Scenario Based Learning, The Time is NOW

Scenario Based Learning, The Time is NOW

It’s An Amazing is an awful course

Right now, someone is looking at the same course as you on Coursera or Udemy.  They are either thinking this is great or this is garbage.  And guess, what you are thinking the same thing.   Wow! This is great.   OR Wow, this is awful and I bought this?

Data backs up that folks either like online learning or do not like it.  There isn’t really a mid ground towards it, especially so in higher education.  

Higher Education Can Change the Narrative

I’d love to believe that if any content could be developed effectively, educationally sound and utilizing various design methods it would be in the higher ed space.

Sadly, as a whole it is not even there.   While there is a movement in edtech to change the narrative of online courses to that of skills focused, rather than theory; what hasn’t be touched is the method and mechanism, which I argue is where the focus first must go.

One of the key reasons folks in this new narrative of having higher ed go with skills based learning and not what they are doing today (and have since the 17th century) of theory and practical or just theory; is that in the world that exists now, businesses need individuals with skills in-hand ready to go.

But, when you look at academia you will see overwhelmingly the courses are synchronous based – but in corporate asynchronous based appears 90% plus.  Thus, it would make more sense to first, change the course design to asynch to align more with corporate.  I mean, sorry, but learning a skill with synchronous based design just is a big fail. 

The  hands-on approach just won’t work with Synchronous based.  So, I am calling for a new approach. 

And no it is not micro-learning.

Scenario Based Learning for HigherEd 

I have used SBL for decades and can tell you that it works in education, higher education and corporate.

Here are the steps to creating a scenario based learning course.  It should be asynchronous based – because we are creating a scenario here, and you can do this with any authoring tool on the market.

Couple of Key Points of SBL

First it can be in micro-format.   I had one built with four mini modules, each 10 min in length if someone was to go linear. They could jump around to each mod if they so choose to do so.  Could someone zing thru each mod in five minutes, sure, but as with anything it depends on their learning style (of of the reasons I am not a fan of duration mentions with courses, it totally depends on the person’s learning style, plus it ONLINE).

Second, it will take a bit more time to create the first one.   I say this because it requires you or whomever is building the course to identify the variables that need to be in each scenario. This isn’t a “let’s just put some text on this screen, with a graphic or video OR in this is a video here and …”  –  That is the old way of building courses and let me tell you on behalf of all learners – it is boring, and trust me when I say this, its a factor on why people do the click-click-click approach to taking your course.

Once you get the hang of developing and building SBLs you will start to ask yourself, “why didn’t I do this before?”

The cool part of an SBL course is it takes that information that you wan folks to takeaway and says okay, I am going to offer a set of knowledge and skill development in a fun, engaging and interactive way.  I am going to do away with “theory” only.  I am going to do away with “subjective assessment,” and I am going to do away with ILT modality via online delivery.

Higher Ed Approach for SBL

  1. Identify the real world situation you wish to place the student in (For example, let’s use MassComm)
  2. Identify all the variables that will produce a series of outcomes with that situation.

For example, let’s say the topic was covering cable and tv programming and the scenario was that folks would need to create a weekly schedule for their tv channel. 

Thus, a group of “fictitious series” were created – title, brief description, along with audience data.    Series were all types, dramas, comedies reality tv, thrillers, etc.  Each student’s tv station is provided with a “budget” and information about that station – perhaps it was an independent station, thus it could buy up syndicated programming whereas a network affiliate had to include network programming as part of their channel.   

3.  One section in that module or even it as a course itself, is the information data points you want folks to learn and retain.   Then the next chapter or page is the scenario.  In one scenario, they have an option to buy programming that are sitcoms.  The best ones are really expensive, syndicated top titles are very pricey, and then there are newbies that run the gamut.  The student clicks on each of the “programming titles” which could even show a snippet of video if you so choose, clicks an either yes or no or “buy or “decline” and the program appears in their box or area or cart.    

Another scenario is a programming lineup.  So the student, using their mouse selects the show and moves it to the time period.  They will have been provided in a previous page or pages, the info on the pros/cons of time periods and with the info they learned on the ratings and other metrics, now will be able to incorporate that info into this one scenario.

Are we talking skills?

You bet we are.  This is skill development, building, growing and expanding in a fun way.  And it is way better than an assessment which tells you only that a person memorizes or guesses well. 

I can’t think of one student who enjoys reading text in a textbook.   Or listening to a monotone professor espouse their regurgitation of information that has zero baring on real life (past or present).   Tell me about the “New World” with European settlers, and have my scenario be a boat whereas I have to decide where to land and then what do I need to do to survive, and in return I will get a sense of what it was like for those coming to this “New World”.

Explain using various pages or a page of two on the 100 Years War, then create a scenario where I choose to be a Lancaster or York.  Follow it up with a situation that as a Lancaster I have to face, in comparison to a York.  Is there common ground for us?  And if yes, what are the issues we can agree on?  If not, there is continuation of war.   For an added twist, Richard shows up, and offers one of the Lancasters (the student) to switch sides.   Does it work? 

Here I am extracting information about the past, and bringing it into the present via skill building, but still using the past as the scenario.    

