Why scenario-based learning is important (4 reasons)

scenario-based learning

Ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors first passed on information on how to avoid saber tooth tigers, stories have been considered the most effective way to exchange knowledge.

Interactive scenarios are elearning’s 21st-century stories, allowing learners to participate in the narrative and influence the story’s outcome. But what makes scenarios so effective in learning? Here are four reasons why…

1. Scenarios motivate learners

Our natural curiosity draws us to the unexpected. What will happen next? Are my predictions correct? What are the long- and short-term implications of what’s just happened? Will the likeable character succeed, while the less-likeable one fail?

A well-constructed scenario will keep learners asking these questions and fuel their intrinsic motivation.

The award-winning Broken Co-Worker scenario by Elearner Engaged is a great example of this. This scenario is based on the grey area of inter-office relationships. The characters and storyline keep learners engaged and curious about how the situations will unfold. And, as in many interactive scenarios, the power of learners to influence the story just adds to the motivation.


2. Scenarios challenge learners to learn from mistakes

Connect with Haji Kamal by Kinection is another example of an interactive scenario that allows multiple branching paths through the learning process. This scenario places the learner as an advisor to an inexperienced army officer in Afghanistan.


By giving learners decision-making tools, such as a diverse range of advice and opinions from fellow officers and Afghani responses to earlier decisions, learners steer the young military officer through sensitive cultural situations.

The way the story unfolds, based on learner input, challenges learners by allowing them to make mistakes, see the impact of those mistakes and then take remedial action to recover—or make the situation even worse by making more poor decisions!

The learners’ ability to run the scenario multiple times, coming to an optimal outcome more directly as they learn from earlier mistakes, is a natural motivator and powerful learning reinforcement mechanism.

3. Scenarios recreate real-life situations in which learners can gain real-world skills and experience

Scenarios set in a contextual setting familiar to learners—or at least a setting they can imagine themselves in—allows them to more readily understand the situations presented. This also makes it easier to transfer knowledge and ideas from short-term to long-term memory. And the realistic, learner-centric context common to quality scenarios make the learners’ actions easier to transfer to the real world.

The BAFTA award winning Lifesaver ‘Crisis Simulator’ from Unit9 is a cutting-edge example of an immersive scenario. The emotive storylines and realism give learners an experience that would be difficult to replicate in other modes of elearning.


4. Scenarios allow safe exploration of risky or sensitive situations

Another important advantage of elearning scenarios is their ability to allow learners to explore situations that might be too risky, difficult, sensitive or expensive to explore in real life, or are at the extreme ends of what mainstream training might cover. And learners have the luxury of being able to repeat these experiences over and over again, without risk to themselves or others, until they are comfortable with the concepts.

Kognito provides some good examples of scenarios that deal with sensitive mental health issues, among other things. These scenarios allow learners to explore and experiment with various ways to approach these sensitive and potentially damaging situations.


In conclusion

The experiential nature of learning within a well-devised scenario allows learners to participate in the situation they’re learning about and exercise their problem-solving skills.

They also tap into many basic human emotions and tick several of the boxes that make gamification such a potent learning device. This makes scenarios a very powerful tool in the L&D team’s arsenal. And the good news is that modern elearning authoring tools, like Elucidat, allow you to build branching scenarios easily.

You’ve seen some great examples in this post. Have you come across others? If you have, share them in the comments below along with what you especially like about them.

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