Putting together an interactive case study for learners followed by an in-depth de-brief is one of the most effective training strategies I know. But what happens if an experienced facilitator isn’t always available to lead such a session?
Part 1: The Case Study
By September 2011, my organization had replaced an old, log book-based “database” with a new IT system across multiple locations.
While managers complied with the compulsory use of this new IT system, the benefits for individual and organizational performance improvement weren’t readily clear. I designed a training session (click here to see the actual lesson plan) in which managers would run a report generated from the new IT system and use it as a data point to have a one-on-one conversations with a fictional staff member. The session required that the participants use critical thinking skills and it required constant feedback from a facilitator throughout the activity. It led to some significant ah-ha moments for the managers in how they could use the IT system to drive performance.
Unfortunately this training session cannot be repeated every time there is a new manager. It requires a skilled facilitator and generally works best in a group setting. I wondered if there was a way to replicate this learning experience via elearning.
My organization had worked with an elearning programmer in the past, but we had never done scenario-based elearning. There would need to be some significant branching, and we didn’t have a big budget.
In the end, the elearning programmer used Captivate to create the branching scenarios and did some custom programming and graphic design as well. We ended up with a program that not only replicated the learning objectives and real-life challenges of the original instructor-led session, we were also able to offer three scenarios to learners (the instructor-led session only featured one scenario).
There was a learning curve involved in working on scenario-based elearning which meant development took a little longer than I anticipated. Additionally, we originally took an “if you build it they will come” attitude, thinking once we announced that this course was available, managers would flock to enroll and complete the course. We’ve had to re-think the way we marketed the course and are preparing to “re-launch” the course now.
One manager who piloted this elearning module has said it was helpful for her. She would like her supervisory staff to use it. Once professional development plans (PDPs) are in place for other managers, this course will be recommended for a broader group of learners.
Part 2: What the Experts Say
A Good Beginning… There’s Potential For So Much More
“The simulation-like approach is one of my favorites because it provides a high level of ‘dialogue’ in the learning experience. By providing a series of questions with three realistic alternatives (and it can be very challenging to write realistic and appropriate questions), learners enter into a dialogue that approximates an actual conversation. This approach makes the learning more appropriate, more realistic and generally more fun!
It would also be exciting to extend this dialogue-based approach so that it not only included closed-loop communication between the learner and the on-line coach but also if you could introduce opportunities to engage in an open-loop conversation. This would provide users the opportunity to post comments and exchange observations with other learners. Open-loop would allow for another level of conversation to take place, increase the level of participation, and extend the learning experience beyond the confines of the e-learning module. Examples of open-loop communications in e-learning can be seen at http://vignetteslearning.com/vignettes/storyimpacts.php.”
Branching Scenarios Are Worth The Extra Effort And ROI!
“Branching, scenario-based learning allows the learner to make mistakes and take risks that might have dire consequences in real life but are safe in a simulated environment. This allows the learner to practice critical thinking and analysis of a situation that isn’t always ideal, but most likely reflects a real-life situation. The images of the people with their thoughts and dialogue add in extra clues that a manager, if perceptive, can use to help tailor their response. Of course, in person, we will not have access to a person’s internal voice, but we can observe body language to give us hints of how they may really feel or what they may be thinking versus what they say to us. The real-life photos (as opposed to avatars) in this course really helped bring it to life!
Although creating a robust simulation like this takes a knowledgeable SME and a sophisticated ID/ELD, taking ILT material and turning it into WBT is a huge cost savings when your audience is worldwide. The course will pay for itself in the savings of facilitator/ learner travel, especially if there is high attrition for the role assigned this training.”