As discussed in my previous blog, branching scenarios are a powerful ingredient, which the instructional designers use to build interactivity and engagement in the module. A branching scenario places the learners in a situation, where they are presented with a challenge and they are required to make the choice of what to do in order to progress through the learning process. So essentially in a branching scenario, the learner progresses by receiving feedback and by experiencing the consequences in real time. Each consequence produces new challenges and choices for the learners.

In this blog, I would like to share some important tips for e-learning professionals on creating effective branching scenarios.

1.Analyse if the content supports branching scenarios

Branching scenarios are not a solution to every training requirement. Hence my first tip here is to conduct a proper analysis of the given content and understand if it supports branching or not. For the content to support branching it should have possibilities of problem solving, decision making, “what if ” and “then what”. If the content is linear in nature or just intends to provide information or knowledge, it is categorized under Level I of Bloom’s Taxonomy and does not support branching . At this stage it is also necessary for the instructional designers to clearly understand if the client desires to include branching scenarios in e-learning. If yes then the content should be accordingly taken from SMEs as inclusion of random branching scenarios or unrelated content might hamper the learning objectives.

2. List and map out the branches before starting the development process

Rather than building the branching screen by screen, it’s easier to set up all the screens first and then link the branches together to create the desired meaningful scenarios.

There are several instances where you see the developers jumping into the development stage without the fully building the branching scenario map or without a proper instruction design document. This can derail the process of development of branching scenarios as the developers can face roadblocks in building them and hence reaching the objective of learning becomes almost impossible here. This can be comfortably avoided by mapping out the entire scenarios before the start of production.
For example, the developers can use a properly designed storyboard which has all the process listed from the first to last including each decision-making paths and the respective outcomes. This act as a guide for the developers by giving them more clarity at each level.

3. Use real-world contexts 

The success of a scenario-based learning is mostly attributed to the use of real-world contexts in the e-learning. The  branching scenarios can include real-life situations like a workplace, a factory environment, a client’s office etc.  They can also include the usage of characters similar to real life like a co-worker or a superior in the scenarios. This helps the learners to relate to the learning experience  as it well aligned with the reality.

In branching scenarios, care should be taken to ensure that the branched scenarios are carefully designed and are not just mere lifeless scenes. The branched scenarios should be the consequences of the learners previous choice or decision and should be relatable.

For example, you can explore the popular branching scenario example of Connect with Haji Kamal to view how effectively the real life situations are mirrored in the module Keep in mind that it was developed for the US army. You can read more about such amazing examples of branching scenarios in my blog .

Hence, the tip here is to ensure that the branching scenarios should to the extent possible, mirror the real-life scenarios.

4. Choose the ideal elearning authoring tool

To develop elearning branched scenarios, ensure that the developers choose the appropriate authoring tool. Every elearning authoring tool does not support creating branched scenarios. Hence depending upon the complexity of the branching scenarios, the developers should choose the appropriate authoring tools wisely. Check with various e-learning forums and discuss your requirements to choose the best authoring tools to create branching scenarios.

I strongly recommend you to read this blog where I have written about the popular rapid authoring tool- Articulate Storyline 3 and 360.

5.Make it challenging

There is no fun if the elearning branching scenarios are easy and predictable, The branching scenarios should be carefully planned and designed to make it challenging for the learners. In branched scenarios, the decision and actions at each stage have different consequences in the next stages which branch out as next scenario. Making the choices challenging for the learners will build the engagement as well as excitement among the learners.

6.Incorporate relevant feedback for the learners

No eLearning is complete without providing feedback to the learners. If an employee is unable to choose the right path in the branching scenario assessment, tell them exactly why, where and how did they fail and how they can improve. Even for learners who have successfully navigated the branching scenario assessments, should have the option to uncover their strengths and weaknesses. The module can evaluate the decisions and choices of the learners to make them understand how their decisions influenced the learning process.

7. Understand the learner types while building the branching scenarios 

In my previous blog, I have discussed the different types of learners as

A) Visual learners
B) Kinesthetic learners
C) Aural learners

When you develop the elearning branching scenarios, identify the different type of the learners and make sure that the branching scenarios can effectively fit the requirements.

For example, visual learners will prefer good graphics and rich imagery or an animated scenario rather than using only photo images. This can be shown effectively in a branching scenario with the right use of multimedia graphics and elements in the scenarios.

In a recently developed gamified sales training for a pharma bigwig, we had used the branching scenarios depicting a space mission with alien attacks etc. This module became a huge success due to visual and sound effects included in the e-learning

While understanding the types of learners it is also important to look at the case of the adult learners, who prefer experiential learning and  approach the learning with a critical thinking perspective . Here branching scenarios can be a good strategy to implement, as it helps the learners to experience the learning process put to test their critical thinking approach.

These are the seven top tips for elearning professional to follow while creating branching scenarios.  Are you using any other tips while designing branching scenarios. We would love to hear them!