Monday, July 21, 2014

Writing Effective Scenario Questions

The goal of training is often to change behavior and improve performance, but this can be hard to accomplish when the learner is tested on recall and understanding. Effective scenarios give learners the chance to apply the information they're learning, engaging them in the content and showing them why the training matters.

Types of Scenarios

Not all scenarios are the same. Depending on your goal or objective, a different type of scenario may be chosen:
  • Simulation: performance of a process or use of product is simulated; learner may have the option to interact.
  • Observed Story: A complete, linear scenario. May have questions interrupting the flow or at the end.
  • Choose your own Adventure: A branching scenario. Learner makes decisions throughout the scenario and is provided feedback and different results based on the choice.
  • Assessment: short, complete scenarios where the learner must choose the correct solution.

So, what makes an effective scenario?

No matter what type of scenario you choose, effective scenarios all have these elements in common:
  • Realistic situation: The situation, reactions and choices should be plausible. Incorrect choices shouldn't be ridiculous or impossible.
  • Familiar language: be it formal, conversational, filled with industry jargon - the language should be familiar to the learner.
  • Objective (and ACTION) focused: The scenario should be directly based on a content objective/action and clearly demonstrate what the Learner will be able to do after the course is complete.

Getting Started

To prepare to write the scenario, answer the following questions:
  • What is the dilemma we're facing/the decision we must make/the problem we must solve?
  • Who is the scenario about? The learner (You receive a call from your first client) or an outsider (John receives a call from his first client)
  • Who else is in the scenario? Someone who caused the problem? Someone who can help?
  • Does this have a good or bad ending?

Beginning, Middle, End

Every good story as a beginning, middle and end. Effective scenarios are no different. To write the scenario, follow this outline:
  • Beginning: Introduce us to the situation and/or the characters involved.
  • Middle: Describe the problem/decision/dilemma that we must conquer.
  • End: Present the solution to the problem or the consequences of the decision.


Give it a try! Take content you've created (it can be elearning or instructor led) and create a scenario that helps the learner do what they're being taught. It can be any scenario type. Share it with us in the comments!

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