With an opening scene of an office set up, my focus was guided to notice the character on the screen who was the unit head.

The narration and screen text said that he was doing something fishy and his activities were against the ethics and values policy of the organisation. As the scene stopped playing, it gave me three choices to select:

1. To report the matter to the concerned authorities.
2.To confront him and tell him that he you have observed him doing something, which you feel is against the policy of the organization.
3. Don’t report it as he is your superior and your job might be at stake.

When I clicked on the first option, it took me to the next and connected scenario which had branched up from the previous one.
It showed a dialogue conversation between the concerned authority and me where my character was shown as reporting the fraud. The call outs show the official authority appreciating the honesty of the character and promising actions.

This was a snippet from the whistle blower policy module which included a small branching scenario branching scenario in e-learning  to educate the learners. The module was thrilling and at no stage, I felt bored or disengaged as it included the clever use of branching scenarios. Also the scenarios and choices were apt to the situation and mirrored the incident that can happen in a real life.  It was not as if the e-learning module was following a unidirectional track but it was giving me the power of decision making as I had choices to make.  As an adult learner I was excited as I felt being  in control of the learning experience.

The below flowchart represents the branching scenario in e-learning from the above example.

The present day elearning modules are not just focused alone on  providing quality content, but instead, the modules should be able to create engagement among the learners too.  And one such effective way to  encourage learners to interact with course content is using the branching scenarios  in e-learning .

What is branching scenarios in e-learning ?

A branching scenario places the learner in a situation where they are presented with a challenge and  the learner is required to make choice of what to do in order to progress through the learning process by receiving feedback and also experiencing the consequences in real time. Each consequence produces new challenges and in turn more choice to the learners.

Branching scenarios in e-learning can substitute the traditional and over used  “click-read-understand style” of eLearning format. While this format could simply satisfy the objective of sharing the content or information to the learners, it lacked engagement as the learners were just required to press the next button to read and understand the textual or visual facts presented on the screen. Let us look at an example.

An e-learning on sales skills can depict an effective sales pitch like a conversation between a showroom sales executive and a customer in an automobile showroom in two ways- a single slide or normal scenario with simple visual images and speech bubbles with a scripted sales pitch which goes only in a single direction or a branched scenario. In the first situation the learner’s focus will be limited to the way the conversation is being driven in the module. Instead by including branching scenarios, a real life like situation or feel can be given to the module where human interactions can be captured beautifully. In the real world, a customer may be having many queries and how the sales person handles it may lead to certain consequences and challenges, which can be done justice through the use of branched scenarios. 

In an e-learning branching scenario, decisions made in earlier scenes affect later scenes. This makes the learners feel that he is in control of the scenario or the learning process and hence feels the ownership of the decisions. In my personal opinion, I have felt that as a learner, I tend to use more thoughts and information gathered in the learning process to make the decisions or choice in branching scenarios  as I feel the ownership of the decision made.

So let us see what are the advantages of using branching scenarios in e-learning:

1. They boost interactivity and user engagement as well as develops the critical thinking ability of the learners.

2.With immediate feedbacks branching scenarios  allow the learners to learn from their mistakes.

3. They allow the learners to learn without the fear of making the mistakes

4.They allow the learner to take the ownership of their decisions.

5. Branching scenarios enable learners to put the theoretical knowledge of the learners into practical perspective.

If you are looking at using branching scenarios in your learning modules, the world wide web recommends to use the three Cs model.

1. Challenge.

Challenge:The goal is to engage the learner and challenge the learners understanding on the topic.
Challenges play a very important role  in training topics like sales training etc where the learner should be pulled to the scenario to solve the challenges.

Present the learner a situation or scenarios , to process the information, reflect, and then allow the learner to make a decision.

Choice: Once the learner is challenged, he needs to make a decision (or series of decisions). Provide some choices to work through the challenge. The choices should all be viable and realistic options.
A branched scenario module made for the senior level management  should include or give them choice for decision making purpose. The senior level management in any organisation is always involved in the decision making process in every organisation  hence including appropriate choices in the branch scenario can evaluate their decision making skills.

Consequences : Each choice leads to a consequence, and these consequences are there so that the learner can learn from their mistakes.?
Consequences are very important for training topics like compliance training. The compliance training should focus on showing the learners what are the consequences of not complying to the policies . The branched scenario can effectively depict the consequences of

With the present elearning modules looking to actively engage the learners, I feel that branching scenarios in e-learning are an effective mechanism to serve this purpose.
By evaluating learners’ choices in branching scenarios,  the organisation can evaluate the decision choices made by the learners  to identify the learning and performance gaps. This helps in planning for corrective actions if required. Hence Branching scenarios in e-learning are an effective way to evaluate  and engage the learners.