Scenario-Based eLearning Part III: Creating SBeL

The first two articles in this three-part series about scenario-based eLearning explained what it is and why it should be a top priority for any business as well as provided examples of how real companies are using SBeL to better meet their learning and training needs. In this final article, I want to walk you through a bunch of tips and strategies for creating SBeL.

The two characteristics of SBeL that act as strong cost variables are realism and interactivity.

A Word About Affordably Creating SBeL

The real-world examples I provided in the second article of this series included a wide range of options that can affect the overall cost of creating SBeL. Companies that are not gigantic like Walmart or KFC probably can’t marshal the resources it takes to create full-blown virtual reality programs for learning and training. The good news is that’s the most expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to cost.

If your learning budget isn’t very robust, I would encourage you to take another look at the passport agent training (source) that utilized a short simulation that accomplished the SBeL learning goal with a far less expensive approach. My point is that you can produce high-quality, effective SBeL that is also affordable. The two characteristics of SBeL that act as strong cost variables are realism and interactivity. The more realistic your simulation of a real-world work context, the more expensive your SBeL program will be. The same holds true for the level of interactivity, although to a lesser extent. If your budget is tight, scale back first on the level of realism to make it more affordable, and then you can also scale back the level of interactivity, but only if you have to.

One place you don’t want to cut corners is in the writing. Because SBeL is story-based, you have to start with really good writing that has just the right level of detail. If you go too slim on details, the program will feel superficial. If you go too heavy on the details, learners could become confused or distracted.

Tips and Strategies for Creating SBeL

Here’s an array of tips and strategies I’ve been collecting that will help you in creating SBeL at your company:

Don’t Forget the Basics. As with all corporate learning efforts, begin with knowing your audience and its needs as they relate to your company’s business goals. Then you can identify the specific learning objectives that will address those needs and goals. For example, if your company has a business goal of increasing sales and you discover part of the reason the goal hasn’t been reached is because members of the sales team aren’t good at handling questions from prospective customers, you can create an SBeL program to address that specific performance need.

Select Your Scenario. When creating SBeL, craft the stories and scenarios that will best mimic the real-world context and give you the opportunity to present learning. In the case of the sales team example, you’d probably be writing customer scripts to which trainees are responding in a simulated sales call scenario. Doing this right would include a good deal of legwork in terms of collecting the kinds of questions that prospective customers ask that tend to stump your salespeople and coming up with learning content needed to address the performance gap. Remember that the key to effective SBeL is keeping the scenario as realistic, plausible and relevant as possible.

SBeL is story-based, so start with really good writing that has just the right level of detail.

Consequences for Every Action. The effectiveness of SBeL rests mainly in presenting a realistic scenario or problem in which the learner has to decide what action needs to be taken. Each time the learner decides on a course of action, there must be clear, realistic consequences because therein lies the learning.

Include Both Discreet and Continuous Feedback. The “discreet” feedback occurs when the learner decides on an action to take. If the action taken was not the optimal action, there needs to be immediate discreet feedback that clearly explains why it wasn’t the best or right choice. And this needs to be true for every action the learner takes. In other words, when creating SBeL, ensure that failures become learning opportunities. But there also can and should be continuous feedback that shows their overall progress through the material. This could be a running tally of accomplishment in scores or levels to gain the benefits this kind of gamification offers.

Allow for Backward Leaps. Many SBeL programs include “branching” storylines where the learner’s path through the material depends on the choices they make. But this approach should also include an option that can be exercised by the learner at any time to go back to a previous spot in the scenario’s timeline if they realize they’re not going in the right direction. In real life, you stop what you’re doing as soon as you realize you’ve gone wrong, not only when someone else tells you you’re off-track.

Don’t Give Up! It’s always easier to put together a bunch of information in a static, linear format, toss it up online and call it eLearning. Crafting high-quality scenarios and stories when creating SBeL does take more time, but just remind yourself that the results are worth the effort in terms of better learning results than you’ll ever get from informational “click-and-read” approaches.

I hope this three-part series of articles about scenario-based eLearning has convinced you of how it can transform the way learning and training happens at your company, make your learning efforts more effective, and deliver more positive ROI to your company’s bottom line. If your company also lacks an effective learning management system to create, distribute and track your learning programs, then it’s time to take a closer look at eLeaP– a flexible, easy-to-use web-based SaaS solution you can try before you buy with a 30-day free trial, after which you can enjoy affordable monthly pricing based on the number of users along with a collection of 850+ video courses on a wide range of business topics.

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