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Why educators should consider scenario-based learning

The e-learning landscape is a continuum of different instructional designs meant to adapt to individual student needs. This is where scenario-based learning comes in, where learners are immersed in real-life and situational scenarios that lets them gather skills and information. In other words, scenario-based learning is a just another face of learning by doing.

Including scenarios in your e-learning materials could be your recipe for success. Learning scenarios immerse your students into your subject of teaching, making them experience real world challenges and deal with real life consequences of their choices, all without real life risks.

Scenario-based learning gives students a sort of immersion into what they learn and a hands-on approach to a subject. A good example is student internship programs. This kind of learning provides them with a realistic scenario and usually involves applying strategies they have learned throughout a course.

The types of scenario-based learning

Before you make haste and check your school LMS for every button that can assist you in designing learning scenarios for your students, take a moment to consider: What type of scenario is the perfect solution for you and your class?

Depending on their learning purpose, scenarios can be simpler — mini scenarios, or more complex — branching scenarios.

Mini scenarios are best suited for straightforward learning situations, where one decision leads to a certain solution. This type of scenarios improve the problem-solving abilities of students.

Branching scenarios, on the other hand, target more complex situations, where any choice or decision can change how the following scenes will evolve. This type of scenarios focuses more on developing students’ critical thinking and challenges all their knowledge and skills.

Whatever type of scenario you go for, they’ll transform your students from passive observers into active and involved participants in the lesson. The unfolding of the narrative of a branching scenario, which comes with one or more characters, a plot and various possibilities of reaching the end of the story, creates a memorable experience, thus helping students better retain the information they learn.

How to create scenario-based learning

Learning content can be made more relevant for students if they get to identify themselves within a certain learning context and are forced to make decisions which affect outcomes. That said, there is no singular strategy to create the perfect scenario-based learning content but do bear in mind that such stories have to be realistic and should have authentic details.

You can construct scenarios like you would create a novel — complete with a plot, characters, climax and resolution — while your students situate the role of being primary characters faced with different problems designed to enhance their critical-thinking skill set.

If you choose branching scenarios, the plot should branch out to provide even deeper conflicts and subplots, so decisions made by students will inevitably affect the outcome at each step of the learning scenario.

Providing instant feedback is also important for students to know when they make a mistake and how else they should approach a learning situation to get a different outcome. This may involve showing them a detailed explanation as to why and how they came up with a possible outcome. If they failed, explain the actions they took — and why they were the wrong ones to take — and try to detail any remedies they can take to avoid any future negative outcomes.

Why you should consider scenario-based learning

Scenario-based learning is a very effective approach to engaging students because it gives them control over their decisions during the learning process. Scenarios enable learners to tap their already-established skills and apply them in real-life circumstances.

Students are motivated when the skills they possess give them opportunities to improve. They will always appreciate real-life situations where their skills are put to the test. Scenario-based learning simulates real-world situations and allows students not only to make a decision or another, but to also take responsibility for what they've decided. What's more, they can always get back on the right track in case they go for a wrong option.

Scenario-based learning allows students to fully apply their knowledge and skills in a simulated setting, and it can be applied even in online courses which increases the likelihood that learners will remember the concepts further.

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