In typical online courses, instructional designers and subject matter experts ‘push’ information to their learners through readings and quizzes. In some cases, that may be the right way to get the information out there - but it won’t necessarily help your learners tackle real world problems, develop their thinking skills, or hone their analytical abilities.
Using a scenario can be a great way to get your learners to ‘pull’ the information they need to solve a problem. Here’s how to start:
Before you write a word, stop and think about the result you’re looking for: what exactly do you want your learners to know how to do when they complete this training? And, just as importantly, how are you going to know if they’ve met your expectations? Next, you need to connect the information to your learners. Who are they? Why are they taking your course? Are they just beginning to learn about this subject, or do they already have a good foundation? And finally, ask if they’re media savvy – I once built a course heavily dependent on technology use, then found out the participants were barely computer literate. Know your audience!
When you start writing your content, remember to have the learners DO something with the information you’re feeding them. Scenarios allow them to make decisions and use their understanding to transfer the information to other settings. It also makes the learning more meaningful to them and makes it more likely to ‘stick’. For a twist, give them no information up front. Let them uncover the information as they tackle the scenario. This is a great way to test their assumptions (and yours) and see where they’re really at. Remember to give them lots of opportunities to research and uncover the information they’ll need to successfully complete the scenario. Remember too, that feedback – formative feedback – is crucial. Above all, ensure that your scenarios are accurate, realistic, and factual.