Write Scenarios

Have you ever heard, “This course was so boring and a waste of my time? All I am doing is clicking through each page to just get it done.” If you have ever gotten this type of feedback about your courses you know how frustrating these comments are because you have just spent so much time building the course. However, this doesn’t need to be the case.

By following these few steps, you can create very compelling and motivating scenarios that have people EXCITED to take your courses. Not only that but the design process will become much more rewarding for you as a designer. You will be creating courses that are on purpose and target to truly help your learners improve their performance back on the job.

Follow these 3 steps to give your learners a more interactive experience:

1. Create Learner-Centered Performance Objectives

The main reason that courses don’t hit the mark is that the learner hasn’t connected with the course content. The easiest way to make the switch is to always think about the learner and how they will consume the content; not the information/content itself. This is the difference between content-centered courses and learner-centered courses.

Learner-centered courses focus on what the learner needs to DO after taking the course. The more interactive courses will have objectives based on the learner’s performance. If you paint the picture of what someone will need to be able to do after learning the content by using real life scenarios, they will be able to visualize how it will play out in a real situation, therefore helping them to change their behavior and increase their ability to incorporate a new skill.

Remember to think big picture during this step! Determine the main teaching points or performance criteria you need to get across in the scenarios. Keep it simple and try not to exceed 5 topics.

Quick Action: Start with what a learner has to be able to do. Determine performance objectives and start to chunk those objectives into the overall main points. Remember the Rule of Fives.

2. Plan the scenarios

Take those 5 main points and think about ways to illustrate what these points/skills would look like in action. Think about how a learner will actually use this information on the job. There should be a scenario for each new skill that the learner will be expected to acquire as a result of this training.

At this point, you may need to meet with your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to really understand how the content connects back to a real life situation. Consult with them until you get the framework that is needed to create the content and reinforce the performance objectives.

Quick Action: Start with the end in mind and sketch out real life scenario frameworks for each performance objective.

3. Write the scenarios

This is where you get to dig in and really write the scenarios. First, just write the story of the actors in the scenario. Think about how much background you need to add to make it a rich and realistic interaction.

Second, add the detail about the various paths that a learner can take based on their responses. This is where you will add the logical choices. One that is the correct or best answer, another that is okay but not the best answer and the third that is the wrong answer.

Third, add the detail about the various paths that a learner can take based on their responses. Make sure that you are always referring back to your main teaching points because it is easy to become distracted or lost especially when you are thinking through various branching options that could happen. For anyone that has attempted to create realistic scenarios with various branching options, it is always important to be organized in your approach. One tool that is great for this type of organization is called Twine. Twine is a great tool because it allows you to build a scenario and use branching to ensure that everyone is working appropriately. (Just a note: It also will create a fully functional scenario in html so you can just add styles to it.) Writing your scenarios with a tool that can help you visualize the learning paths learners can go throughout the course is helpful during this part of the process too.

Remember, adding detail as you write will make the situation more authentic and close to real-life as possible. Consider how you can use your feedback to emphasize teaching points.

Quick Action: Write out your scenarios and use a tool like Twine to set up and keep track of the branching options. Make sure that the feedback is illustrating the teaching points or the “why” the decision was either correct or incorrect.

Let’s take a look at these steps more closely with an example.

Step 1: Create Learner-Centered Performance Objectives

Consider these 2 approaches. One focuses on the content that needs to be conveyed and the second illustrates how a learner will use the content on the job. Which one creates more of a connection with the learner?

These two courses cover the same information about customer service agents interacting with consumers over the phone. However, one is full of bullet points and information (content-centered) and the other is interactive with branching scenarios (learner-centered).

Example 1:

The objective for the first course reads, “Understand what to say during the call opening.” The first example requires the learner to get the information without putting them on an actual call.

This approach helps someone to understand what needs to be said to a consumer on the phone but does not model to the learner how to actually talk to a consumer over the phone and respond appropriately.

Since the overall objective of this course was for a customer service agent to be able to talk to a consumer and know how to respond appropriately, we helped the client understand how to modify the objective.

Example 2:

In this second example, the performance objective illustrates a more learner-centered objective.

As a result of this course, the learner will be able to: “Respond appropriately to a consumer during the call opening.”

This requires the learner to engage in an actual conversation. Instead of receiving the information, learners get to practice what they would say on an actual call with a consumer.

Step 2: Plan the scenarios

Your scenarios should reflect the performance objectives to allow the learner to practice HOW to complete the objective. In this case, the learner needed to know the 4 main parts of a call to respond appropriately to consumers.

Start the planning process by defining the four main parts of a call and break them down into what a learner needs to do, say and be prepared for in each step. It helps in this step to map it out and create a visual outline of the main points that need to be included in the scenario.

Step 3: Write the scenarios

In this example, we used Twine to add the potential choices and options. We determined that each customer service agent could respond to a consumer by responding appropriately with all of the information (correct/best option), leaving out information (okay option), or saying something against the law (incorrect option). Therefore, depending on the situation the answer choices followed this guideline with one choice always being correct and the other choices either being okay or incorrect. For programming purposes, I would label my responses so that letter A was not always the correct answer.

  1. Correct response (You say 3C)
  2. Okay response (You say 3A)
  3. Okay response (You say 3B)
  4. Correct response (You Say 3B)
  5. Okay response (You say 3C)
  6. Incorrect response (You say 3A)
  7. Correct response (You say 3A)
  8. Incorrect response (You say 3B)
  9. Incorrect response (You say 3C)

If the correct answer was chosen, the feedback coming from a coach would tell the learner what the learner did correctly and take them on to the next set of questions. The next set of questions for choosing the best response would always practice a new skill. For example, if the skill for a set of responses was to practice responding assertively to a consumer and the learner picked the most assertive response, they would move on to practice another skill such as overcoming stalls and objections.

If the okay or incorrect answer was chosen, the feedback would make the learner think about what they should have done better and would move them on to the next set of questions requiring them to try that skill again. For example, if the goal for that question was to be more assertive, they would have to answer another question choosing the most assertive response. After one or two times practicing that skill, they would go back to the main path regardless if they chose the correct response. The more incorrect or okay choices chosen, would require the learner to answer more questions but would eventually move them on to the main set of questions that would end the scenario.

Real life scenarios are an effective way to create interaction within a course. They illustrate how the learner will need to know the content that they are learning as well as give them a chance to really visualize how something will play out in a real situation.

How have you had success creating scenarios? Use the comment field below to share your experiences.