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Everything You Need to Know About Scenario-Based eLearning

Everything You Need to Know About Scenario-Based eLearning

When it comes to creating eLearning courses, there are plenty of instructional design theories and models to choose from, making it difficult to select the one that precisely fits the needs of your students or employees. If you are looking for a design that’s genuinely tailored to improve learner engagement, scenario-based learning is the ideal solution for you. Let’s find out what exactly scenario-based eLearning is and how you can create the best scenario-based eLearning programs.

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

Everything You Need to Know About Scenario-Based eLearning

Scenario-based eLearning are situational or real-life simulations incorporated into eLearning programs to create learning experiences that allow the learners to effectively gather information and skills, which they can easily recall afterward. The process makes use of eLearning scenarios, which, as opposed to clip-art slides and bullet points, use real-world situations that a student or employee may encounter. These scenarios are designed to foster user engagement via interactive decision-making. They are more like on-the-job training, with practice opportunities and valuable feedback.

Instead of pushing the information toward the learners, scenario-based eLearning seeks to let the learners pull insights from the practices and experiences representing real-life contexts. For instance, a traditional eLearning course on “managing difficult customers” would typically list down and explain certain methods to deal with a tough customer, while scenario-based eLearning will put the learner right at the center of a conversation with a tricky customer and ask them to choose their next action.

The technique employs context-based learning so that any information delivered to the learner will be retained in their long-term memory.

Features of a Successful Scenario-Based Learning Model

Scenario-based eLearning should be:

Backed by a Strong Training Script

The first step toward creating a successful scenario-based eLearning program is to develop a solid training script. Keep in mind what exactly you want the learner to do with the information your eLearning module is trying to deliver. The scenarios you create, the decision points you set, and the feedback you give must all be crafted with the answer to this question in mind.

To give your script consistency and color, you will need to decide between a conversational tone or a formal one, whether you want to use first-person or second-person perspective and other aspects. A conversation voice should be more effective for storytelling, but avoid using passive voice, which only makes storytelling uninteresting. Once you’ve prepared the script, have it reviewed by subject matter experts in your industry to confirm that you’ve added realistic scenes and situations.

Highly Realistic

The most important feature is that the incorporated scenarios must be largely realistic and at the same time provide the required information to employees or students. If the scenarios aren’t realistic, the learners won’t fully engage with the eLearning process.

The idea is to replicate what’s really happening. One great strategy is to reach out to the subject matter experts, end-users, and stakeholders and ask them to share real-life stories about people encountering situations and doing tasks you’re planning to cover in your eLearning program. Once you’ve noted down those stories, create a digital experience out of them, while hiding the names of the actual individuals faced with those scenarios. This degree of authenticity and realism is sure to connect learners to their tasks and context without comprising on the relevance.

When you explore the real-life stuff around you to design your scenarios, look for the tense situations that no one likes to talk about and present them in a way that not everyone would easily approve. This should help combine realism with authenticity and discomfort, making your scenarios more effective.

Sufficiently Relevant

Features of a Successful Scenario-Based Learning Model

Making your scenarios real isn’t enough. When you attempt to make your scenarios realistic, make sure that they are true to what your target learners have experienced or resonate well with them. Staying relevant to your target audience is very important. It helps ensure that you don’t digress from the main teachings, can establish and emotionally connect with them, and engross them into the scenario. When learners experience real things that they can also relate to, they are likely to engage with them and empathize with them. Besides, the consequences or outcomes within the scenario should also feel real and relevant so that the learners don’t stop engaging.

Once you’ve created a scenario, ask yourself whether the challenging situation depicted in the program can occur at the learners’ school or workplace. Then consider whether the portrayed processes can be executed in the way you have described them in the scenario. Also ask whether any of the featured characters resemble an actual personality involved in that field. Finally, look into whether the jargon and all other aspects used in the written words are relevant to your industry.

Answering these questions will help you examine both the realism and relevance of the scenarios in your eLearning program.


