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7 September 2023

Branching Scenarios, When and Why?

What is this e-learning approach?

It’s an interactive learning experience that puts the learners in an immersive learning situation. They are called upon to explore different situations, make decisions and see the results of these decisions.

Situations where the possibility of making a mistake could be costly or dangerous for oneself or others are especially well-served in a branching scenario context. Therefore, learning takes place in a completely safe space.

How does it work?

Let’s say we have a training course on governance and ethics to produce. A more traditional linear training course would set out all the dos and don’ts, perhaps some statistics and recommendations.

In a branching scenario, learners are faced with someone offering them a bribe, or they have to choose to hire one of three candidates, one of which is their sister-in-law, for example.

They have to choose.

The feedback they receive (immediately or later) impacts their credibility, their reputation and even that of their company, depending on the series of choices they’ve made throughout the scenario.

They must then continue moving forward in their careers with these choices, seeing the impact of the series of decisions they make.

How does it impact learning?

Because of the interactivity and realistic immersion they present, branching scenarios provide learners with a high degree of engagement and motivation while the training is taking place.

Once training is over, the learning experience lingers long afterwards and comes back to mind if similar situations arise, ensuring a high degree of compliance with expected behaviors.

What does it require?

To be effective, this type of training must be closely lean on sound pedagogical objectives, present a high degree of realism with current situations, both in the choices presented, and in the feedback and consequences offered, with scenarios providing several pathways and varying endings from one person to another.

Ideally, learners are encouraged to try going through the situations again to see what would happen if other choices were to be made, thereby enhancing the anchoring of the notions to be learned.

What are the pitfalls or this approach?

Granted, developing training based on branching scenarios is more complex than developing more traditional training. That’s why it’s important not to overcomplicate the scenarios.s.

Other pitfalls to avoid include giving unrealistic feedback, over-simplifying it or not giving feedback at all, presenting characters whose behavior is inconsistent from one situation to the next, and not testing all possible avenues in the proposed pathways.

Because they are more complex and sometimes require longer development times, the branching scenario approach is more expensive to produce.

However, the response of the target audience and the quality of their learning are important factors to be considered in the decision, given the return on investment.


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