A big part of my work as both a UX and an Instructional Designer is creating scenarios. Scenarios are awesome ways to engage people, promote their decision making skills, and to help them apply the acquired knowledge through practice. Scenarios, in the case of eLearning, (my forte) can help students get the idea of different real-life situations that they may encounter, and equip them with problem-solving skills to make sound judgments in such complex situations. My current client, asked me to run a “How to create a winning scenario workshop” so I thought, I would share the key points with you all. I might even put up the PowerPoint.

Keep it simple: I guess it is common sense really, use simple and direct language to avoid confusion and keep attention from wandering off. Luring people with jargon-filled description is not really successful and may diminish the effectiveness of your scenario in supporting the related material or in the case of learning, core objective. So, present the material clearly and to the point.

Make it relevant: Scenarios are sometimes a great way to gauge the persons’ understanding of the subject matter. The best way to create scenarios is according to the information presented in the course and help learners practice and apply that information by completing the scenarios or follow them in the journey, sort of like a “choose your own adventure” approach. I found technique has worked a lot for me in many cases. Just look at the Young Workers stuff I worked on.

Try make it realistic: Come on, it goes without saying, scenarios should be closely related to real-life situations so that people can see accurate representations of the world in that scenario, understand its relevance to them, and are interested in the outcome. Similarly, the choices should reflect the real-life answers and could be thought-provoking. For example, as you know, I did a lot of medical based training, so say woman mistakenly ate a food to which she is allergic, your answer options may expand beyond simply calling an ambulance or consulting with her family members or friends who are present. Should you open her purse to see if she carries emergency allergy medicine? Should you check her phone for an emergency contact number? Should you stay on the sidelines, hoping there is a doctor in the area, not wanting to make a wrong or misinterpreted move? Real life can have complicated choices.

Make it motivational: This part is the tricky part, I admit, but I find that scenarios should be motivating and closely linked with the learning objectives of the course. Try and adopt a story-like approach when writing scenarios yet avoiding lengthy boring text. Grab learner’s attention by adding risk-filled situations and challenging elements and keep the students alert with unexpected outcomes. I did a class in university on cinema and dramatic tension, which has actually helped a lot.

Use decent feedback: Good Instructional Designers like me try write interesting and useful feedback so that the learner will read it and use that information, instead of simply the words like “Correct, well done!”. Also, I have found that adding the importance of each action helps the learner understand the content at a deeper level.

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