and consequence-free environment is particularly useful in industries such as healthcare and engineering, where knowing correct protocols are of extremely high importance.
Finally, scenarios are a very versatile tool. They can be adapted and applied to almost any elearning topic. The basic format of a scenario can remain the same, but its depth and detail can be increased to match the complexity of the course it is part of.
Branching Scenarios in elearning
More detailed elearning scenarios are known as branching scenarios. They are a bit like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story because they contain a series of decision points. Make the correct decisions and you reach a successful conclusion; make poor decisions and you have to deal with the consequences. The best branching scenarios also allow learners to make their way back onto the right path if they take a wrong turn. This encourages the use of critical thinking skills and requires learners to access previously learned knowledge.
Branching scenarios in elearning work especially well when content is complicated, as they give learners the chance to explore first-hand what can go wrong, as well as how to do things right. They therefore have less chance of making the same mistakes on the job. They also work well when the content of a course is quite dull or dry, such as a compliance elearning course, by making it more fun and entertaining.
As well as being beneficial to the learner, the use of branching scenarios also enables organisations to see where the gaps are in their employees’ knowledge and tailor any future training effectively.
The two key words that are applicable to all of the best scenario-based elearning are relevant and engaging.
If the scenario isn’t relevant then the learner will gain no benefit from it. It is crucial that it relates to something that the learner does on a daily basis and that its content is accurate. If something doesn’t ring true a learner will quickly lose trust in what they are supposed to be learning.
If it isn’t engaging then the learner will struggle to complete it, and probably won’t commit what they have learnt to memory. The content of the scenario therefore has to be pitched at the right level – make it too easy or too difficult and the learner loses interest.
Learning through scenarios is inductive rather than instructive. This mean that the emphasis is on learning from a series of experiences by taking the correct action, reviewing your responses to those actions, and then reflecting on the consequences.
Whilst scenarios are often intended to increase the fun factor of an elearning course, they still must complement what has gone before by reinforcing learning objectives and desired knowledge outcomes. There must still be right and wrong answers but the important point is that the learner has had the opportunity to apply their own knowledge rather than just being shown the right or wrong answer.
At GLAD we offer great range of elearning solutions, including courses with brilliant scenarios. If you’d like to know more about how we can help your business, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter.