Scenario-based online learning encourages learners to interact and emotionally connect with the subject matter. Why? Because it immerses the learners in real life or situational simulations or learning experiences. Offering information within a contextual setting facilitates recall within working and long-term memory. During the process, students must apply their subject knowledge, and critical thinking and problem-solving skills. SBL is often non-linear and can provide numerous feedback opportunities to students, based on the decisions they make at each stage in the process.

Key characteristics of scenario-based learning

  • Realism. To fully engage learners, the scenarios must be as realistic as possible, while still providing students or employees with the required information.
  • Learner-centric. The task should draw upon learners’ core strengths and allow them to use skill sets that they are developing, while at the same time improve upon their weak points.
  • Involve applied learning strategies. Each scenario should involve skills or knowledge that learners have already gathered and which can be applied to the current task. Under this method, learners learn by doing, rather than just merely reading or hearing about the information.
  • Interactive. Learners become fully immersed in the task and scenario, thanks to a high level of interactivity (even in virtual classroom settings). The interactive modules should rely upon real-world experience rather than theoretical information.

How Scenario-Based eLearning Improves Engagement and Understanding

Scenario-based learning facilitates engagement and helps learners to understand core concepts. This include:

  • Learner Motivation. Prior learning allows learners to accomplish a task and build upon skills they already possess by way of application. There is a significant degree of challenge, and the students will often strive to meet these challenges.
  • Allows the learners to directly see the rewards of learning. Learners will get the most out of their learning when they can see and understand the benefits. Scenario-based learning promotes active participation, which in turn leads to deeper learning. This is in contrast to learning and teaching materials such as books or lectures.
  • Challenges the learner without overwhelming their mental capacity. Successful activities are ones where learners are challenged, yet not overwhelmed. They draw upon previous knowledge which can be applied to a suitable contextualised scenario. However, if a learner feels that they cannot successfully navigate the scenario, then they will not give the effort that is required. As such, scenario-based learning can provide them with real-world obstacles and problems that they will face to expand their skill sets while keeping them engaged in the learning process.

How can I start creating Scenario-based learning?

Understand your learners. It is important to design the scenario with a thorough understanding of your learners’ needs and prior knowledge. For example, what are the core skills that they need to develop? What career aspirations do they have and what skills will they need to work in a particular role?

Identify learning outcomes. It is important to identify what it is you want students to achieve on completion of the scenario, and then to work backwards from the learning outcomes to create the situation that will lead to this learning.

Decide on your format. What media (photographs, audio, video) and other resources will you need? As this will be an online scenario, will you provide other supporting activities, such as wikis, discussion forums, etc.?

Choosing a topic. Non-routine tasks lend themselves to scenario-based learning. You could consider using ‘critical incidents’ and challenging situations that have occurred in your subject area. Identify the trigger event or situation.

Identify the trigger event or situation. This will be the starting point of your scenario. As you create the scenario, identify decision points and key areas for feedback and student reflection. Creating a storyboard is an effective way to do this.

Peer review your scenario. Ask colleagues to work through the scenario to ensure that it flows in the way you expect and achieves the outcomes you intended.


Depending on the complexity, building a scenario-based learning activity can be time-consuming, but the end-product can give the student authentic learning experience which can both challenge and motivate. It can offer the opportunity to create learning that is fully engaging and enables learners to tap into already established skills. Additionally, it can draw upon real-life experience to achieve a truly beneficial collaborative learning experience.

Panopto has some great tips for bringing scenario-based learning to life using video. Visit their website to learn more:

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Using scenario-based learning to improve engagement – Did you know?

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