The scenario-based eLearning program should be well-structured. One of the best practices is to include sequenced MCQs (multiple choice questions) with an elegant construction. When you pay particular attention to the design and structure of the eLearning project from the very beginning, you’re able to focus on the essential items such as engaging language, powerful context, and impactful consequences.

Another great tactic is to include a coach character with an appropriate voice that introduces, guides, wraps up, and provides feedback to the learners. The character should have a friendly tone at all times. It should praise learners when they perform well and adopt a constructive approach when correcting them. Also, the character’s voice should sound empathic when delivering bad news or when things don’t work out well.

For the coach, the best voices to use are Jeeves from Wodehouse or Jarvis from Iron Man.

For maximum impact, combine a good scenario with a bad one. Start with a bad scenario in which things don’t seem to work, encouraging the learners to conduct a critical analysis of the situation. Then move on to the good scenario to depict how a particular theory applies to achieve the desired results. This structure helps turn the learners into problem-solvers.

Another tremendous approach is to adopt the SEDA (Situation, Evaluation, Decision, and Action) model. This involves portraying a relevant situation through the scenario, asking learners to evaluate the situation or comprehend the meaning behind it without any hint, requiring them to make a decision, and finally prompting them into action.


To develop the most effective eLearning scenarios, consider using a compelling story to create interest and suspense through the eLearning experience. We are driven by emotions, so much so that we react faster, quicker, and more deeply when we are emotionally engaged. When you develop the situations and characters, think of it as a movie script. Adopt the same approach when prompting learners to solve a problem, make a difference, or help someone and when presenting the consequences of the decisions made.

However, using stories in eLearning programs is easier said than done. You might be thinking about how to convert a 30-page policy into a story-based program. The trick is to use your target learners or the people who use the procedure, process, or application that you need to train. They have a million stories to tell about their job, problems, and everything they experience. Using them should help ensure that your stories reflect what they’re faced with every day.

For instance, app developers often reach out to end-users and ask them to share experiences or stories describing the features of similar software and use those insights to come up with a useful app. The same approach works for creating scenario-based eLearning programs. To develop a training program for a software app, tell a story that represents the learner’s relationship with the application, such as how it impacts them and how they’re supposed to use it.

Challenging for the Learners

Challenging for the Learners

When it comes to developing highly engaging eLearning programs, using passive scenarios in which users only click ‘next’ or having obvious, straight-forward outcomes will not be useful. You must add mystery to draw in learners. You have to create a desire among the audience where they feel the urge to know what will happen next. That is the only way you can get their attention. For instance, make the learners question “why” something happened. For instance, “why did the machinery breakdown?” or “why certain actions violate the pre-defined regulations?”

While you incorporate challenges into your eLearning programs, be careful not to frustrate your learners with scenarios that are too hard to solve. Strike the right balance between the learners’ abilities and the challenges in the scenarios. However, this doesn’t mean that the leaners’ shouldn’t fail. You should ensure that the learners fail.

Failure is important to have the learners think, use their full potential, and exert more effort in subsequent attempts. They help them understand the outcomes and consequences of making bad decisions. It’s important, however, that you provide valuable feedback to let them know what caused the failure. Try to convey the idea that it’s perfectly fine to fail as long as they learn from the situations.

One way to make the scenarios challenging for the learners is to allow them to critically analyze situations rather than filling in all the blanks yourself. This involves giving them time and space to think critically.

Include Gaming Elements

To create a realistic simulated environment for learners, adding gaming elements such as timers and pointers to the scenarios can be extremely powerful. Gaming mechanics not only add a sense of urgency and competition to the scenarios but also bring them closer to the fast-paced, competitive, and target-driven world. While simulating the environment the learners work in, make sure the scenarios are audio-driven and use the first-person perspective throughout so that the learner isn’t controlling another character but are the character themselves.

Key Takeaways

Successful scenario-based eLearning programs represent real-life situations, connect well with the learner’s profession, adopt a story-telling approach, are sufficiently challenging, and use gamification strategies.

Now that you’re well aware of the features of a successful scenario-based eLearning module, go ahead and start designing your killer eLearning program today.

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