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My AhHa Moments building a Scenario-Based eLearning Course

The final project for OPWL 551 has been a massive undertaking, even though I currently work in the field of instructional design I never imagined one project would wrap my mind as this has.  While I am confident in my design abilities (always room to grow) and even my technology skills in Articulate, pulling it all together to create a massive branching Scenario-Based eLearning project was astounding!  I have found throughout my process of building my portfolio I struggle without concrete examples or topics to work from. In my position now, I am given projects and I fly, but thinking up a random topic to build a course around has been difficult in the past.

The usual sentiment is to go with something you know, so I originally thought about something teaching-related. I built a project plan for using accommodations within the classroom but felt like it wasn’t something I wanted on my portfolio so I went back to the drawing board.  I realized my answer was staring me right in the face, currently enrolled in Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer’s Academy, I remembered the case study I was working on and the project that I was intended to create to complete the course. With a new sense of focus, I crafted a new project plan using Tim’s template and submitted it.

From there I began to design the branching scenario, I knew I wanted to focus on customer service for phone representatives of a web company.  After reading Clark’s book I knew that I wanted to have a pretty complex branch, with three options for answers; Best, Adequate and Inadequate as well as having three pathways that had varied interactions with the customer based on the Learner’s previous choices but always allowing them to make it back to the main “best” path. Additionally, immediate and personalized feedback seemed best, so I made sure add that in for every choice.

When I started to design the pathway, it was difficult to visually understand how this would translate to Articulate so I started to do some extra research and a post on the eLearning Heroes community helped me visually see how to take a branched scenario and put it into Articulate. I also reached out to Tim Slade who pointed me towards one of his own projects, allowing me to reverse engineer it – I often kept this open while I worked through mine to ensure accuracy.  I started to design my branching scenario and ultimately came to this:

My Scenario-Based eLearning Branching Scenario Flow Chart

One major aspect of this design was color coding, for my own neurodiversity I was able to see the path more clearly and understand how the choices would influence a movement between the scripts.  I wanted this to be interactive, every choice made the interactions more difficult but always gave a chance for the learner to “redeem” themselves and make it back to the “green” path which Clark wrote was essential for designing the branching scenarios.

Once I got this done, I printed it and started to build the course, I could check off the terminals as I created the slide, and it was highly efficient in keeping me in line.  I wanted to push myself a little in Articulate and included some strategies like personalization, during the introduction Learners input their names and the next slide allows Learners to choose an avatar, both supported by Clark’s book and a recommendation from Tim Slade’s “Dealing with Angry Customers” project.

Another piece of the color-coding was using intrinsic feedback, on each feedback slide, the customer has a background based on their mood (and the response from the Learner.)  This was why it was so important to include different slides/interactions at each challenge level, I wanted the interaction to be authentic.  I previously have worked for both Netflix and Amazon in their call centers, so I used a lot of my own experiences with customers to craft logical and plausible interactions. When dealing with customers, they do not just go back to “happy” or “green” unless you go above and beyond to problem solve and fix the interaction, it was something I wanted to be central to this project.  While the project was a massive undertaking, it pushed me to use slide masters, become even more efficient at creating slides, and thinking about the large picture of where the learner would be going.

When I started to build my storyboard, which I did do in tandem with some light Articulate design (again I prefer to SEE the layout etc.) I got stuck again, trying to organize all of the choices, the personalized feedback for each slide, and the multiple challenge questions…I decided to build my own storyboard and make it color-coded.

An example of my Storyboard, the box is one slide (green path) with the options underneath based on Best, Adequate and Inadequate.

In closing to this long-winded post, I am so glad to have taken this course and learned so much about scenario-based eLearning that I plan to continue to grow in.  I already have an idea for a course at my current position that would use a different style that Clark mentions which is an interface for more diagnostics approaches and I am excited to get started!  In future projects, I feel like I am getting a flow down, and realizing that while there is a clear design and application process each project will have its own process, and that’s okay. The more I am able to research, adapt and change the better! And now…I can finally sleep for a week before the fall semester starts!   

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