Author: Christy Tucker

ID and eLearning Links (11/12/17)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Instructional Design and E-Learning Links

What to Write First in Branching Scenarios

Writing a branching scenario can be intimidating or overwhelming. Unlike a linear course, it’s not as easy to know where to start writing. Do you write the endings first? Do you write all the mistakes first? Do you start at the beginning and then flesh out each path as you write those choices?

I have found that it’s easiest to write the ideal path from start to finish first. I note decision points and sometimes draft bad choices along the way, but I don’t fully write anything else until I finish the ideal path.

What to Write First in Branching Scenarios

Writing the Ideal Path from the Outline

In my last post, I explained how I create an outline of the steps in the scenario. This is my plot outline for the story if learners take the “ideal path,” making the best decision at every step. For each step in the outline, create a situation in which the learner must choose to take that action. You create a decision point where the best choice is the first step in your outline.

Write the First Decision

Building on the example from my last post, a course on screening potential consulting clients, I have a process with 4 steps.

  1. Send client initial screening questions.
  2. Review client responses for fit and feasibility.
  3. Learn more about client needs during preliminary phone call.
  4. Propose a short road mapping engagement.

Because I did that planning in advance, I know exactly what I’m writing first: a decision where the right choice is sending the client initial screening questions.

Sophie receives an email from a prospective client, Robert.

Hello Sophie,

My company has 4 classroom training courses we’d like to convert to online. One of them is a half day course; the others range from one day to four days long. Can you please tell me what you would charge to convert these courses to online?

Regards,

Robert

What should Sophie do?

    1. Send Robert a price estimate.
    2. Send Robert some client screening questions.
    3. [[Some other OK choice TBD]]

Write the Remaining Ideal Decisions and Consequences

Once you have the first step written, the next thing you will write is the consequence from making that best decision in step one. In this example, the prospective client will reply to the email.

Robert replies with his answers to the screening questions.

[placeholder–questions and answers here]

What should Sophie do?

  1. These answers look reasonable. Schedule a call to discuss it further.
  2. [[OK choice TBD]]
  3. [[Bad choice TBD]]

Continue writing until you get to the end of the ideal path, showing the consequences for good decisions and how they lead to the next decision.

Don’t Write the Mistakes Yet

When I write my initial draft of the ideal path, I focus just on the correct or best choices first. I don’t write all of the mistakes and their consequences on the first pass through writing. As I draft choices, I might write down some of the bad choices if I already know them. For example, in step one, I know the mistake I’m trying to avoid is the first choice above of sending a price estimate without understanding the problem and scope first. However, at this stage of writing, it’s OK to just leave a placeholder for the other choices.

I find it helpful to indicate what kind of choices I still need in the placeholder. For most scenarios, the majority of decision points have a Good, OK, and Bad choice.  You can see how I noted that in my placeholders as “OK choice TBD” or “Bad choice TBD.”

Write the Ideal Ending and Feedback

At the end of the scenario, after learners have made all the correct decisions, write the ending. This should show the positive consequences of those choices. The ending should show what it looks like when people meet the learning objectives. In this example, the ending will show Sophie and Robert working together with a productive relationship.

You may also choose to include some more instructional feedback or coaching. At the end of the scenario, it can be helpful to tell people why the decisions they made were correct to reinforce what they learned.

Use Twine for Writing

I have tried a number of different tools and methods for writing branching scenarios. The open source tool Twine is my favorite for writing scenario drafts and creating quick prototypes. This makes it easy to see the connections between decision points. It’s also easy to leave placeholders for other choices that you will flesh out later.

More Reading

In my next post, I’ll describe how I write the mistakes and flesh out the rest of the scenario.

You might also be interested in my other posts on branching scenarios.

 

Planning a Branching Scenario

After I have completed my analysis for a branching scenario, I spend time planning before I start actually writing the content.

My planning includes three components:

  • A scenario concept and summary
  • An outline
  • A list of mistakes

Planning a branching scenario

Scenario Concept and Summary

I create a summary of the scenario and the narrative. This is included in the design document and signed off by the client and SME before I start writing. I want everyone on the same page for the basic concept of the scenario.

