When you think of branching scenarios, do you think of self-paced elearning, maybe of an entire course with nothing but a complex branching scenario? While a lengthy branching scenario can be effective on its own, that isn’t the only way to use this approach. Combining branching scenarios with other training approaches lets you use branching scenarios for the activities where they matter most, while using other methods where they are effective.
Sometimes I hear people worry that using a branching scenario means they are committing to creating a whole 30-minute or 60-minute course with branching, or that it has to approach the complexity of a video game to be useful. That’s not usually the case (although larger simulations can be very effective in certain circumstances, if you have the resources).
Plan Specific Activities
In her book Map It, Cathy Moore argues that we should focus on planning activities to match specific performance goals, rather than always creating a course or single event of training. Designing this way means we may use branching scenarios for part of the training, but not for the whole thing.
Her advice is to choose “the best format for each activity, not one format for the entire project.”
If you need an activity for a skill that requires decision-making to discern between choices that aren’t absolutely right or wrong, a branching scenario may be a good choice. If you need an activity for a skill that is purely procedural, with no nuance, some other kind of practice activity is probably better. Think about your goals and when a branching scenario helps meet those goals.
Branching Scenarios for Practice
You can combine branching scenarios with other training formats. The branching scenario can be a practice activity as part of a larger program.
- Culminating Practice: A branching scenario might be the final practice activity in a course where learners string together all the steps they previously practiced individually.
- Spaced Practice: Short branching scenarios could be delivered over time to reinforce and improve skills as a follow-up to a live training event.
- Prework Practice: A branching scenario might be the prework practice activity to build skills before a live session for role play practice.
- Refresher Practice: Branching scenarios could be available for people to access on demand to practice as a refresher right before applying the skill.
Live Training with Branching Scenarios
In her book, Cathy Moore describes using branching scenarios in live and virtual training as well as eLearning. Live training (whether in a physical or virtual classroom) can be a great way to facilitate discussion about the gray areas of a topic. Cathy explains how one scenario worked with small groups in a live training.
Each group ran the scenario separately, debating their options. Then the larger group discussed the issues raised by the scenario. During the discussion, the facilitator helped participants identify the main takeaways.
You could also post the choices for a branching scenario on a slide in virtual training and ask people to make a choice in the chat. While polls are fast, chat gives people opportunities to explain their decision. I might consider asking a few people to describe their rationale. You can proceed through the scenario based on which choices make the points you want to demonstrate, or go through the scenario multiple times to show the results of different decisions.
Interested in Reading More?
Check out these other posts on branching scenarios.
- When to Use Branching Scenarios
- How to Get Started Writing a Branching Scenario for Learning
- Planning a Branching Scenario
- What to Write First in a Branching Scenario
- Writing Mistakes and Consequences
- Managing the Complexity of Branching Scenarios
I’m now up to over 40 posts on storytelling and scenarios if you’re looking for more.