Friday, September 4, 2015

Building Irresistible Engagement--Scenarios & Branching Scenarios in E-Learning-Part I

One of the main thrusts of prior posts on this site is that whether or not we are talking about a corporate or educational organization, we want learners to become creators of new knowledge and skill sets, and to work collaboratively as agents of change. This goal not only benefits corporate and educational organizations but ultimately our societies are enriched and new generations are inspired in a positive fashion. Skeptics might dismiss this as a "Pollyanna Principle" at work but adapting a skeptics mindset very often results in paralysis of the will to see beyond self-imposed limitations and maintaining the status quo.


This change requires a radical but obtainable and sustainable change in mindset. Simulations and problem based learning are means by which we can build irresistible engagement into designed learning experiences and nurture this mindset until it becomes a part of the natural thinking patterns of corporate and educational organizations.

Another means by which such a mindset may be fostered is through the designed use of online scenarios and branching scenarios.

The Nature of E-Learning Scenarios

 One of the great benefits of online learning is the power that gives the learner and ID to create, experiment and change behaviors of learners in a non-threatening environment. It is similar to what happens to "gamers" who play online video games. When your character makes a serious error during game play, dies or is eliminated, he or she knows that they can be "re-started" at a point prior to where the error was made and take a different approach to the confronted problem. Even "gamers" are given pause after such an event to consider their mistake and think about another course of action  that will allow them to avoid a repetition of the same fate. Some are quick to re-consider a new path and some take more time. This mirrors individualized learners in corporate and educational organizations. However, unlike the video gamer, a learner in a corporate or educational setting, might have limited extra chances to get it right.


Important Design Elements in E-Learning Scenarios

In building irresistible engagement through E-Learning scenarios, certain key design elements that speak to effective pedagogy should be considered. The following elements, although not exhaustive, should be considered as those having the greatest impact:

  1. Focus: In order to covey to learners that they are involved in a meaningful, relevant experience, the design should focus on relevant real world problems and issues. The design should allow connections to be drawn by the learner to their own personalized learning situation.
  2. Story Telling: It is important that a realistic and personally relatable story be told. If the goal is to create an irresistibly engaging learning experience, the story telling must not treat the learner as a passive observer. In this we can take a lesson from great fiction novels in which the author crafts his or her novel in such a way that the reader feels that he or she is part of the developing story. Engagement is more than an intellectual exercise but should involve the emotional and sensory aspects as well. In such a "flow", you not only anticipate what you would do as a participant in the unfolding story, you are driven to see if your own thinking in the situation results in the consequences you anticipate. In an effective E-Learning scenario, the learner operates as a dynamic entity interacting with his or her new environment. Real time for the learner stands still when in a state of flow.
  3. Collaborative: You have often heard it said by instructors and presenters that it is important to know your audience. This is a truism that trainers take as matter of great importance but in E-Learning this takes on a more expansive dimension. It is not enough to know basic data about the audience. It is important to know the learning profiles of the people involved and especially their openness to collaborating with others. Collaboration among learners tasked to arrive at solutions in problem based scenarios requires an awareness of what each collaborator brings to the table to help to arrive at a solution. Collaboration is a key skill set for 21st century learners.
  4. Immediate Feedback: Just as in gaming, immediate, relevant, instructive feedback is required on the decisions that are made both individually and collaboratively during the scenario. Too often such experiments fail because instructors give feedback at the conclusion of the experience instead of during the experience. This is important because it is an influence in the path taken during branching scenarios. It is a dynamic process! It is from plausible consequences that we learn, re-think, re-group and move towards a solution. It is also in these crucial moments that ingenuity and innovation have opportunity to surface.

In using scenarios as part of a hybrid approach to E-learning, what starts to emerge is what the future of E-Learning holds. As what one author postulated, we will see an "Immersive E-Learning" appear on the immediate horizon. The technological aspects are, as we write, being put strategically in place.

Credit: Robert Penn
Next---More scenario elements, branching scenarios and innovative pedagogy.

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