scenario-based learning

E-learning is evolving with time to present learners with more options that better answer their needs and boost their knowledge. Adaptive learning is one of the ways to boost the overall learning experience and increase engagement and retention. Content translation and localization allows a module to reach a broader audience and serve better the purpose of educating by providing relevant examples.  

One of the ways to immerse the learners into the context of the e-learning module is by telling a story. Using scenarios and providing the learner with options to choose how the story unfolds is a great way of learning that has many benefits.  

Types of Scenario-Based Learning 

While scenario-based learning may be the right solution for your college class or international company, it is also highly important to decide on the right type of scenario that will help you achieve your goals. We can differentiate between two types of scenarios: 

  • Mini scenarios 

Mini scenarios deal with one particular problem or skill and help the learner perfect it. They are suitable for straightforward learning as they set a scene, pose a question with several options and then present the consequences of your choice. The learner is allowed to make a choice only once and then the story ends. The learner receives feedback related to their choice and then moves to another mini-scenario. 

To some extent, mini scenarios resemble multiple-choice questions. Unlike them, however, they position the learner in a real-life situation with some background details and then pose the problem. There are one decision and one solution, which can be either the deserved one or the wrong ending.  Mini scenarios are useful to promote the problem-solving abilities of the learners.  

In a mini-scenario, the learner can go over the situation again and exhaust all possible options in order to check the respective outcome.  

  • Branching scenarios  

Branching scenarios are more complicated in their essence and challenge a set of skills and knowledge acquired or already possessed by the learner. One decision leads to a different story and determines how a scene evolves and what options remain open to the learner. Branching scenarios promote critical thinking and make e-learning more efficient. As the story unfolds, the learners are presented with more and more options and choices and can put their knowledge into practice.  

A branching scenario usually consists of three parts – a description of the specific situation in which the learners are placed, a question with a few options that take the learners on a quest and each answer faces them with new options, and feedback, which is mostly provided at the end of the entire story but can also be included after each or several questions are answered (this option is recommended for less experienced learners).  

As a whole, mini-scenarios are much easier to create – they do not require as much resources and time like branching scenarios, which are quite complicated. No matter which type you choose for the creation of your next e-learning course, the importance is that you will engage your learners actively in the learning process and enhance the overall experience thus increasing their engagement and retention levels.  

How to Design a Scenario-Based Training Module 

There are many approaches to creating scenario-based modules but the main principle is to create a story that is realistic and contains authentic details. The goal of the scenarios is to provide the learners with the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in practice. The learning module gives them a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them without having to face the unpleasant consequences of real life.  

When constructing a scenario-based module you need to approach it as writing a novel – set up a plot, invent characters, decide on the climax and the resolution. With branching scenarios, you need a more complex plot with subplots, where each decision takes you on a different path. 

Learners exercise their critical thinking and have the option to explore different paths in order to reach the end of the story. 

It is important to include feedback and to explain in details what led to the negative outcome. Scenarios are great for making mistakes in a safe environment and learning from them. 

Basic Benefits of Scenario-Based Learning  

There are many benefits of scenario-based learning whether you use mini or branching scenarios. It is a great learning approach both for students and workers as it gives a chance to experience a real-life situation and face complex, sensitive or complicated ideas and issues in an environment where it is safe to err. 

Some of the main advantages of this type of learning can be summarized as follows: 

  • Scenarios motivate learners to continue. They draw upon our natural curiosity to see what will happen next and how things can change if we take a different approach. 
  • Scenarios challenge learners. They present them with the option to use their knowledge in practice and challenge them to make mistakes and learn from them. 
  • Scenarios engage the learners. They make you become part of the story. You feel that you are in charge and that your decisions matter. Scenarios evoke emotions, which are beneficial for knowledge retention. 
  • Scenarios provide a safe environment for risky situations. They give the option to experience real-life situations in a simulated environment. Learners are faced with tough decisions and can see how they can react under pressure. Scenario-based modules allow checking your knowledge and skills in situations, which would be quite dangerous to experiment in real life – such as saving a human life, coping with fire, reacting to racism or violence, etc.  
  • Scenarios trigger the learner’s memories and build strong links in the brain that we can rely upon in real life.  
  • Scenarios facilitate community building and bonding among the learners. By providing shared context, scenario-based modules help the learners work together and build strong relations. 

Why is Scenario-Based Learning Important?  

Scenario-based learning is important because of the benefits it offers to learners. Its main asset is the opportunity to exercise your skills and apply your knowledge in practice. You can make mistakes without having to face the repercussions of real life. The learners can explore different options and see the possible outcomes. With the help of feedback, they learn new tactics and polish their skills so that when faced with the same situation in real life they can cope with it in the best possible way. 

Scenario-based learning is one of the best approaches when it comes to empowering the learners and making them feel that they are in the center of the learning process. It gives the option to test your skills and find out how a situation can evolve depending on a single decision or set of choices and then use the conclusions and experience in real life.  


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