Thursday, September 10, 2015

Building Irresistible Engagement: Branching Scenarios and Linkage to Novel Scenarios--Part III

In the previous post, the case was made that within an immersive E-Learning environment that learning objectives might be transformed from being a static element to a dynamic and adaptive element that reflects "real time" change in skill development. In order for this process of change to be measured accurately, assessment can not just be the assessment done at the end of the course. Also, the emphasis shifts from being less assessment of learning to more assessment for learning. This assessment for learning occurs during the movement through the scenario learning experience, both on an individual and collaborative level. The means to accumulating "just in time data" can effectively obtained through the use of branching scenarios.

Branching scenarios are a means by which we see and assess decision making among learners. These types of scenarios are ones in which the decisions made by the learner changes how the story or narrative develops and also the potential outcomes. Branching scenarios that involve telling a story in which the learner is a main character have the following benefits:

  1. Stories or narratives have more power to engage than non-narrative communication in which the learner is a passive spectator.
  2. Stories or narratives can create a sense of self-efficacy which is a crucial building block for leadership development.
  3. Stories or narratives make attitude change more persistent by engaging the cognitive and affective level of the learner.
  4. Making wrong or bad decisions in character in a non-threatening environment is educationally useful
  5. Stories or narratives can create para-social relationships that are conducive to future learner collaboration within a corporate environment or educational organization.
Branching scenario development also bring with them certain cautions to be aware of:
  1. Narrative branching scenarios should carefully consider the number of branches that will be used. Too many branches can lead to confusion and be unproductive.
  2. In the design of branching scenarios it is advisable, when developing the story, to make use of story boarding and flow charting. Programs such as Articulate to name one are useful in helping to plan out and test ideas.
The following is a simple example of a decision making tree:

Credit: Debbie Richards (NAC)
I would suggest, partially tongue firmly in cheek, that if you really want to see branching scenarios at work in a collaborative, online environment, get involved in an online collaborative video game. In such an instance you will experience how immediate feedback changes decision making and impacts learning objectives. The skill development becomes self-evident when the "gamer" or learner is exposed to a novel unfamiliar scenario.

Novel Scenario Linkages and Assessment

One problem that needs to be addressed is how do learners who progress through an irresistibly engaging scenario test their new skill development in order to establish confidence that these skills can be transferred to the reality which is their work place? They need a testing ground. No matter how many branching scenarios you use, when learners are successful in making their way through the scenario, the last task should be the proving or testing ground. The last link in the scenario should lead them to a completely new scenario that they have never seen before in which they are tasked with  a challenge where their newly developed skill sets will be called upon in a mission critical situation. The instructor or trainer in the blended learning situation should have the ability during the scenario to introduce into the scenario unexpected variables which requires the learners to re-think strategy. In such a theater, assessment can happen on many levels which helps build the learning profile of learners and speaks to adjustments to be made in future designs.

Next.....Maximizing Immersive E-Learning Through Virtual Technology.

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