Using linear scenarios to create engaging learning experiences

Using linear scenarios to create engaging learning experiences

In the third blog of the series, we’re going to look at linear scenario-based learning, how it can be used for assessment and how to write an interactive linear scenario. In general, most examples of scenario-based learning can fit into one of two categories: linear scenarios (where the learners move through in a linear fashion from start to end) or branched scenarios (where the learner’s pathway through the learning experience depends on their choices and decisions). In this blog we’re going to take a look at linear scenarios.

At their most basic, linear scenarios are a series of multiple-choice questions arranged alongside scene setting content. The learner is introduced to a scenario and posed with a problem or question where they need to make a decision. They then see the consequence and move on (if they had selected the correct option) or, if incorrect, are presented with feedback guiding them towards making the correct decision. At each decision point, learners are given feedback on their decisions and they are usually only able to proceed by selecting the correct option.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Set the scene

A new retail assistant has started at Tara’s workplace. He is Russian and has a traditional Russian name. Tara wants to invite him to lunch, but she doesn’t know to pronounce his name and feels too embarrassed to ask.

Give the learner a decision to make

What should Tara do?

  1. She should not invite him to lunch in case she mispronounces his name and offends him.
  2. She should wait for another team member to ask him to lunch.
  3. She should introduce herself first, welcome the man to the team and politely ask him how his name is pronounced.

Give the learner feedback

Feedback for Tara’s various options:

  1. He finds out everyone went to lunch without him and feels excluded. Try a different response.
  2. No-one else in Tara’s team invites him to lunch so he didn’t go and therefore feels excluded. Try a different response.
  3. He explained how to pronounce his name and was pleased to be invited to lunch.

By providing the learner with immediate feedback, the learner is able to identify and fix the mistakes they are making and learn from the experience straight way.

Linear scenarios work really well if people need to practice or repeat tasks with a range of variable factors, such as rehearsing a sales process with different clients.

Linear scenarios for formative assessment

Linear scenarios also lend themselves well to being used as a formative assessment method. For example, let’s say one of the learning outcomes for an online course is to be able to manage underperformance in your team.

An assessment question to test the learner’s recall could be:

What should you do if a usually high performing employee is recently failing to regularly meet deadlines?

  1. Give them a verbal warning.
  2. Ask them what is causing the issue.
  3. Assign their responsibilities to another team member.

Changing the same question into a scenario will assess whether the learner can apply their understanding of the area to the specific cases that might arise in real life. Let’s look at how the question might change.

Sam is a product designer in your engineering team. He often stays late, working hard to ensure the designs he produces are high quality. However, in the last few weeks you’ve noticed he’s failed to meet a number of deadlines. He also doesn’t seem as cheery as he used to. You decide it’s time for a chat with Sam, so you ask him to meet you in your office after lunch. How do you start the conversation?

  1. “For the last few weeks, you’ve failed to meet deadlines for this project. If this continues, we’ll need to look at action we can take to remedy the situation”.
  2. “You’re a hard worker and you often stay late which is why I can’t understand why you’ve been struggling to meet deadlines lately. Can you help me understand what’s been going on?”
  3. “You’ve consistently failed to meet work deadlines. Because of this I’ve decided to move you onto a different project that doesn’t have as many deadlines”.

While the first approach will assess that they understand the process, the scenario will allow the learners to prove that they can implement the performance management process while considering the complex business and people management issues that can affect performance.

So, how do you write a linear scenario?

  1. Identify the problem: An effective scenario will address an underlying organisational issue. For more on this check our blog post on Using Action Mapping to Design eLearning Activities.
  2. Know your learners: Find out the mistakes they are commonly making so that your scenario is challenging, but not too difficult.
  3. Present the problem: Include enough detail to make the scenario realistic, but not so much that it becomes too complex.
  4. Provide options: These should align with the common mistakes you’ve identified in step two. One model for writing answers is to include three answers: the correct option, an incorrect option and one that’s incorrect but often mistaken as correct.
  5. Write feedback: Effective feedback should be as close as possible to real life, and it should allow the learner to experience the results of their choice while guiding them to the correct answer to move on.

To determine how many questions to include in your scenario you need to consider the problem that you identified in step one and the number of decisions that are typically made in real life. Include as many questions/decisions as you need for the learner to adequately tackle the problem.

Linear scenarios are a valuable tool for creating engaging learning experiences, practice activities and meaningful assessments. If you want to see when scenario-based learning might be good for your training, check out the last blog on the Three Types of Training That Suit Scenario-Based Learning. Subscribe to our newsletter to be kept up to date.