Branching scenarios are a great way to allow your learners to experiment and apply new knowledge and skills in a safe environment.
One of the best recipes for building a branching scenario is the 3C Model defined by Tom Kuhlmann, which states for Challenge, Choice and Consequences. Basically, each branching scenario should present learners with a challenge, a set of choices for that challenge and a consequence for each available choice.
Building engaging branching scenarios is quite a challenge. They work best in complex situations, where a number of decision points can have a major impact on the outcome. Examples include a negotiation, managing a difficult staff member or an emergency situation.
There are two types of branching scenarios:
• Image-based, when each sequence brings a new image; this is the most popular version, as it is much cheaper to produce;
• Video-based, when each sequence brings a new video; this format is especially useful when the information presented within the video has instructional value (e.g. how to replace a battery, how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre);
Most branching scenarios available on the internet are quite dry and less meaningful. A sound branching scenario will follow these key characteristics:
• Authentic. The scenario needs to be authentic, one that learners can relate to and one that they will face sooner rather than later;
• Meaningful. The scenario needs to be meaningful for the learner (e.g. getting a promotion, saving a wild animal);
• Challenging. The decision learners need to take through the scenario need to be really challenging and really make the learners think about which the best choice is;
• Attractive. It may sound superficial, but just using stock photos and placing text buttons next to them won’t really engage learners; you need to have audios and authentic images or videos that really express the showcased situations;
A first step in building a branching scenario is building a text-based script. This should be a simple and linear story of how a task should be performed. When the text is drafted, highlight in red the key challenges in performing that task. This is where you need to branch the scenario.