writing scenario-based-training

Three Essential Steps for Writing a Compelling Learning Scenario

“What would you do?”

This is the essential question in scenario-based learning (SBL), which is why SBL is a much relied-upon tool in work-based training (WBT). While there are some obvious things to consider when building a scenario, we often run the risk of focusing so much on learning objectives that we forget some less obvious strategies that add value to learning through a scenario.

What is scenario-based training?

Scenarios as both a learning tool and as an assessment promote critical thinking and engage decision-making skills. Some tasks are best learned through scenarios: situational events trigger decision making. The trick to incorporating scenarios into an asynchronous eLearning module is that stories must be relevant.

Scenarios are excellent for soft skill development, resolving customer complaints, emergency response, and so on. For even more impact, tie it to performance to make it matter and keep the learner’s attention. When a learner sees a scenario, it becomes clear that it’s not about what they know, but rather what they should do.

There are some basic tips worth mentioning when building a scenario:

  • Focus on the result – What do you want them to learn?
  • Choose a situation that ties back to the content with some analytical aspect or extension of knowledge.
  • Include basic information and background.
  • Define the issue clearly.
  • Give plausible options; even red herrings must be viable options.

Now, on to the subtleties of building a scenario. We must understand, and tap into, the learner’s motivation.

1. A compelling story

Spark the imagination! As great as a scenario may be, a picture is worth a thousand words. There is no denying that adding a graphic to any text is more impactful and holds the reader’s attention to a greater degree than if the text were presented alone. Including dialogue is also a good way to tell a compelling story.

2. The importance of feedback

Whether or not the answer is correct, it’s important to provide meaningful feedback to the learner. For eLearning, assessment questions are typically multiple choice. For each choice, you must provide a reaction to the chosen answer, a recognition of why that answer may be a valid option, and then correct the choice with an explanation.It’s important to remember that feedback should not be used to berate anyone. Scenarios should be a safe place to learn and make mistakes. In addition to rewarding a correct response, or acknowledging an incorrect response, you can add value by either bringing content back in from the body of the eLearning or adding a statement for further reflection or consideration.Tip: Consider a pretest to see how the eLearning changes the learner’s perspective over the course of the module. Scenarios are an excellent reinforcement tool.

3. The value of emotion

An event often gets permanently ingrained into your psyche when emotion is involved, while an event without emotion is easily forgotten. If you get the learner to identify and empathize with the situation, you’ve tapped into a part of the brain that increases retention significantly. The key is that it must be something they need to solve or care about. Empathy is not the only means by which we can evoke emotion.A situation with a sense of urgency, a sense of intensity or a certain air of stress will also engage the learner in a similar way. The key? Make the learner care.

Why do learning scenarios work?

Scenarios are a form of storytelling, and everyone loves a good story! The learner’s memories are often triggered, and empathy is evoked. Scenarios allow the learner to believe that this is a situation that is quite possible for them and places a certain importance on the content they are learning.  Most importantly, it gives them a safe place to make mistakes, and truly learn. If you have a tip for creating a compelling learning scenario, please let us know in the comments.

Happy writing!

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