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3 Ways to apply scenario-based learning in your training program

The way adults learn has become a field of study rather recently. Its pioneer, Malcom Knowles identified several principles that lead mature learners:

  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They require the freedom to direct themselves and as such instructors have to do their best to turn into facilitators and leave most of the involvement with the learning process to participants. For e-learning it means that the content has to allow for users to go at their own pace, focus on the items that are of interest to them and skip what feels redundant.

    Read more: Implications of the Self Determination Theory in the workplace

  • Adults draw a lot on their previous life experiences. Whether it is work related or has to do with education, family life or favored activities, mature learners use what they have already lived as a foundation for acquiring any new knowledge. This is why all concepts and theories should be presented in a way that participants can relate to.
  • Adults are goal-oriented. When they take up a certain course, they have a very good idea of what they want to achieve by it so formulating and listing smart objectives for any module is a must. Time is precious and the only way mature learners will agree to give up theirs is if instructional designers can clearly state how it can be worth their while.
  • Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must be clearly aware of the reason why some information or a certain skill is of use to them. This is why instructional designers ought to do their best to relate the learning content to issues or situations that are familiar to participants. Allowing them to choose what lessons are of most use to them ensures that they will be sufficiently engaged in the sessions to retain the information and use it when they need to.

Yet with this knowledge, corporate learning is still very much about cramming as much information as possible in the short time available for formal training. Delivering big chunks of content and leaving it up to the participants to figure out what and when to do with it is not really efficient. Every moment should be relevant and have an impact.

Corporate learning has to focus more on making the content relevant and engaging.

3 Ways to apply scenario-based learning in your training program

Today’s technology allows for a lot of options when it comes to methods and ways of delivery and with a growing need for fast and relevant learning, scenarios that are built into modules with the aid of immersive mediums hold a lot of potential. In the current corporate environment problem-based learning, predictive learning and play-based learning are all very efficient methods for ensuring information retention.

Read more: 5 Steps to take when designing scenario-based training courses

Problem-based learning

A piece of popular wisdom states that “experience is the best teacher”. Unfortunately that holds most truth when it comes to not so pleasant experiences such as major issues and problems. There is not one dictionary, online or on paper, where ‘problem’ has a positive connotation yet learning by the use of problem-based scenarios is not only effective but also pleasant.

The best proof is how popular and engaging online games are. The character that one works very hard to build has to go through a whole lot of bad to pass a level. There are puzzles to solve, monsters to slay and secret paths to find. It’s not easy but the major perk is that they player gets to start over if they fail.

Read more: Video games in business training? Don’t reject the idea just yet

It works the same in scenario-based problem solving. Instructional designers should build immersive environments that are familiar to the learner and allow them to find creative ways for various situations while feeling safe about making mistakes.

Predictive learning analytics

Another good way to use scenario-based learning and eliminate redundancy is to apply predictive learning analytics (PLA). This basically employs a collection of techniques that identify and measure patterns in learning data and extrapolate future behavior from it.

It’s useful in avoiding repeating modules or presenting information that has been learned in the past. It can also chart learner preference when it comes to methods of acquiring new knowledge. PLA is fundamentally different from other types of learning metrics because its focus is the individual and thus it is immensely helpful in solving the issue of ineffective training.

PLA also allows L&D professionals to figure out who learned a certain material and who did not and even predict which users are most likely to apply the new information or skills in their jobs. It’s essential to keep in mind that PLA works best when learners, instructional designers, managers and learning administrators are all involved.

Play-based learning

Learning through play is given a lot of attention in the early stages of human development. It is the natural way in which children get information and figure out how to connect with others. Upon growing up the focus of learning is shifts to more ‘serious’ methods.

While gamification has become a rather big trend in e-learning over the past few years, playful learning is still not used to its full potential. Today’s business world requires a lot of creativity on the part of the employees and often times it can only be acquired by being plain goofy, challenging the status quo and playing around with scenarios and ideas.

Playful activities such as humor, games, drama, story-telling all engage emotions and help people remember information. Special attention ought to be given to story-telling as it is essentially the unit of human understanding. Dr Kieran Egan’s research on imaginative education has demonstrated how a tale is the most powerful tool that can engage imagination and make knowledge meaningful to all learners.

Read more: Successfully using storytelling in the modern organization


Instructional designers have to focus more on making the learning content relevant and engaging for their adult audience. Turning to scenario-based learning — and all its facets — is a great way to achieve that.

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