Dynamic. Chris Miall.
10 August 2021
Writing engaging scenarios for elearning modules
Using scenarios in elearning, or digital learning modules, can make a huge difference to learner engagement.
The right scenario, used in the right way, can be the key factor in a learner understanding the content, relating it to their own situation and changing their behaviour.
I’ve been successfully using scenarios in elearning to help clients deliver their learning strategies for more than 10 years.
Over the years I’ve picked up a few tips on the best way to use engaging scenarios in digital learning.
11 TOP TIPS FOR USING
Make it realistic
If your audience can’t relate it to their own lives or jobs, then they won’t buy into it, and they won’t take it in.
... but not too realistic
This is where you need to understand your audience. If they come from a range of backgrounds and job roles, you’ll need to write something that appeals to everyone. Putting a learner into a very realistic fictional scenario can backfire if it’s not one they relate to.
Make it useful
You might have a lot of fun writing a light-hearted scenario to entertain your learners, but always ask yourself, does the scenario actually teach them anything? Test your audience to see if they can demonstrate understanding. If your scenario isn’t getting across a learning point then get rid of it.
Make the characters relatable
If a learner can empathise with a character, even one making the wrong decisions, they can start to understand their thought process and eventually learn from them.
Do more than just pay
lip service to a scenario
We’ve all seen it in elearning modules; you’re introduced to a character up front, then they pop back at the end, but everything in between could have been done without them. If you’re going to include a scenario running through your module, make sure it actually runs through your module.
Keep it brief
You might have a great idea for a 1,000 page novel. This isn’t the time or place.
... but not too brief
A learner needs to buy into a character, to empathise with them and to identify with the actions and decisions they take. They can’t do that with just a couple of lines. You’ll need to understand your audience.
Think about the media you're going to use
Will this scenario be told as a video, animation, a comic strip, a voiceover or simply with some engaging text? Each one may be written in a slightly different way. The budget, equipment, skills and time you have available will all influence the decision.
Learn from others
Think about the great examples you’ve seen before in TV shows, films, short stories or elearning. Was there a scene, a specific bit of dialogue or an event that really made you buy in to that character and identify with them? Take inspiration from the great storytellers.
Allow the learner to make their own conclusions
You don’t need to describe a character as a good manager, or a bad communicator. Learners will see that in their actions. You shouldn’t have to describe an outcome as favourable or not. Help learners to decide for themselves whether something worked.
Embrace shades of grey
Real-life decisions are rarely black and white, so why does so much elearning boil down to correct or incorrect, pass or fail? If the decision points in your scenario have clear right answers and clear wrong answers you should check it isn’t too easy. If your learners don’t have to think hard about the answer, they won’t remember it for long.