Scenario based learning is very effective when employees must be given real world practice before they actually try their hand on a new role. These ‘scenarios’ or ‘situations’ are created to mimic typical, real experiences that a given employee would have on a day of his/her job. SBL is best applied when it requires learners to apply critical thinking and decision making skills and learn from failures or successful outcomes. However, for that to happen, instructional designers must be able to create scenarios that are a relevant and successful blend of the different factors that can trigger such critical thinking and decision making.
Therefore, SBL can’t be a random process of hit and trial. It requires that you follow a logical process to create effective and engaging scenarios.
Write down the learning outcome
Since SBL has the ‘fun’ and ‘entertainment’ element to it, it is easy for instructional designers to get swayed towards creating scenarios that have too many extraneous and irrelevant details in order to attract employees.On the contrary, employees may face unconsciously face cognitive overload if they are required to remember too many assumptions or characters to participate in a scenario. To avoid such a situation, you must write down the learning outcome to keep yourself on track. A simple statement such as ‘To teach behavioral interviewing skills to new HR recruits’ will keep you focused on the scenario must teach them.
Research your audience
This is an important step because you must be sure of the level of knowledge your audience has. Will they be able to deal with critical incidents? What is their knowledge of industry jargon? What is the level of complexity you can afford in your scenarios so that they are neither too easy to be boring nor too difficult to be considered impossible?
To answer all of these questions, you must have a thorough understanding of the employees you are catering to.
Choose your format
Whether you deliver SBL over e-learning or face-to-face is a subjective matter. It depends on the learning outcome and to what extent an immediate facilitator or moderator is required to judge learners’ participation. Face-to-face SBL is effective for situations such as sales training, where the moderator corrects and the learner immediately internalizes feedback. On the other hand, learning outcomes which are more procedural in nature, such as assessing structural failure in bridges or manufacturing processes, e-learning may be used. However, with e-learning based SBL you must include multimedia such as clickable graphics, animations and videos to give the learning process more depth and dimension.
Mark the critical learning points
How are you going to judge whether the intended learning took place or not? To answer this question, you must identify specific parameters or ‘trigger points’ from within the scenario which will help you assess whether a particular skill such as critical thinking or decision making was applied successfully or not.
Create scenarios to cross-test learning
Employees must be exposed to multiple scenarios that sub-consciously require them to apply similar mental skills. This simply stems from the fact that recapping and reiterating learning is very important for retention of knowledge. In the context of SBL, cross testing ensures that employees’ act of solving problems are consistent and not a mere result of guess work or randomness.
Pilot test your scenarios
Peer reviews and pilot testing is extremely important to ensure that scenarios aren’t off track. They must create just the right amount of mental in-equilibrium that they are supposed to.
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