How and Why Scenarios are Important in e-Learning


Scenarios are a valuable learning tool that also happen to be very simple to include in employee training, through the use of a learning management system. With the rise of LMS-based employee training, employers have new opportunities to provide exciting, inventive and cutting-edge training that’s simultaneously extremely useful. This type of engaging training typically includes scenarios.

What is a Scenario or Scenario-Based Learning?Professional Development - Business Concept. Green Arrow with "Webinar" slogan on a grey background. 3D Render.

First things first. What is learning through the use of scenarios?

In general terms, outside of the specifics of e-Learning or online training, scenario-based learning refers to the practice of involving learners in realistic situations where the goal is problem-solving. Essentially your employees are given situations that could and do happen in the real world. Then they’re asked to use their knowledge and training to determine the correct approach to addressing whatever that situation may be.

Scenarios can include a problematic situation that needs to be remedied, a case study, a story or a first-hand narrative.

A few ways a scenario could be delivered in an online training format might include a written case study, an animation, or a video using live actors. It could also be as simple as written details that outline a particular situation.

One important element of scenarios is that their effectiveness is really rooted in the details. Scenarios are designed to engage learners on a deep level and simultaneously evoke an emotional response that can lead to changes in behavior. This means it’s important to define not only a particular situation but also roles, attitudes and relationships that are part of the scenario. The thought is that the more realistic a scenario is, the more it’s going to resonate and the more effective it will be in the employee training process.

The Benefits of Scenario-Centric Learning

We’re often discussing the importance of linking employee training to real world situations. One of the biggest reasons corporate training fails is because it doesn’t feel to employees as if it’s connected to their real daily life, their jobs, and their performance.

And truthfully it often isn’t.

Scenarios can help overcome this hurdle because they are based in real-world situations. It’s easy to draw parallels between a scenario and the importance of employee training. Think of it this way:  if you’re struggling to have your manufacturing employees be interested in safety and compliance training, what will be more effective? Choice A represents e-Learning that consists merely of slides and information. With this choice, they’re likely to quickly zone out, and training loses most, if not all meaning. Now think about Choice B in which learners are presented with a real life situation, perhaps one that was dangerous and emotional. They’re then asked what they would do when faced with that situation. That heightened sense of emotional involvement draws the employee into training and makes it feel tangible and significant.

Training can often feel theoretic. Scenarios take that theoretical concept away and instead create training that’s interactive.

Scenarios are also learner-centric. The person you’re training is the one driving the bus, so to speak. The learner is taking in information, digesting it at their own pace and in their own way and then determining their own approach. It provides a sense of empowerment for learners and lets them guide their learning and development process.

When emotion is added to learning it not only makes it more engaging at the moment, but it’s also been shown to improve retention. Adult learning theory highlights how important emotionality is when it comes to not only comprehending but also retaining corporate and business training.

Scenarios also happen to be the perfect way for learners to make mistakes, which are valuable in the learning process, without potentially detrimental consequences.

Finally, when scenarios are added to a learning management system, learners are immediately able to utilize and apply their knowledge. Rather than relying on something like a quiz to determine the effectiveness of training, scenarios are an ideal way to gauge how well training is going for employees.

Tips for Creating e-Learning Scenarios

Before you begin, one of the best things you can do is get to know your learners, their jobs and their daily lives in the workplace. Taking this time to understand what they’re facing is going to help you tailor scenarios that are actually going to speak to their needs, and be a more useful training tool. You should also get to know them on a deeper personal level because this will let you know how to trigger a more emotional response when you’re building a scenario. Of course you don’t want to take advantage of their emotionality or go overboard, but you certainly want to present a scenario that has meaning and relevance.

child with computer a over white background

When you’re designing a scenario, it’s also important to keep it simple and straightforward. For example, while details are vital, you don’t want to provide so many details that the point of the scenario becomes muddled or lost in translation. Give them enough details to understand the situation and be able to make an informed decision, but not so many details they’re unable to see the point of training. Branching scenarios tend to be more complex, and that’s fine for many situations, but just be aware of going too far in your descriptions and build-up of the situation.

Consider adding a timer to the scenario, particularly if you want to invoke a bit of stress to the situation. Stress can be a good training method, as long as it’s not too overwhelming. Adding a timer can get the creativity flowing in a way that’s going to make training more efficient.

If the situation permits, allow learners to remedy mistakes they may make during the use of scenarios. Many situations that workers face on the job can be fixed, and scenarios should reflect this. This will give employees the opportunity to delve into a myriad of options and see the results for each. In a progressive or branching scenario, you may require that the learner correct his or her decisions before she’s able to move to the next step.

Another final tip is to include debriefing. Once a scenario is complete, give learners the opportunity to review their own performance. Allow them to see where they’ve come up short and where they’ve excelled. You may even consider providing virtual feedback from either instructors or other employees.

Are scenarios something you incorporate into your learning management system? If so, do you see them as a valuable training tool? Let us know your thoughts!

Leave a Reply