All about Using Scenario-based Assessments in Online Learning

All about Using Scenario-based Assessments in Online Learning

 “There needs to be a reason or motivation to undertake an educational activity if the learning is to be memorable and considered valuable.”

– Andrew R. Brown and Bradley D. Voltz (Elements of Effective e-Learning Design)

How do you make training memorable and valuable for learners? One of the six areas that needs to be kept in mind while designing effective eLearning courses is to incorporate scenarios (Brown and Voltz). The others include activity, feedback, delivery, context, and influence.

Incorporating a scenario or an interesting context in eLearning can lend more meaning to the learning. How? This strategy involves making use of real-life situations that validates comprehension and learning, and most importantly, its eventual application. Additionally, scenario-based learning provides:

  • Enhanced learner engagement due to the depiction of real-life situations, making learning relatable
  • Safe learning environment to practice and analyze the consequences of learners’ actions

Why Use Scenario-based Assessments?

While scenario-based learning can be the overall strategy of your eLearning course, using scenarios in assessments can be another way to leverage its benefits. Why not use the conventional quiz types that are always used? Very often, conventional question types hitch as abstract questions that prompt learners to simply recall facts they learned in the online course.

However, converting these questions into scenario-based questions enhances the difficulty level, provides relevant context, and measures the thinking capability of learners. To put it simply, including scenario-based assessments in online learning is an effective and easy method to ensure that assessments are kept relevant to the jobs of your learners.

Forms of Scenario-based Assessments 

To seal this argument, here’s one quiz question presented in three ways for you to see how scenario-based questions require a deeper level of thought and are more impactful than conventional quiz types. Which of these do you think is the most impactful and effective?

1. Simple Quiz Question 

Which of the following ways do you think is most secure to carry sensitive data?

a) On a USB drive attached to an ID holder

b) On a Laptop

c) On cloud-storage

Feedback for the wrong choice: Incorrect. Please Try Again.

 2. Mini Scenario with Judgmental Feedback

George wants to finish working on a project at home. He has a long train commute. How should he carry the data home?

a) On a USB drive attached to his ID holder

b) On a Laptop

c) On cloud-storage

Feedback for the wrong answer: Incorrect. Please Try Again.

3. Scenarios with Diagnostic Feedback

George wants to finish working on a project at home. He has a long train commute. How should he carry the data home?

a) On a USB drive attached to his ID holder

b) On a Laptop

c) On cloud-storage

Feedback for Option A: That’s incorrect. If George falls asleep during the travel, anyone sitting beside him can steal the USB drive and sell the data. Please Try Again

Feedback for Option B: That’s incorrect. If George falls asleep during the travel, anyone sitting beside him can steal his laptop drive and sell the data. Please Try Again

Feedback for Option C: Correct. Even if George’s belongings are stolen, the data is secure in cloud storage and will require passwords to access it. Good Job

  • The first version of the assessment question asked learners to iterate a fact without providing any context.
  • Though the second version provides a realistic context, it fails to give corrective feedback. Direct feedback without any explanation can be abstract and not help learners. Consequently, such feedback might also put off the learner.
  • The third version of the assessment includes a context, and diagnostic feedback shows why his choice was correct and reinforces learning.

If these examples are not enough to convince you on how scenario-based questions can be more effective, let’s look at three reasons grounded in learning theories.

Learning Theories that Support Scenario-based Assessments

1. Cognitive Learning Theory

The Cognitive Theory states how learners are more likely to remember newly learned information easily when the information is connected to something they already know and associate with. Tying the new information and knowledge to realistic scenarios in online training ensures that learners are able to correlate the learning to their work situations.

2. John Keller’s ARCS Model

In John Keller’s ARCS Model, demonstrating relevance is one of the most important components for motivating learners. Assessment questions that are scenario-based are clearly more effective in helping learners connect the newly acquired knowledge to their jobs.

3. Herman Witkin’s Theory

In Herman Witkin’s Theory of Field Independent versus Field Dependent Cognitive Styles, he states how some individuals struggle to learn new procedures or concepts when they are not provided any context.

To prove this, he gives the example of mathematics. He explains there are individuals who struggle to solve simple math problems but perform well on story problems – thus, arguing context makes a huge difference to learning. The context provided by a scenario helps cater to this.

Having said so, not all quiz questions can work well as scenario-based questions. Scenarios are the perfect match if you want to hone your learners’ decision-making skills and on the job application of learning. I hope you can figure from the example mentioned above, how a scenario-based question puts a challenge into the context and demonstrates the consequence of each decision that requires your learner to think a little more deeply. Thereby, this ensures your online courses are more engaging and lead to better transfer on the job.