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Learning 07.18.19 BLOG 

Branching Scenarios in E-Learning: What You Need to Know

By The TransPerfect Learning Team

man enters maze

Branching Scenarios in E-Learning: What You Need to Know

During the development of e-learning courses, we often receive requests to include branching scenarios to test learners’ decision-making processes. In some types of training, it’s essential to evaluate the knowledge gained, not simply by using quizzes, but also by using instruments that identify shifts in behavior.

Branching scenarios are an interactive way to display content and test the knowledge of learners by challenging them in making a decision and observing how they react to the consequences. Each screen presents new situations and new choices. For this reason, branching scenarios make each training unique, engaging, and unexpected. They can be especially useful in training learners to handle a variety of situations. Including real-life scenarios can help learners dive into the context and create a deeper connection between the online experience and the situations they will face while performing their job.

The main difference between quizzes and branching scenarios is that quizzes are linear—they are a sequence of questions that do not change depending on the previous answers.

On the contrary, with branching scenarios each answer leads to a different challenge. This nonlinear structure is what really characterizes this type of activity. Quizzes often focus on checking comprehension and retention, whereas branching scenarios are all about presenting realistic situations and asking for practical choices. Additionally, quizzes provide immediate feedback while branching scenarios present the consequences to the answers. This is a more indirect way to present the responses, which allows learners to better understand the outcome of their actions.

Branching scenarios increase the design complexity of the course because they require a deep understanding of the dynamics behind each scenario. Branching scenarios can be included in your e-learning modules through multiple technical solutions: users can engage in simple scenarios with numerous decisions using a combination of drag-and-drops, fill-in-the-blanks, checkboxes, or dropdown menus; or they can watch a video and experience different paths depending on their answers;  or they can enjoy a more complex gamified module where they try to succeed in a specific adventure based on situations they will experience in real life.

Mind-maps can help define the different options presented to learners as well as the final results. With your end in mind, begin mapping out options for your learner as well as the consequences for each decision. The consequences should lead to new decisions in turn. The greater the number of options you offer at each stage, the more scenarios you will have. Remember that some scenarios can lead back into each other, others can dead-end, and still others can lead to a quick and early resolution.

Before starting to storyboard the scenarios, it’s good practice to identify the objectives of this activity: What do you want to achieve with this specific activity and with the training as a whole? It’s important to add branching scenarios when they can really help achieve your main goal and not just for the pleasure of creating something interactive.

Once the purpose is defined, you can start drawing the different paths. During this phase, it’s important to keep in mind the possible final outcomes. In some instances, the different paths may cross and lead to the same result. That’s why it is strongly recommended to use tools that are specifically designed for creating branching scenarios, which will help eliminate the most time-consuming tasks, such as building the slides, placing images, copy/pasting texts into the different scenarios, etc.

Remember to select a realistic scenario that can effectively represent a typical situation that learners will immediately recognize. The scenario needs to include different decision steps, with each choice leading to a new scenario and a new option to choose.

Once you have designed the branching scenarios, make sure to test them carefully with the support of your subject matter experts. To create an effective course, it’s essential to navigate through the course and try all the different options that are given to the learners.

To recap, branching scenarios are the perfect solution for courses that require a more active role of learners, especially when it comes to testing their decision-making skills. This type of activity pushes the learner to try different options until they get to the desired outcome. Everyone loves a good story, so branching scenarios are an engaging solution to apply knowledge to a practical situation and practice in a safe environment. However, we need to take into account that authoring, developing, and play-testing a scenario-based branching module is more complex and will definitely take more time (and therefore cost more) to create and test.

If the above sounds exciting to you, get in touch with our e-learning experts! By analyzing your specific needs, TransPerfect’s solutions architects will be able to create a customized strategy for your online courses using branching scenarios and other activities.

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