Don’t Restart Scenario-Based Learning, Go Back

In my previous posts, I shared tips for managing the complexity of branching scenarios and some ideas on how long to let learners go down the wrong path. At some point in that wrong path, you have to redirect learners.

The question is: do you restart the scenario from the beginning or do you go back partway, maybe even just one single step?

Restart or Go Back?

Restart

Many scenarios I write have at least one short path of wrong decisions. This path usually starts with a poor choice. I give learners the option to correct their mistake and get onto a better path. However, if they make multiple wrong choices without ever making a good one, I force them to restart.

If the whole scenario is short (3-4 decisions on the ideal path), I usually just force a restart after each ending.

Back One Step

Most of the time, especially in longer scenarios, you can allow people to back up in the scenario rather than restarting from the very beginning. If learners make 4 correct decisions in a row but have a mistake in step 5, do they really need to go back to the beginning? Maybe they just need to jump back one step to where they made a mistake.

Cathy Moore uses this approach in many of her scenarios. For example, in this Ethics Training example, you can jump back to the previous decision. She shows this with a “Go Back” link. Sometimes you can only go back after reading feedback (“What happened?”).

Back to a Checkpoint

If your scenario allows people to make multiple wrong choices, you might have “checkpoints” where you return to. Let’s say that Joanna makes 3 correct choices, followed by 3 incorrect ones. If there’s a checkpoint after 3 choices, she can jump back to that point.

Think about video games. If your character dies in level 8, you don’t have to go back and play through levels 1 through 7 again. You either start at level 8 (a checkpoint) or right before you died (back one step).

Mix it up

You can use these techniques together in the same scenario. Some paths might lead to a restart, while minor errors might just return to one step earlier. It’s not an all or nothing question.

Can You Please Help Me?

Can you do me a favor? If you have a question about how to create branching scenarios, can you ask it in the comments? (If you’re reading this in email, feel free to reply and ask privately.) I’ll reply to every question asked. You might also see your question in a future blog post.

7 thoughts on “Don’t Restart Scenario-Based Learning, Go Back

  1. Good morning, This is very interesting and I want to be able to create scenarios for my middle school students (grades 6 to 8). Can you help me with this? Thank you very much. Abdou

    On Aug 30, 2017 10:09 AM, “Experiencing E-Learning” wrote:

    Christy Tucker posted: “In my previous posts, I shared tips for managing the complexity of branching scenarios and some ideas on how long to let learners go down the wrong path. At some point in that wrong path, you have to redirect learners. The question is: do you restart t”

    1. What subject do you teach? Are you teaching in a physical classroom or are you looking for online/blended activities?

      You might be interested in Oppia. It’s an open source tool for creating interactive lessons, plus a library of existing lessons on many topics like math. While many of these examples aren’t scenario-based learning the way I usually create it (with characters and at least minimal plot), they are all interactive. You can use this tool to create scenario-based learning. https://www.oppia.org/

  2. Some choices would also be dependent on the tool used to execute the option. More robust simulation development tools may also have additional logic to allow for a required outcome to occur if the player chose A for question 1, C for question 6 AND selected X at start.

    1. Good point. In tools like Captivate or Storyline, those kinds of complex decisions would be possible, but usually that’s not what people build. It’s more branching scenario than full-blown simulation.

      Nicole, what tools have you used to build simulations?

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