Scenario-Based eLearning

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Scenario-based learning (or SBL) is having a moment in eLearning training design and development. Research suggests that this form of learning is quite powerful in achieving learning outcomes and engendering both knowledge retention and transfer. Media Learning Systems has had considerable success when it comes to designing and implementing SBL, especially with our clients who require a skills-based learning approach for their employees. This form of learning allows people to make decisions in situations which may have more than one path to success or where a wrong decision has consequences that may impact the final outcome of a given scenario.

Will a one-scene mini-scenario be enough, or do you need to invest the (considerable!) time in creating a branching scenario?

Keep reading to discover the differences between Mini Scenarios and Branching Scenarios...

Mini Scenarios: Multiple Choice (With a Twist)!

A mini-scenario is one self-contained multiple choice question. It gives you a realistic challenge; you make your choice, and then see the consequence. The consequence is a valuable opportunity for learning and growth despite being incorrect.

The following is an example of a mini scenario question:

You receive a call from an irate customer who is demanding to speak to the manager because she was overcharged for last month’s bill. You should first:

  1. Ask her to please calm down and if she does not then end the call
  2. Transfer immediately to the manager
  3. Apologize for the inconvenience and ascertain where the mischarge was made
  4. Apologize and refund the money in question

If the student were to select option ‘B’ for instance, the feedback would say “In our company, call representatives should always try to resolve the issue first before escalating to the shift supervisor. Next time, try to deal with the matter at hand first before getting a manager involved. You may be surprised to find the solution is quite straightforward and easy to resolve on your own!”

The feedback shows the consequences. It doesn’t just say, “Incorrect. Please try again!”

A mini scenario involves just one decision. You can make a mini-scenario using any multiple-choice question tool that lets you provide unique feedback for each option. It can be long or short, but it’s just one decision, so it’s a mini-scenario. These questions may take more work and thought to construct, but the benefits to student retention and transfer are immeasurable.

String them together to create a real-world scenario.

A series of mini-scenario questions can be strung together to create what feels like a story, but the consequence of one decision doesn’t determine how the next decision is made. In this way, the quiz is still a series of pre-determined questions like a traditional multiple choice; however, each question has what feels like the progression of a storyline as the learner works through a real-world scenario possibly encountered in the workplace.

Branching Scenarios or as I call them: “Choose Your Own Adventure”

A branching scenario contains multiple questions (“decision points”). The consequence of one decision affects the next decision. These quizzes are set up in a way that the old Choose Your Own Adventure books were back in the 80s. Two people going through the same branching scenario could see different questions and story lines as the adventure is worked through and the consequences lead to further questions.

When designing branching questions, here are some points to consider:

  • Limit the incorrect branching paths to 2-3 questions since it is the incorrect path and we do not want to reinforce incorrect decisions.
  • Branching questions are complex and must be planned well using a decision tree program to properly lay everything out.
  • Conventional tools like Articulate are not equipped to handing complex branching quizzing so another custom tool may be required to house the quiz.
When to Use Branching

Branching scenarios are useful when a decision made at one point determines the input for a decision made later. A classic example is a tricky conversation in which you ask the wrong question, limiting the information you have to work with in a later part of the discussion.

They help people practice:

  • Recognizing and recovering from mistakes, especially when the recovery might require several decisions
  • Making decisions in extended, ambiguous situations
  • Deciding when to stop gathering information and act

A common mistake is to assume you need a branching scenario if you want people to practice an elaborate process. However, you need branching only if:

There are multiple grey areas — multiple decision points where people make a judgment call that can pull them on or off track. Decisions made at one point limit or expand the options available at another point. People commonly make a mistake at one point in the process and need to recognize and recover from it later.

If you require more information on this or any other eLearning enhancement you would like to explore, please feel free to reach out to Media Learning Systems and we can assist you with taking your learning to the next level!

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