If you are teaching about Cubism, then provide the key takeaways or knowledge points for people to learn about.  Next, have a screen where folks get to use their mouse and select various designs to start their canvas.   On another scenario, they meet various Cubist artists – ask them questions and the artist responds.  Maybe add the ability to web cam or record the question and the artist is another student or you (the teacher) playing that character already recorded into the course.

Corporate SBL

I have had enormous success with Scenario Based Learning.  It can be used with any subject that exists in the corporate market.  You say it can’t be done with non-profit?  I say it can (and has).  You say it can’t be done in Finance?  Yep, it can.   You say, no way for Shipping?  Yep, it can.   You say impossible for retail, I say not only yes, but YES.

You say it can’t be achieved for compliance.  I say, it can and it can be 10000 times better than anything that is out there, if you take the time to build it or have someone else build it.  

Whenever I hear about skill building, I expect to see content (online learning courses) to be utilizing scenario based learning.  And each time, I walk away disappointed.  If you have a new employee who needs to learn about various folks in the department or where to go to get this or that.   Provide the info in knowledge points and then follow it with a scenario.  

They are placed into real world, as in let’s say two weeks from their start date.  They use their mouse to select a person and ask them a series of questions – to which that person responds.  You could record the audio of that person and add it to the course.  If you are going pure video – you can do SBL.

And you do not need a production studio to do it.  Take out your smartphone, and record various situations around the office.  Role play if you need – after all you are running Training or L&D.  Then add the info for the knowledge points – it can appear as an overlay on the video or at certain point.  The learner clicks on this or that, and now they enter a scenario based on that certain point.

Guess what?  Skill building.

Oh and higher retention.

Here is what you need

Elmer’s glue – the kind you tasted as a kid to see if had a flavor.   No, no I’m kidding on the glue, unless that is something you still do. 

1. Creativity –  We all have it.   I know it is in you.  Maybe a chocolate bar helps.

2. Topic –  What are you going to cover?  Each SBL is based on only one topic and then

3. Knowledge Points  – These are the big takeaways from this topic.  I never go more than five.  If you cannot extract five “big ticket items” as we say, then go back and cull it down.   Frankly, four is ideal.  Three will work.  Anything less, tells me to dump that topic.

4. Scenarios – What will they be?  Can you incorporate all the knowledge points into one giant scenario, whereas the person will go into it, needing to have at least a baseline of some information on each knowledge point?  When you create an SBL, you want to have at least one “everything is in” scenario – this is the best way to enable folks to learn what they are learning and applying it.   But, you still include one scenario per section. 

I am learning how to deal with customers.  I am given an option of types of customers – happy, somewhat happy or angry.  Surprise, I get angry (everyone does because the scenario is about dealing with an angry customer).  In this section or mod or whatever you wish to call it, the topic is on how to diffuse a situation with a return  (notice how specific I got here?  You need to as well).  

I provide the leaner with a knowledge point – one point in this case – let’s say communication  The scenario afterwards has me using my mouse and my character changes clicks on various questions and then the customer responds.  I wish to expand that, so maybe my “employee” can select options for eye contact and the customer responds accordingly.  

Then the cycle is repeated with a new knowledge point.

Build It

Your SBL will have

a. Table of Contents  – Even if your “duration” is five minutes – you will still have a TOC. I’ve had it done with my mini mods before using SBL and it works just fine

b.  People can move around as much and often as they want.  Someone wants to jump right to the scenario, let them.  They are likely not going to go far.  

c. Go Topic-Page (Knowledge Point) – Scenario – Page – Scenario 

d.  Each page should have some level of engagement – even if it is just a mentor character popping up and helping out. 

e.  Each Scenario has to have the variables that are tied to the knowledge point.  Scenarios should be real life, real world.   For example, you can create an SBL just for managers dealing with lazy employees.    Who are your SMEs to help?  Why.. the managers!  Ignore what you can read on the net, and ask folks what are the challenges you face with laziness.

f.  Ask folks who are similar in the course.  This means, if your SBL is about new employees and clocking in; you talk to some new employees, asking them what challenges they faced or concerns, and so forth.  Ask folks that have been then no more than two months  (four weeks is better, of course), not Steve who has been then six years.    Find out the correct procedure for clocking in, now create an SBL form that.

You are changing the dynamics of the SME.  They become much more of the course or content, whereas we would usually use them for the information and then takeaway pieces from it, now you are adding their actual “experience” in that real life situation as part of the whole new way of this type of content.

Because every experience is different or can be, you incorporate that into your SBL.

Bottom Line

Scenario Based Learning is more than ever needed.   Just think what an SBL on Civility would look like.  Or one of acceptance of different ideas or opinions. 

OR one on handling criticism.

OR learning Excel or Sales or Pick/Pack in a warehouse and so forth.

The vendors who build 3rd party content can help here.  They can actually follow this SBL approach, and stop with the text driven, static or semi-static experience. 

Knowledge Reinforcement can move from just text or a video to an interactive role whereas everyone plays a part.  

Short. Right to the Point.

And Real


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Speaking of real world – I am presenting at the Litmos Corporate Virtual Summit (7/8th of Nov) (Register here for FREE) Craig_FB