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Tips & Tricks on Scenario Based Learning

Let's introduce a scenario, shall we?

We have already discussed 'how' to implement storytelling and 'how' adaptive e-Learning could work by using branched scenarios. But let's take a few steps back here and go to the core of Scenario-Based Learning (SBL). 

1. What is Scenario-based learning?

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“Scenario-based learning is (according to CLPD, University of Adelaide): 

  • a methodology which aims to promote deep learning and awareness
  • by involving participants in realistic critical incidents
  • where they are forced to consider a wide range of factors,
  • make decisions
  • and reflect on the outcomes and what they have learned from this."

Which learning theory supports scenario-based learning?

SBL finds its basis in the principles of

  • Situated Learning theory: learning best takes place in the context where it will be applied. Think about a safety training regarding Legionella on a specific plant. When training them on the dangers of the bacteria, incorporate a specific location of the plant in your training.
  • and Situated Cognition theory: people’s knowledge is constructed within and linked to the activity, context, and culture in which it was learned. Knowing is inseparable from doing. According to this theory, people learn as a result of increasingly effective performances across situations, not by accumulating knowledge.

2. When can you implement SBL?

SBL can be successful when focusing on problem-solving skills for non-routine tasks, simulating real-world practice, where decision-making and critical thinking is required. 

In the aXles model of Arboth, we would introduce scenarios when people need to eXperience and eXperiment. Depending on the choices of the learner (= learning-centric), the information’s structure would alter (= Instructional Design).  The learner will need to apply what he/she already knows and learns new skills while doing.



Advantages of SBL?

  • First of all, if skill development is your goal, scenarios are a valid option!
  • The learners get to participate in real life experiences. Knowing is doing!
  • A safe environment is provided where the learners can experiment.
  • Learning from real-life examples maximizes learner engagement and knowledge retention.
  • Scenarios help people transfer what they’ve learned to new tasks.

Disadvantages of SBL?

  • SBL is no holy grail. It works best when learning non-routine tasks, to improve critical thinking. But when you need to teach routine tasks, it is better to look for other methods than SBL.
  • It can be quite time-consuming to build proper scenarios. It will require the SME’s time to actively work with the Instructional Designer to construct accurate real-life examples.

3. Examples of scenario-based learning? What can it look like?

Minimal scenarios

Scenarios don't always have to be elaborate stories. Let's look at the outbreak of the Legionella bacteria in a chemical plant environment. What do employees need to do next on the plant?

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Every time the learner takes a wrong turn in the training, this leads to the wider spread of the bacteria. The user needs to be corrected, taken a step back in the scenario and given feedback. He can now restart from that point. This is quite straightforward for the learner and for the Instructional Designer to build. There is only 100% correct or 100% false.

Complex scenarios

But what if your scenario provides a multitude of paths to follow, all varying degrees of right or wrong. The learner is guided from one end of the training to the other, by their previous actions, replies to questions etc.

Let’s have a look at the outbreak of the bacteria again, from this point of view. Once again, the user needs to stop the bacteria from spreading. When he takes a wrong turn, depending on the gravity of the error made, the learner will be guided to a supervisor for additional information. The learner is now able to correct the mistakes in following steps. This is a more complex scenario for the learner and for the Instructional Designer to build.

Scenario-building tools:

  • As e-Learning professionals, we use Articulate Storyline to build interactive e-Learning modules. (Interested in a demo? Contact us here.)
  • But as a novice, you could also experiment with your well-known presentation tool: PowerPoint (by using hyperlinks to jump from one slide to the other).
  • Or download Powerpoint's free tool: Office Mix.
  • Other mind mapping tools such as FreeMind and Twine also help to gather your ideas and build branches.

Learn More

When gamifying learning, scenarios create authentic, specific situations that are realistic and recognizable for the learner. They draw attention. Our colleague, Wout Verhoeven, will share his gamified scenario set-up for a GDPR-awareness training in the coming days. 

What about you?

  • Did you build a scenario using PowerPoint Mix or Twine?
  • What were your thoughts while creating the scenario?
  • What did you struggle with?
  • What helped you build the scenario?
  • What did you learn along the way?
  • Do you have specific recommendations for peers?
  • Sharing is caring 😉