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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!   

Storyboarding for eLearning Design

When I started my journey into Instructional Design and I heard about storyboarding I felt a bit overwhelmed. I was convinced I had never done it before, but as I started to review my past courses at Boise State I found that during my Youtube for Educators course I had created a great storyboard for a documentary I had put together.  As a visual person, I really appreciated being able to tie pictures or visions to my ideas.  As I reviewed the work, I found that I could easily use it for both video and eLearning design.  Scripting is something that is very new to me, creating my own videos I usually just fly by the seat of my pants (a great teacher trait) but as I move into the corporate world I am finding that the more I can create or communicate my vision and get feedback from stakeholders FIRST is better.  Tim Slade mentions that communicating your vision and getting feedback from the storyboard is important instead of wasting time fixing a deliverable that could have been adjusted in just the storyboard phase.  

The first storyboard I am commenting on is the one I had from my Boise State course, it was for my Minecraft for Education Documentary. The template is a very linear, simple boxed design but I appreciate that I can easily communicate my ideas on the left with visuals on the right.  Using this format I can easily line things up, and I could easily cut and paste and move things around if I needed to.  I wonder if it is too simple and does not have enough for eLearning slides, it would be great for short videos but feel that I would need something more fleshed out for eLearning.

After watching the videos by Tim Slade I thought of my eLearning Storyboard notebook that he created, it’s very simple but packed with ideas. Recently when I started to build an instructional video for OPWL 523 I referenced it often to get ideas on what I needed to think of when I was building it. Tim Slade’s notebook has slide information, a slide-type with a checklist, a slide design that I can draw out with, a box for Audio Narration/On-Screen Text, and two boxes at the bottom with Technical Notes and Navigation. What I loved was all of this information that I didn’t even think about on one page, and it would really push me to think about these aspects.  The cons are that these are SO finite that I don’t know how reasonable they would be to use in my current practice. We are often rapidly deploying eLearning and the emphasis seems to be on getting content out, this process would make it difficult to do that.

On Tim’s blog, I did find more storyboarding templates including a visual and written storyboard, these were free and downloadable and much more reasonable for everyday use.  As someone who prefers visuals and often thinks in pictures, I really gravitated towards the visual Storyboard Template. It had a box for audio or text, interactivity and programming notes, and a slide mockup.  The pros of this were definitely the ability to create a visual mockup, but also take into consideration will I have to code a progress bar? What type of transition or movements. The only negative would be taking Tim’s advice about reducing visual design that could hinder a Stakeholder or SME’s ability to look at the content which would be difficult with this template including a visual mockup space. 

Learning Reflection #5

As a transitioning teacher, it has been extremely tough, I never expected that while many start at 0 in the hiring process I am starting at -10.  I have to prove myself competent, I have to prove my tech skills and the fine line between relating my experience as a teacher and being seen as “too treachery”.  In an informal interview this week, simply a phone screen with the Manager of the department, we discussed her needs and I immediately went to scenario-based learning as a solution.  

The manager immediately perked up and we discussed how she also loves scenario learning, at the end of the call she encouraged me to apply, she said I sounded great.  And then there was the inevitable but….”but you have no corporate experience, I am not sure you will get past the recruiter.” she replied. I was devastated, my job fits perfectly in Instructional Design, I have almost two masters in education and a wealth of experience, and yet it feels like it hurts me?  

While I am still grappling with my “pivot” I am excited to continue to learn about SBeL and feel that the book we are reading could be one of the most important I read, and something I will refer back to often. It’s something I did in teaching. I even have a Mystery game I built for the Salem Witch Trials in PowerPoint, where the student is immersed in the world of Salem. The learner ultimately has to deduce who lied and what was happening in the Salem Witch trials. I am excited to see how my skills in this area continue to grow in this area and how I can translate these skills into corporate experince.