ATD Blog

5 Reasons to Get Started Using Scenario-Based E-Learning

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Core Inc.’s engagement survey results indicate that managers do not give enough feedback to their teams. After a needs assessment, Tara, the training department’s instructional designer, determined that one of the reasons managers are struggling is that they do not practice effective strategies for delivering feedback. One manager commented, “I find that some members on my team become defensive when I give them feedback. They can’t take the truth.” Another said, “I give feedback, but they don’t listen. What am I supposed to do?” Tara knows that much of this issue is driven by the organization’s culture and the type of behavior that is rewarded—something that training cannot fix. But delivering feedback at the right time and in the right way is a performance standard that can be established, demonstrated, and reinforced through a learning experience.

The managers at Core Inc. who give feedback are surprised by what happens, or does not happen, as a result of what they say to their teams. Employees get defensive, remain unaware of expectations, or do not act on the feedback at all. For managers to show mastery of feedback, they will have to demonstrate that they can devise and deliver feedback that gets the results they want. Part of the recommended solution Tara and the project’s sponsors agreed to is to design a blended experience that begins with an e-learning module that provides an overview of how to give feedback. Tara could, of course, deliver content and ask multiple-choice questions in a self-paced module and wait for the instructor-led course to add the complexity that is needed to truly influence behavior, but why wait? With scenario-based e-learning, Tara can help managers construct and deliver feedback statements and let them experience the consequences of their choices.

Facilitating a shift in performance is a complex process that requires support beyond text and multiple-choice questions. Scenario-based e-learning is one design strategy that helps address that complexity through self-paced delivery. Here are five reasons why you should consider using scenario-based e-learning as part of your performance support solutions.

1. Learners can experiment, succeed, and fail in an authentic and safe environment.

During instructor-led workshops, participants should feel comfortable trying new strategies and asking questions in a safe environment without fear of failing or causing lasting damage. Scenario-based e-learning also offers a space for discovery and exploration without causing irreparable harm—yet the authenticity of the experience still allows learners to feel the real repercussions of their choices. The consequences of implementing one feedback strategy instead of another are essential to Tara’s design because giving purposeful feedback that leads to results is the performance the managers must adopt.

2. Learner performance can be measured.


Tara wants to include role-play activities somewhere in her blended design, but having used that strategy in past instructor-led workshops, she believes that performance during role plays is difficult to assess. Participants often want to avoid offending one another and fail to give constructive performance notes and suggestions. Also, some participants process information at a different pace from others and cannot participate in a role play and give meaningful feedback five minutes later. Consequently, no one knows how well participants grasped the intent of the activity. But with scenario-based learning, Tara has another option. She could build a branched scenario where completion is dependent on moving through a mock feedback session in a specific way. While Tara may not be able to identify how well individual activities were mastered, if the course registers as complete (and the course’s design is sound), she can deduce that participants were able to successfully navigate the course as intended.

3. Learners like learning experiences that are both visually engaging and meaningful.

E-learning provides the opportunity to borrow from other visual storytelling fields like video games and film to create immersive worlds for learners. Scenario-based e-learning lets us go a step further and add characters and emotion. Given what is visually possible in e-learning, would you rather take a course with a bunch of multiple-choice questions or one built within a visually engaging landscape that is navigated by interacting with an authentic environment? The latter, of course—maybe. Regardless of how much better I made the latter option sound, it depends. Visual appeal goes along way, but it won’t take us all the way there. Luckily, because scenarios are usually based on a story that typically has context and meaning that the imagery needs to support, visuals plus performance is doable and a winning combination.

4. Learners are more able to apply what they learned on the job.


Tara knows that there is a module on feedback in the mandatory supervisory course, so managers have already had training. But did it stick? A scenario-based e-learning design can help. The meaningful, authentic, visually rich scenarios e-learning designers and developers create are typically meant to mimic reality. Instead of looking at a page in a workbook or bulleted statements on a screen, you are in an office facing an employee and tasked with delivering feedback—just like in real life. The authenticity of the e-learning experience makes it easier to transfer a performance from the computer to the cubicle.

5. Learners can be exposed to more complex and nuanced situations, feedback, and solutions.

One of the managers reported that he gives feedback, but “they don’t listen.” The survey was anonymous so Tara can’t go back and ask the respondent what that looks like, but based on experience, she assumed that the manager is not able to see the requested performance change. The manager now knows that simply saying what you want may not be enough. That is a difficult hypothesis to test out in real life, because the impact of what we say is rarely immediate—you will see the consequences play out over time. You also do not get re-dos in real life. You cannot take back what you said and try again. But with scenario-based e-learning, you use branching to both play out possible futures and get second chances.

Tara is sold on the benefits and is ready to design her first scenario-based e-learning course. Are you? Join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2018 and discover how to design scenario-based e-learning for your organizations.

About the Author

Hadiya Nuriddin, CPTD, is an accomplished L&D professional with 20 years of experience in learning strategy, instructional design, e-learning development, and learning facilitation. She owns Duets Learning in Chicago, Illinois, a full-service L&D consultancy. She is also the author of StoryTraining: Selecting and Shaping Stories that Connect (ATD Press).
Before starting her own company, Nuriddin worked in both corporate and academic environments at all levels, from specialist to senior leader. She has also taught instructional design at both the undergraduate and graduate level and teaches courses for ATD. Nuriddin has an MEd in curriculum design and an MA in writing. She is a frequent conference speaker, having presented at the ATD International Conference & Exposition, the Learning Guild’s Learning Solutions and Devlearn conferences, and Training Magazine’s Training Conference. She is also a contributor to several training publications.

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