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Top 5 scenario ideas for awesome SBL courses

As people are turning to online courses for knowledge, upskilling, and personal development, among many other reasons, instructors will most likely see a spike in demand for interactive and practical solutions to their problems.

That’s where scenario-based learning (SBL) comes in. SBL was created on the premise that people learn best when faced with real-world situations and decisions. In fact, each time you ask someone to “imagine you’re in this situation” or “what would you do if” you are setting in motion a scenario.

While most information out there is geared towards corporate training, you’ll be hard-pressed to find SBL applied to self-paced contexts. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work hand in hand! On the contrary, scenarios might just become more popular in the asynchronous learning world as instructors are looking for ways to make their courses more relevant and interactive.

Read more: How to create scenario-based learning directly in your LMS

5 Scenario ideas for awesome SBL courses

If you’re just starting out with SBL, it’s important to know what are the most common types of scenarios and that you’re not constrained to follow the same pattern or template.

Depending on what you want the outcome to be, here are the 5 most common scenario types to spice up your online courses:

  1. The skill-based scenario

    This type of scenario works best when learners need to apply the skills they’ve learned. For example, in one module, your objective can be to teach them a specific time management ability such as creating a daily schedule for themselves. In this case, you can create a scenario in which they get to create the best daily plan for a fictional character, or even for themselves. Make it more realistic by adding in some challenges such as: what would they do if something unexpected happened? What would they change in their schedule?

    If you’re teaching a make-up course, ask them to choose the best techniques and colors for doing make-up for a specific event, such as a gala ceremony. Of course, this is tailored to your target audience, but whatever they do, they must demonstrate a skill.

  2. The problem-based scenario

    This type requires learners to use their critical thinking skills to solve a problem. This is important because once learners have acquired knowledge, it’s crucial for them to understand in which situations to put it to good use.

    For example, if you’re teaching about investing, you might want to create a scenario in which the character has to choose between multiple types of investments and estimate their yields in a few years. If their answers are incorrect, make sure to explain why and what they should read next in order to solve the problem in the future.

  3. The issue-based scenario

    This type of scenario helps learners visualize a context in which they need to take a stand on a certain issue. Most self-paced e-learning doesn’t employ this type of scenario very often, but there are some instances where it can be useful.

    For example, if you’re teaching a course on AI, you know that there are certain decisions that an AI system will have to take, based on what we teach it. So, the greatest issue here is: can an AI system make an ethical decision, and what constitutes an ethical decision? This sharpens learners’ critical thinking skills and makes them see a subject in a whole new light.

  4. The speculative scenario

    This type of scenario is a fun way to teach learners how to make an educated guess based on what they’ve learned. It’s different from problem-based scenarios since they are speculating about events that will happen in the future. In these types of scenarios, learners should have enough clues, but you can also make your questions more challenging if you want to.

    Creating speculative scenarios trains learners to think about many possible hypothetical situations and how to deal with them. While they work for any kind of online course, they tend to be used in situations where the details are a bit more ambiguous. For example, if you’re teaching a conflict management course, your learners can be asked to think about their own hypothetical actions and consequences of said actions when dealing with conflicts.

  5. The gaming scenario

    This is probably the more “fun” type of scenario, which rewards learners for their performance, as they’re immersed in a gaming environment.

    This really applies to any scenario in which you add gamification elements: points, badges, leveling up, leaderboards, other rewards such as extra content. You can also create different characters for them to choose from, and for them to follow a “story arc”. This type of scenario can have many branches, in which case you can create specific modules for specific characters and really personalize the experience. Just don’t forget that at the end of it all, the goal is for them to learn, so don’t go all-in with an elaborate fantasy story that is hard to follow.

    Read more: How to include gamification in your course design


Scenario-based learning takes elements of storytelling and combines them with real-world practical examples. It’s great if you want to create an interactive course, but also to help learners apply what they’ve learned in a safe environment. There are different types of scenarios that instructors can choose based on what they want to achieve, including skill-based, problem-based, and gaming scenarios.

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