Get students fired up with scenario-based eLearning

Robert H Schuller Quote-800

Want to get students fired up about learning? Then present a problem and ask them for a solution. Scenario-based instruction will grab your student’s attention and keep them engaged in the learning experience. In this post, I will give some definitions of scenario-based learning, identify some of the benefits it offers, and explain when to use it in your online course.

What is it?

According to Clark and Mayer (2012), scenario-based eLearning is

“an instructional environment in which the learner assumes a role to make decisions or take actions to resolve a work-related situation.”

Rooted in situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991), participants use critical thinking to solve a real-world problem. This leads to “knowledge activation.”

Seker (2016) validates scenario-based instruction design as a tool to promote self-regulated language learning strategies:

“…they provide situated learning driven from the relevant problems to the context of learners (Brock, 2003; Naidu, 2010; Parrish, 2004).”

What are the benefits?

  • Learners must engage!
  • Learning becomes concrete as students face real-life problems.
  • Learners must apply existing knowledge to a problem.
  • Learners must assess the problem, develop a solution, and know why they came to the decision.

As students explore new information and topics in a real-world situation, they must demonstrate critical thinking skills and the application of knowledge to complete the scenario-based eLearning activity (Kelly, 2015).

When should I use it?

Well, what do you want your students to learn? Your answer to this question should help you identify when scenario-based learning is right for your course.

In the discussion forum of the online course that I teach, I use scenario prompts. Students are asked to put themselves into the shoes of historical actors in order to understand the challenges that those people faced in their time. This helps them understand why decisions were made. In these discussion forums, students must consider what they know as well as the varying perspectives of their peers in order to arrive at a conclusion.

Try it out!

The scenario example below was built in PowerPoint—a tool that everyone is familiar with! The Branched Scenario Template was a free download from eLearning Heroes. I used the 3 C Model of Scenario Building (Kuhlmann, 2017) to identify the problem and solution as well as the consequences of the scenario.

In the scenario, Scott Fillmore, an employee of Seeking a Change, LLC, is faced with a customer service complaint. To select the best response to the problem, the learner must apply conflict management skills that were acquired in a recent company training module. Complete the scenario yourself by opening this link to the PowerPoint file.

Scenario 1 Dissatisfied With Customer Service

How did you do? In the future, I would like to explore using this type of activity to create what Cathy Moore calls memorable mini-scenarios to add further value for learners. I hope this quick-and-easy scenario-based eLearning activity inspires you to create your own!


Clark, R. C., and Mayer R. E. Scenario-Based e-Learning, Center for Creative Leadership, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. Created from springarboruniv-ebooks on 2017-06-19 14:23:46.

Culatta, R. (2015). Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne). Instructional

Culatta, R. (2015). Situated  Learning (J. Lave). Instructional

Kelly, R. (2015, September 24). Scenario-based learning in the online classroom. Retrieved June 23, 2017, from

Cathy Moore. (2011, October 12). How to create a memorable mini-scenario [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Seker, M (2016). Scenario-based instruction design as a tool to promote self-regulated language learning strategies. Sage Open.


Visual Tools: Convert Your Content into a Format That Pops

Are you an instructor who’s thought, “I have all this content that my students need to know—why aren’t they getting it”? Have you considered converting that bland text into a format that pops? Let’s discuss why you should consider using visual tools to bring your information to life.

Why would you want to use a visual tool like an infographic? According to Educause, an “infographic” displays a lot of data and ideas with images from simple to complex in a visually appealing online format that can be interactive.

Converting your content requires the following steps:

  1. Start by analyzing your content to determine what format you are going to use. You want to make sure that it is meaningful and relevant to the topic at hand.
  2. Ask yourself: “what are the instructional objectives?” Are students required to remember facts and concepts to build a foundation so that they can later connect, elaborate, synthesize, and apply it to other information? This was my situation when I created the history infographic below. Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is a useful tool for considering instructional objectives. Bannister (2002) also provides useful tools for Developing Objectives and Relating them to Assessment.
  3. Finally, what format will you convert the information into? Your answers to Question #2 will help you determine the format that you will use. An infographic is best to present facts and concepts; if you want to use embedded audio or video, an interactive presentation works better.

Two easy-to-use infographic tools are Emaze and Piktochart. You can sign up for a free account, but keep in mind that it only gives you access to certain templates. You can still create some cool visual presentations and interactions with the free templates.

Below, I’ve shared two examples that I created using these free tools. In the first example, I created an infographic using a Piktochart. In my Black Political Thought infographic, I asked learners to connect how black ideologies and politics shape current American events and culture.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 10.49.55 AM

In the second example, I presented Great Peacemakers to the Trailblazers Toastmasters club. Rather than sharing handouts with globs of text, I used Emaze to create an interactive visual presentation to engage my audience throughout my presentation. by emaze

My audience gave me great feedback with meaningful Glows and Grows (a reflection and assessment strategy meant to improve presentations).

This time you might use an infographic or interactive visual; the next time you may want to transition your content into an eLearning activity. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to use PowerPoint to create an interactive scenario.


Bannister, S. (2002). Developing Objectives and Relating them to Assessment. The Center for Teaching and Learning.

7 Things You Should Know About Infographic Creation Tools | EDUCAUSE CONNECT (01 February 2013) by Educause_learning_initiative