Mini-Scenarios for Assessment

Scenario-based learning often means complex branching or simulations, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can use mini-scenarios to make your assessments more relevant and valuable. One of the big advantages of using mini-scenarios is that they’re fast and easy to build. You don’t need any special tools; any tool that can create a multiple choice question can be used for mini-scenarios.

Traditional Assessment or Mini Scenario

Imagine you’re creating a course for managers about motivation and using rewards effectively. You could ask a fairly typical comprehension question like this:

What is the best strategy for encouraging long-term behavior change in your employees?

  1. Threaten punishment for anyone not changing their behavior
  2. Offer a small reward for changing behavior
  3. Offer a large reward for changing behavior

If you have introduced this concept already, this question probably aligns to that content and to your learning objective. However, it’s very abstract. Compare that question to this one:

Andrew is a sales manager who has been struggling to motivate his team to better performance. He sent his team to a conference where they learned about sharing stories about previous happy customers to improve sales. A few salespeople really like using this technique, but he wants everyone to start using it more. In the long term, he wants to change their attitudes about the technique.

What should Andrew do to encourage his team?

  1. Threaten punishment for anyone not using storytelling
  2. Offer a small reward for using storytelling
  3. Offer a large reward for using storytelling

In the second example, a mini-scenario sets up the question. This provides context and makes it a concrete situation with a problem to solve rather than an abstract comprehension question. Now this is about applying the concept in a relevant situation rather than just remembering what you read.

Using a mini-scenario added a total of four sentences to the question. This is actually longer than many of my mini-scenarios; one or two sentences are often enough. You could use this assessment question in any tool, even using the built-in quizzing for many LMSs. It doesn’t take much more time to write than a traditional multiple choice question.

I have often found mini-scenarios useful for helping clients try out scenario-based learning without having to commit to something more complex and expensive. This is a way they can dip their toe in the water without having to do a completely scenario-based course. Even in a fairly traditional linear e-learning course, using mini-scenarios can make your knowledge checks more engaging and effective.

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