Instructional Design

Learn Your Lines: Training Scenarios for Award-Winning Courses

Scenario-based Learning: Training Scenarios for Successful eLearning

Automation is threatening to replace human jobs – the ones that we have today. We have no other choice but to upgrade ourselves with skills that will make us more competitive and relevant in the future workforce. Two of what would be the most sought-after skills are critical thinking and problem-solving.

With this in mind, how do we foster and develop these competencies in today’s workplace? We, of course, start with training our learners using a methodology that is known to develop both. The answer? Scenario-based learning, or SBL, is an approach that develops both critical thinking and problem-solving.

As early as now, it’s a good idea to start prepping our workforce to compete in the inevitable, automated future. And one of the best ways to ensure our learners’ preparedness is adopting an SBL approach to our current training courses.

What is Scenario-Based Learning (SBL)?

SBL is a learning principle that puts more emphasis on context rather content. It posits that competencies are best realized when learning takes place in the context in which it will be applied. Simply put, it means that people learn best when they apply a skill in scenarios that require it – hence the namesake.

To reiterate an aforementioned point, these interactive scenarios are used to solicit responses from our learners. These solutions then allow our learners to demonstrate their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

When is Scenario-Based Learning Applicable?

There are numerous applications for SBL. However, it is most effective when used with cases based on actual, rather than hypothetical, scenarios. These learning experiences become more valuable for our learners as they not only get to experience the situation first-hand but are actually required to solve them and develop the needed skills in the process.

Training scenarios that require handling complex situations are the best instances for employing scenario-based learning. It’s due to the fact that these scenarios are usually non-linear in nature and the parameters often change depending on our learners’ responses.

From the learners’ choices, more complex situations that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills to resolve would arise. In these occasions, we can also use scenario-based learning to gauge our learners’ skills. These evaluations can either be in the form of formative or summative assessments.

Is SBL for you?

If you’re still unsure if SBL is the way to go, here are five questions you can ask yourself. These help you find out if SBL is the right approach for the next course you’re planning to create – or if it’s a fit for your training program.

· Is skill-building and development of problem-solving skills a major part of your training strategy?

· Can the scenario-based training examples be simulated in a controlled environment?

· Do your learners have, at least, the basic skills to aid them in resolving the situation?

· Do you have the resources (time, effort, funding, etc.) to create, advance, and pilot a scenario-based approach?

· Will the required skills and your content remain relevant long enough to warrant employing an SBL approach?

If your answer to all five questions is a resounding ‘yes,’ then, congratulations! Scenario-based learning is definitely a fit for your training program or course!

How do you create Scenario-Based eLearning?

To be honest, applying SBL on eLearning can be quite a challenge. This is due to the dynamic nature of real-life scenarios. Because of this, SBL course creation can take up a lot of time and effort.

For example, instead of just creating linear slides, you now have to concern yourself with different scenario branches (meaning more slides) – and this is just for one decision point!

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that making SBL eLearning is impossible. We just need to follow these five steps to ensure that our scenario-based eLearning is effective and our learners can get the most out of it.

1. Begin with the end in mind

Like any other course development and instructional design methodology, when you create SBL eLearning courses, you also need to begin with the end in mind. You first need to determine your measurable outcomes and goals. You can then base the course context on those; then develop your content from there.

2. Choose the appropriate media

How are you planning to deliver the course? Are you employing a synchronous or an asynchronous approach? Will you use interactive lessons? How about video, audio, or images? If you plan to set up an online course, will you include other active learning activities such as wikis, forums, or social media discussions?

You always need to make sure that the most appropriate media for the course, audience, and scenario are used. Also, take note that eLearning may not always be the best approach. There are times when a ‘traditional,’ face-to-face session in a classroom is what’s needed for the course to be more effective.

3. Choose an appropriate topic

When we say ‘choose a topic,’ we didn’t mean to literally choose whatever topic you want. Always remember that employing scenario-based learning would require our learners to criticize, assess, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and act on a situation.

Scenarios that result to just following company standard operating procedures are not good topic choices. Using those would only let a learner demonstrate knowledge of procedures, rather than be encouraged to use critical thinking and problem-solving.

The best topics for SBL would be common issues and critical incidents outside the SOPs. Furthermore, a good scenario involves a learner to ‘look beyond the rulebook.’ Such scenarios will require our learners to a do a full assessment of the situation and utilize their scenario-based problem-solving skills before taking any course of action.

4. Determine the trigger event

A trigger event is the starting point of scenario-based learning in a course. This is the part where our learners are presented with the situation that needs a resolution. Moreover, it is also the point in the course where most of the ‘branching’ happens. And in terms of eLearning creation, this is the part where most of the time and effort gets allocated.

Much like creating any other eLearning course, the best way to organize trigger events is through the use of a storyboard. During the storyboarding phase, you need to make sure that each slide contains a detailed outline of what’s going to be portrayed.

Also, pay good attention to the slides that branch out. You not only get to track the flow of the course, but you can also ensure smooth transitions between different scenarios.

5. Solicit feedback

Most learning professionals strategically work with subject matter experts to ensure the quality of training programs. The same practice also goes with creating scenario-based learning activities.
Subject matter experts ensure that the content presented is accurate, relevant, and realistic. No qualities are more important than these for SBL courses. We always need to make sure that the scenarios we are presenting to our learners are actually happening in the real world.

The best people to get help and feedback from are those who have experienced the exact same situation you are trying to simulate. Not only will they be able to give the solution (or possible solutions) to the issue, but they can give input on the different branching scenarios too.

Why Scenario-Based Learning?

There is a saying that “At the end of the day, we always go back to the ‘why.’” There should always be a reason why we do the things we do. And in terms of SBL, do we really need it and why?

The answer is ‘Yes, we need it now – even more than ever!’

Gone are the days when expertise and technical proficiency ensure a good career. With advances in both robotics and AI gaining ground in leaps and bounds within the past few years, tasks that mostly require craftsmanship and knowledge are already on the way to be automated.

There are skills though that robots aren’t good at. Competencies such as critical thinking and problem-solving – abilities that somehow can’t be reproduced accurately through algorithms (yet) – will become our competitive advantage. And it’s a good idea that as early as now, we adapt our learning strategies to foster and develop these skills.

With that said, employing a scenario-based training approach will be one of the keys to being competitive in the future workforce. And who knows? Maybe sometime soon there’ll be new job titles like ‘Chief Problem-Solving Officer” or “Critical Thinking Ninja.”

With the way things are today, it sure seems like we’re headed towards that direction.