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What Is Scenario-Based Learning? How to Create Scenarios?

Scenario-based learning is an instructional strategy that focuses on learning through experience. Learn more about SBL with this article.

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With our increasing reliance on computers, we no longer consider memorization of boring facts as a skill. Instead, it is better to leave such details to computer storage. Rather, in today's world, complex decision-making and critical thinking are the primary skills. Scenario-based learning - aka SBL - is a critical learning strategy that enables learners to make calculated decisions.

What is Scenario-based learning?

SBL is an eLearning instructional strategy that makes use of real-life situations and teaches learners via simulations. In this manner, learning becomes several times more interactive, fun, and impactful.

The strategy takes from the works and ideas of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. They proposed the situated learning theory back in 1991, stating that the most effective learning is context-dependent.  Having a relevant context or a story joins the points together to create a bigger picture. Then, it is this bigger picture that helps learners make sense of things and remember them for longer.

Knowledge retention is a constant struggle for people. In fact, the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus shows that people forget up to 70% of what they learn within a matter of 24 hours. Hence, it is nearly impossible to retain all of what we learn daily. SBL is a smart strategy that offers an optimal and east solution to this crisis.

scenario-based learning
Image courtesy of Petra Mayer & Associates

Scenario-based learning is not just about simulation games, but rather includes an immersive complex decision-making experience. It provides you with a real-life case but without real risks involved, hence making it a safe learning alternative.

See Also: How to become a learning organization in 2022.

Benefits of Scenario-based learning

  • Increases learner participation: The idea is pretty simple; you enjoy while learning, and you learn better. So is also true for SBL. Since it is active interaction is a prerequisite for learning, engagement also improves alongside. Moreover, the activity is immersive in a fun way which takes off any burden on learners, hence they are more willing to engage.
  • Teaches practical learning: The very premise of SBL is to enable individuals in the art of decision-making. By presenting scenarios with multiple options to choose from with consequences, learners learn how to think and choose on a logical basis. This prepares students to function in the real world beyond the learnings of classrooms.
  • Improves self-confidence: An essential feature of scenario-based learning is that it doesn't shy away from failures. Instead, it teaches learners to learn from their failures. In this way, there is no right or wrong decision, only learning opportunities. By eradicating the fear of failure, it strengthens one's self-confidence in their abilities.

How to create scenarios for SBL?

The key components of designing a scenario for scenario-based learning are where, who, and what. These three words help in focusing the content per the requirements of SBL. Where determines the setting of the scenario; location, environment, etc, whereas who looks at the people involved. Lastly, what focuses on the content of the scenario i.e. what is happening.

These pointers help in making a story that connects the dots for learners to get the hang of concepts. In a way, scenario-based eLearning allows fake learning where one can learn in a safe and controlled environment. For instance, think of hazard or safety training. It is not advisable to train people for emergency situations with real experiences. That's why simulations come in handy here.

The best and the most popular format for scenario-based learning to follow is video-content. The following section looks at sample templates on how to design the best scenarios for video-led SBL.

SBL Templates

The infamous online course creator, Rued Riis came up with these three sectional templates for designing scenario-based learning. The three templates are; right/wrong, right/left, and decision-tree scenarios.

In the case of the right/wrong template, the video follows a scenario with two simpler options, one being the correct one and the other being wrong. Choosing an option takes you toward the outcomes of the decision. This model is simple and that is also its weakness. Since on-the-job situations are seldom ever that simple, a more suitable template for them is the right/left one. However, the right/wrong option is perfect for ethics training in offices.

As for the right/left template, it also follows the same option strategy as the previous template. But the choices are based on consequences instead of right or wrong answers. For every decision, you have to deal with the consequences and determine if they offer the best learning outcome or not. These outcomes act as feedback. The advantage of this template is that it can fit together with multiple scenarios.

Third and the final template option is the decision tree. This one is about creating custom pathways linking multiple options together. It is quite likely that at some point you have come across the advertisement for the mobile game 'Choices' - I know it is not the most ideal example but the game follows that the decision tree strategy perfectly. There one decision keeps leading you further into a set of decisions and related outcomes.  

Understand, apply, and reflect

Regardless of which template you go for, one essential thing to keep in mind is that they should follow the 'understand, apply, and reflect' loop based on Krathwohl's levels of learning objectives. It is about ensuring that learners not only understand the content in-depth but also have the practical knowledge for its application. Finally, for every decision they make, they should get constructive feedback for assistive reflection.

SBL training
Krathwolh's levels of learning objectives

Protip: An easy and free way of developing these choices-linked videos is via Youtube's end screen option. Simple link the options at the end of a scenario that will lead them towards the other videos. Another great feature is that of video embedding in LMS platforms. You can use it in the same way as YouTube.  

Examples of scenario-based learning

Learning via dialogues

Compliance training can otherwise be uninteresting. Interacting with new people, integrating into a new atmosphere, and learning new tasks can be unnerving for newcomers. Moreover, senior employees are also busy taking around new recruits on a training tour. Hence, a dialogue-centric video scenario is a perfect solution to this.  People can virtually interact with and learn from their team members by having conversations. Also, works great for people with social anxiety.

Real-world scenario videos

This category is ideal for safety training. Now you do not have to have a real fire break out to train people for dealing with it. You can also do so virtually. Create real-life virtual simulations where people have to act fast but since there is no life hazard, it makes for safe and effective learning. An added feature can also be VR gadgets to make things more real and fun.

Scenarios for skill training

Such scenarios are specific to training people in some specific skill. For instance, collaboration is a skill essential to working in office teams, so you can create scenarios where an individual has to collaborate in a team and make decisions together with them.  This is a great way to learn collaborative skills via remote learning.

Scenarios for technical knowledge training

Every now and then, organizations require employees to learn new software and enrich their technical knowledge for improved work performance. This can be tough for people trying to figure out complex software on without necessary guidance. Hence, scenario building can enable them to make proper use of software and gadgets. A more common example of this type of training can be driving simulations for learner drivers where they learn how to parallel park without the real hassle.

Sum up

Scenario-based learning is not only efficient and easy to follow but it is a lot of fun for learners too. And since we are pretty familiar that when one enjoys something they are likely to pursue it more and learn from it more. SBL has truly innovated the dimensions of learning and corporate training. One can learn and gain so much experience without ever having to physically live it.  Try it for yourselves and make your learning experience multidimensional.

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