The summary includes the name and role of the main character, plus any other critical characters. I describe the problem the main character faces and how it will be addressed. This is just a few sentences to give the overall feel of the scenario without getting into much detail.

Here’s an example:

Sophie is an instructional design consultant. She’s tired of spending hours and hours writing proposals for clients who don’t end up hiring her or really aren’t a good fit in the first place. She has been contacted by Robert about a potential project. Sophie will attempt to follow a new process for screening clients to see if this is actually a good fit for her skills and to establish a professional relationship with Robert.

Create an Outline

I start with a rough outline or checklist of steps in the ideal process. Let’s say I’m creating a course on screening potential consulting clients, and I have a process with 4 steps. Each of these steps will be a decision point in the scenario.

  1. Send client initial screening questions.
  2. Review client responses for fit and feasibility.
  3. Learn more about client needs during preliminary phone call.
  4. Propose a short road mapping engagement.

It’s possible that when I write the scenario that I’ll realize I need to add another choice in this process, but this gives me the basic flow.

Identify Mistakes

Based on my analysis (including conversations with SMEs, learners, and/or other stakeholders), I also create a list of mistakes or errors people could make. This list tends to be fairly fluid for me; I try to brainstorm more mistakes and problems that I’ll actually use in the scenario. Some mistakes might be critical for the learning objectives, while others might be possible options.

Continuing the previous example, here is a list of potential mistakes I might use.

  • Agreeing to a client request for a project before screening for fit (critical–must include)
  • Sending client screening questions without a budget question
  • Ignoring red flags in client responses (not enough money, unrealistic timeline, etc.)
  • Rejecting a client because they don’t know what they want (that’s what road mapping is for)
  • Jumping right into asking about project logistics without understanding goal/problem
  • Writing a big proposal for free

I try to include both major, critical errors and some errors that are partially correct or in the gray area. Sometimes this list of mistakes also includes notes on consequences, although usually I have that in my notes from the SME.

I find it helpful to include both the outline and list of mistakes in the design document if possible. I haven’t always done it that way, but it seems to help set clear expectations with SMEs and clients.

Start Writing

Once I have all of those pieces together and approved, I start writing. In my next post, I’ll explain my process for creating the first draft.

Geometric background image: Storyblocks (7-day free trial, unlimited downloads $149/year)

ID and eLearning Links (10/15/17)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Instructional Design and E-Learning Links

Book Review: Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning

Patti Shank’s Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning is a summary of tactics you can use to create memorable, relevant practice opportunities and provide constructive, beneficial feedback for learners. Everything in the book is backed by research and written to be immediately usable by instructional designers and trainers.

Cover: Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning

This is the second installment in Patti’s “Make It Learnable” series, which is shaping up to be one of those sets of fundamental reading in the field of instructional design. The first book is Write and Organize for Deeper Learning; you can read my review of the first book. As with that book, this book gives you a shortcut to what really works based on evidence, without having to wade through complex (and often contradictory) research yourself. Specifically, this is based on training research, not research on K-12 or higher education learners.

Have you ever wondered…?

  • How do we create practice activities that will help transfer skills to the workplace?
  • Ho can we create practice activities that are more memorable?
  • How can we create more effective feedback than just “correct” and “incorrect”?
  • Do novice and experienced learners benefit from the same strategies?
  • How do we make sure learners are practicing the right skills and behaviors?
  • How can we help learners deal with errors and mistakes?
  • If we’re training a complex task, should we divide the task into small parts or train a simple version of the whole task?
  • Is it better to give feedback right away or to delay it?
  • What kinds of realism are important to training practice? Is it necessary to use lots of multimedia to make training look exactly like the work environment?
  • Is it better to set goals for specific performance levels or goals for making progress in learning?

All of these questions are addressed in this book through 5 overall strategies divided into 26 tactics.

Go buy Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning now. Read it, and then pick something relevant to apply to your own work. After all, the best way to improve your own learning design is to practice using these tactics yourself.