July 18, 2024

Go Beyond Boring: Creating Scenario-based Learning That Engages Participants (Podcast)

Author: Christy Tucker
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In this presentation, I discussed why scenario-based learning engages participants. I gave examples of how to “hook” learners to draw them into a story right from the beginning. I also talked about some elements to help craft narratives. Since the TLDC community has several D&D players, this version of the presentation has some references and examples related to D&D. This is part of the TLDC Storytelling playlist.

You can listen to the audio (which should still be meaningful, even without the slides). If the podcast isn’t embedded above, check it out on the TLDCast website, in Spotify, or look for episode 329 in your favorite podcast app.

Go Beyond Boring: Creating Scenario-Based Learning that Engages Participants

Here are a few excerpts from my presentation.

Intro: Meet Christopher, a new DM

Meet Christopher. Christopher is smiling.

Meet Christopher. Christopher is DM ing for the first time today. For those of you who don’t play D&D, that means he’s running a campaign for a role playing game, a collaborative storytelling game. This is a campaign he developed himself rather than a published module. He’s so excited.

He’s got a great vision for exactly how everything should go, and he’s confident the players are going to have a lot of fun following this journey he has precisely mapped out for them. He has spent hours preparing, and has tons of documents ready to support all the decisions he’s already made.

He’s sure it’s going to be perfect!

His players aren’t engaged

4 people, all clearly disengaged. One is writing in a notebook. Another is on her phone. A third is rolling his eyes. The fourth person has her head and eyes down, avoiding eye contact and looking disappointed.

Unfortunately, near the end of the session, Christopher looks around the table at his players. They don’t look like they’re having nearly as much fun as he’d hoped. In fact, they look completely disengaged. They’re checking their phones or doodling.

Why didn’t Christopher’s session go well? Even if you haven’t played before, do you have any guesses?

Why should we consider using scenarios?

Why scenarios?
Real-Life Decision-Making
Safe Space to Fail
Trigger Memories, Better Retention
Engage Emotions
Accelerate Expertise
  • Real-life decision making: Scenarios can give learners an opportunity to practice real-life decisions.
  • Safe space to fail: As they practice scenarios, it gives them a safe space to fail. Any time failure is costly or dangerous, scenario-based learning gives you an advantage. Instead of failing in a way that makes a customer angry, or worse, injures an employee, they can fail during practice. That means the scenario should be hard enough to allow people to make common mistakes so they can learn from them.
  • Trigger memories: We remember failures. If it’s so easy that everyone gets a perfect score on the first try, the practice isn’t as valuable. Our brains are wired for stories. Even when we sleep, our brains keep telling us stories all night in our dreams. We remember stories better than abstract content. One study compared information on a brochure presented in bullet points or a narrative format. People remembered more of the narrative than the bullet points. (eLearning Guild research report: Using Stories for Learning).
  • Engage emotions: Scenarios can give us emotional impact—the angry customer, the reluctant patient, the frustrated employee. That makes training more interesting and more memorable.
  • Accelerate expertise: Research has shown that using scenarios helps people become experts faster.

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