What is Scenario-Based Learning?

Not all training is created equal. When planning training for your team, you want to make sure that your employees walk away with more than a vague memory of slides and small talk. Training is an investment, and you need to know that your investment benefits the whole company and your bottom line. A rote memory of facts is simply not enough to help your employees develop decision-making skills in a fast-paced environment. On-the-job training, or trial by fire, could be risky for your business. The best training is perfectly balanced somewhere in the middle: scenario-based learning.

What is Scenario-Based Training?

In a nutshell, scenario-based training, or scenario-based learning (SBL) utilizes real-life scenarios to support active learning. Active learning is an approach to instruction that involves actively engaging students with the course material through discussions, problem solving, case studies, role plays and other methods. Scenario-based learning is comprehending the content, applying it through practice, and reaching proficiency before returning to the workplace. 

Scenario-based training has roots in classroom activities like role playing. Group role playing is great, but it’s not always possible to get all of your employees in the same room. Companies range in experience, and what’s needed for one employee isn’t always what’s needed for the group. Online simulations are the 21st century answer to practical, personalized training. If you need to make your content more engaging, more impactful, more relevant and relatable, elearning scenarios could be the way to go.

What Are the Benefits of Scenario-Based Training Over Traditional Methods?

Think about the last training course you attended. Now think about what the facilitator did to keep you active and engaged. Chances are, your strongest memories aren’t of the words leaving the facilitator’s mouth. E-courses and traditional classroom-style learning are examples of passively absorbing information. In scenario-based training, learners aren’t just passively absorbing information, they are encouraged to use all of their senses, and think and make decisions. This creates an immersive learning experience which keeps learners engaged and actively thinking about the training material and how to apply it. 

Let’s take pilots, for example. Pilots begin their training with a series of reading, lectures, and exams. This is an example of Level 1 learning- basic recall or comprehension. Level 1 learning is a nice starting point, but by no means prepares a pilot for flight. Pilots then move on to simulations, and this is where SBL begins. In Level 2 learning, learners apply the skills they’ve covered and practice for proficiency. Level 3 learning is the ability to synthesize information and apply it to new, challenging scenarios which require quick decision making.  

If your training stops at Level 1, then your employees are missing out on key application skills which could cause them to underperform. This is both a waste of time and money.

Jumping to Level 3 learning and applying training directly on the job is risky for both you and your employees. You wouldn’t put a new pilot in control of a plane when they’ve merely cracked a book.  Level 2 learning offers your employees the opportunity to do something they’re afraid to do on their own: make mistakes. Your employees are well aware of what mishaps on the job could lead to. They’re likely to go back to the same way of doing things if it means avoiding mistakes. They need a learning environment in which they can apply what they’ve learned immediately, but have a safe space to make mistakes, learn from them, and adjust.

Remember, scenario-based training is not training your employees what to do, it’s training them how to think. Scenario-based training goes beyond slides and speakers. It allows learners to absorb information, apply the training in a safe space to make mistakes, and actively learn before applying training directly to the job.

What Can Be Taught with Scenario Based Training?

Scenario-based learning may not be necessary for procedural tasks or foundational knowledge of the industry, but there’s little else that scenario based training can’t help. From product knowledge to social skills, SBL can be applied to training across content and complexity. Here are just a few examples of the best applications of scenario based training.

Scenario based training for mandatory compliance 

In any company, there are some types of mandatory compliance training for employees that are required by law. This can include training on fire safety, ethical issues, inclusion, and other important but often considered “dry,” or not particularly exciting, topics. At the same time, serious consequences loom for organizations whose staff doesn’t do it right. As opposed to straightforward lectures that allow you to simply mark employees as “compliant,” immersive scenario-based training puts people into a realistic context where they can see the consequences of misconduct and really change their behavior.

Scenario based training for communication skills
Scenario based training naturally fits into interpersonal communication skills training. Branching scenarios can efficiently imitate sales and customer service dialogue, communication between managers and their teams, doctors and patients, and many other combinations. An online course with a branching scenario is a lot like a digital role-play that enables learners to apply knowledge in a realistic context and get meaningful feedback as a reaction from a virtual person. 

Scenario based training for critical thinking
There are two types of challenges at work: the routine tasks that require the same sequence of actions every time and the ones that require deeper analyses and understanding which allow learners to adapt guidelines to diverse situations. Situations such as equipment troubleshooting cannot be studied only through theoretic reading and assessment by several multiple-choice questions. Being taught this way, employees will have a limited impact on real-life work decisions. Branching scenarios help you create unique industry-specific training that is focused not only on reaching the desired outcome but also on evaluating the situation and correct process of decision-making. 

Scenario based training for high-risk scenarios

The cost of a mistake for pilots can be very high. Some tasks are simply too dangerous to practice in the field, at least for the first time. Making decisions quickly, especially when profits are involved, can be a make or break skill for your company. No scenario-based eLearning course can replace the real experience, but learners will be at least able to make some mistakes and learn from them in a simulated environment without the risk of physical harm or other serious consequences.

Incorporating scenarios and storytelling into your training makes it more engaging, impactful and memorable. Crucially, it also makes it more effective: real, relevant and practical scenarios mean the knowledge and skills learned are more likely to be transferred to the workplace. Teach your learners how to read the situation, react, and respond during training, and they’ll take those skills into the workplace and beyond.

Are you interested in how your organization can benefit from customized scenario-based learning? Contact us today to discuss the potential for learning that gives your team the knowledge and experience to perform their best. 

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