Take scenarios one step farther with branching

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve talked about what learning scenarios are, as defined by Clark in Scenario-based e-Learning.  To recap, scenario-based learning is:

  1. A realistic scenario learners might face in the workplace
  2. Learners participate in the action, not observe another character’s actions
  3. Learners see the consequences of their actions and learn from them.

Once you know the parts of the scenario, you can determine how to structure it.

There are two ways to do this

Linear scenarios: Learners follow a predetermined path. They can choose any answer, but ultimately end up at the same place. The diagram below illustrates how this would look in the scenario:

Branching Scenarios: There is no set path and there is more than one possible outcome. The option learners choose determines what happens next, and provides a better opportunity see the consequences of their choice. The diagram below provides a simplified look at a branching scenario:

Based on Clark’s definitions, I would say this is an excellent example of branching. Tucker ticks off all three characteristics of scenario-based learning. Learners actively participate in a realistic scenario by helping the consultant work with her client and see the consequences of their choices through the client’s responses.

The Choose Your Own Adventure-themed e-Learning sample presented last week is another great example of branching. The designer’s post about the module also provides a story map illustrating how he planned branching.

Blogger’s Note: This post originally described the second requirement of scenario-based learning to be “Learners do the action, not observe or direct another character’s actions.” Also, the original post stated the eLearning sample provided did not meet the that requirement because the learner was directing a character’s actions instead of being the character in the scenario. After feedback from Christy Tucker and reflection, this post has been revised to more accurately reflect the requirements Clark outlines in her book Scenario-based e-Learning.

4 thoughts on “Take scenarios one step farther with branching

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  1. Thanks for sharing my post and example. I’m not sure I agree with your analysis of Clark’s book though. Can you point me to the exact page where you see her saying “Learners do the action, not observe or direct another character’s action.” My reading of Clark’s definition is that the differentiator is active involvement, not whether it uses 2nd person (you) or a name variable.

    For example, on page 5 she says, “By actor, I mean that the learner is placed in a realistic work role and takes on-screen actions to complete a work assignment or respond to a work challenge…In traditional instructional environments such as a slide-based presentation, the learner is an observer and listener–primarily playing the role of a passive receiver…In contrast, in scenario-based e-learning, the learner assumes the role of an active respondent from the beginning and continues in that mode throughout the lesson.”

    The difference is being active in making decisions and taking actions. Are you taking that from somewhere else in the book though? It’s been a few years since I read it all the way through, so maybe I’m forgetting something.


    1. Hi Christy,

      Thank you for your thoughtful feedback. I went back to review the earlier chapters of Clark’s book, and I agree with your interpretation.

      When I was reading back through the first chapter or so, I landed on the quote you mentioned and noticed the article “an.” On page 5 Clark says, “…the learner assumes the role of an active respondent….” I was interpreting that statement as if she said, “the learner assumes the role of [THE] active respondent….” I was seeing the learner as only the central character.

      Thank you for guiding me back to the book and helping me reflect. I have to pause to acknowledge that I’ve been learning and finding inspiration from you via your blog off and on for several years. I’m laughing at myself (with myself?) a little because I’m still learning from you now – just in a different way!

      I’m revising my original post and will place a note at the end to explain the revision.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, that makes sense! Yes, I can see how you might read it that way initially. I’m glad to have found your post though. It made me dig out the book again and refresh myself on Clark’s definitions.

        Skimming through her samples in the book, it looks like more of them do use the language of “what do you do next?” rather than deciding for another character. it would be really interesting if someone did research comparing that first/second person versus third person approach to see if it made a difference. Maybe it would increase engagement?

        Liked by 1 person

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