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How to Design Effective Scenarios for eLearning Courses?

Written By Bushra Zaineb

Design Effective Scenarios for eLearning Courses

It is widely accepted that e-learning requires interactivity to improve learners’ skills and perform better. Formative questions are one form of such interactivity. They are a great way of moving learners from a passive learning mode to an active learning mode. The main purpose of having questions in eLearning courses is to check recall of key points. ‘Scenarios’ are one such question type that allows learner to get involved and also(intrude) activate their minds.

But what are the key elements that should be considered for designing good scenarios? Let’s have a look at them.

How Realistic the Story Should Be?

Build a story that is short and relevant to the context and helps learners to connect to real-world setting. Then ask questions based on this story. It is best to get confirmation from the subject matter expert that the content for scenario is accurate.

Here’s an example of a simple scenario used for a formative question:

Simple Scenario

In the above example the scenario might be a fit for one organization. Suppose an organization stops the visitors at the entrance itself then this scenario would not work for it. Then Subject Matter Experts are the best resource to ensure that the scenarios developed represent the correct context.

How Many Branching Levels Should it Have?

Based on the content type the branching levels need to be decided. If the content is simple then having a single scenario-based question would be enough. If the content is complex and learners have gray areas when deciding the solution then you can have a series of questions. At first you can ask a basic question that the learner answers, and then have the next question go deeper into the topic. You can have a few layers of questions based on the response chosen.

For example:

Level 1:

Sarah a procurement officer says she will ensure her company signs a new contract with Lisa’s organization if she agrees to directly pay her 10% of the total contract value. What should Lisa do?

  • Refuse to pay
  • Go ahead and pay

Level 2:

What would have happened if Lisa agreed to pay the procurement officer to get the contract?

  • It would be a breach of company’s code of conduct
  • Lisa could be terminated from the company

What Visuals Can Do?

Visuals that simulate real-world setting can be used in the scenarios; they add a fresh look to the design. Information such as diagrams, maps, building blue-prints can be used to ask information and thereby have a strong impact. Usually scenarios have a character based on which the story is weaved. We can use photographs, illustrations representing the characters. There is an environment, in which the story takes place, that environment can be used in the background of the screen. It will help learners to relate with the context of the story. But we should remember that what’s needed in terms of visual design alone should be added to the screen to have a neat output.

Here’s an example:

Visual Representation

Which Kind of Feedback Should Be Included – Explicit or Implicit?

In eLearning courses usually we see explicit kind of feedback such as “That’s correct.” Or “That’s incorrect. And the correct answer is…” Having such feedback sounds like giving judgments, and might make the learner feel that they have committed a huge mistake. Feedback should help to motivate the learners and thereby encourage them to learn from mistakes. An implicit feedback is a good way for doing so, learners can draw a conclusion and thereby the learners are more likely to remember from such feedback. If you don’t want to give an implicit feedback worrying what if the learners don’t get to the correct answer by drawing their own conclusions. Then you can have ‘Try again’ feature for the question with a few clues and hints. And then finally show the correct response.


What are the other elements that you consider while developing scenarios? Do share them.

View Presentation on Storytelling: An Effective Training Method


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