My mother is a wonderful storyteller! One of the first stories she told us was that of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ emphasizing the value of speaking the truth, and the consequence of telling a lie, even if it was a prank. The lesson learned is lifelong.
We are all aware of the impact stories can have. Be it teaching values or building a bridge with audiences via storytelling, stories can be effective if used discreetly.
Scenario-based learning leverages this aspect of storytelling with a little more contextual support. It mimics real-life situations in ways that are relatable to the learner and influences them to make decisions based on probability. Scenarios may not be a complete story in themselves, but they could combine the ‘what ifs’ to make the entire narrative interesting and multi-dimensional. In the case of branched scenarios, learners take the role of protagonists and decision-makers to drive the course of action. At the core of it, designing scenario-based learning is about mastering the art of storytelling such that the story itself is instructionally effective.
When creating learning scenarios, consider these three facets to appeal to the learners:
- Relevance: When writing scenarios, ensure they are relevant to the learners as well as to the situation being portrayed in the course. You cannot present a scenario that might be relevant to a Manager in a training meant for a Sales Associate; or you can’t have a scenario of a baseball game in a country that’s known for its cricket or football. The learner, their role or designation, the culture of the company (or even country), etc. – would impact the way a relevant scenario is written. Even a very interesting scenario will fail if the learner starts to think, “Will I ever be in this situation?”
- Non-hypothetical: Don’t go too far with imagination to create scenarios. Consult Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to know what situations could occur or if the situation being presented is real-like. Create scenarios based on the learner’s day-to-day life experiences. Design a protagonist for the scenario who holds the power to influence the learner to make a decision or change/modify his reaction to the situation. Even though things may not have happened with consequences as intended, they should be relatable and plausible ones. For instance, in an encryption/decryption training, you shouldn’t introduce a scenario where the learner has to decipher an alien’s message.
- Consequence: End each scenario with a consequence to complete it. The path should define what would happen when a decision is made. For example, if a Sales Executive loses his cool when interacting with a rude customer, he may lose this customer and a few others too who might have been watching the two communicate, though it may not have been the Sales Executive’s fault altogether. Showing this consequence highlights the importance of the points to be communicated. Even if there is no branching, an end would summarize the impact of the action taken, highlighting the good and bad of the decision. This crafts a well-defined takeaway from the learning scenario.
In addition to this, there could be a few more things to consider while writing scenarios, such as the length of the scenario, its complexity level, etc. The key would be to keep it short, simple, and to the point. Too many aspects may dilute the message that needs to be delivered.
Here is a potential 5-question cheat sheet to help with writing scenarios for learners:
Q. Who is the learner?
A. Identifying the learner audience, while keeping learner demographics and socio-economic factors in mind, is the maiden step in creating the storyline of a scenario. He could be a new joinee or a busy manager. This helps to empathize with the learner and closely relate to the context.
Q. What exactly do the learners need to know once they complete this part of the training?
A. This must convey the objective of the training. It gives the course a direction.
Q. Does the training have an evident trigger event?
A. The trigger event sets the stage for the main ‘scenario’ and establishes the problem, conflict, or premise that characterizes the ensuing story. The trigger event should be based on the learners’ own experience; what the learner would do in that situation. Identifying and creating a realistic trigger event helps underline the conflict.
Q. When would learners not do or not do correctly what they are supposed to do?
A. This lays out the story. It covers the common mistakes that the learner should avoid doing.
Q. What are the consequences of not doing or not doing correctly?
A. This will help build an impactful scenario.
By presenting learners with a scenario that simulates a real-life situation, they not only learn how and what is to be done but can also gauge the consequence of their actions in that particular scenario, thus leaving a greater impact. Scenarios, when crafted well, can weave magic in the training ensuring more enthusiastic participation and better training outcomes.
This blog was originally published on elearningindustry.com.