A Scenario to Make You Shiver

Whether or not you properly deice and anti-ice an airplane can mean the difference between life and death for the passengers and crew. I had the opportunity to create several eLearning courses for a client in the aeronautics industry and in this lesson, they had me to create this scenario to bring home the importance of the deicing/anti-icing process.


This week’s eLearning challenge was to create a Branching Scenario following Tom Kuhlmann’s three Cs of Challenge, Choices, and Consequences. Branching scenarios give the learner an opportunity to practice what you’ve been teaching them in a real life situation where there are numerous actions to choose from.


For each incorrect and correct decision, you can give the learner feedback including telling them what could/would happen as a consequence of their decision. And you can give them the opportunity to retry as many times as it takes for them to get it right.


These scenarios are really very simple interactions to build. Each choice links up to a different branch where you can give them feedback. Branching scenarios can also get more complicated if you decide to branch more than once. For example, if you had a scenario with more than one decision that had to be made along the way. Like a tree, each time you branch off, you exponentially increase the number of feedback paths you need to create, and some of those paths can even take the learner back to a previous slide in the scenario.

I suggest if at all possible keeping to just two or three options each time they have to make a choice, and to keep the number of decision points to the minimum you can get away with. These scenarios should also be brief as possible. You’ll notice I set up this scenario with a minimum of background information to get right to the point. So, check it out here and let me know what you think.


Redundancy and Coherence

Two principles of good e-learning design are to avoid redundancy and to keep things coherent and uncluttered. This week’s e-learning challenge was to present these good instructional design principles in a piece of e-learning. I decided to create before and after examples of two of the principles David Anderson outlined.

Although this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, I see it in A LOT of e-learning courses. Back in my college days, we had a biology professor who had these extremely wordy PowerPoint slides and then he proceeded to read every word on them verbatim. It drove the whole class nuts, a lot of students scored poorly on his tests, and he seemed completely dumbfounded as to why. Instead of reinforcing the information, redundancy distracts from it. Here’s the redundant “before” version.

Click to view redundancy example

Click to view redundancy example

And here’s the much-improved “after” version.

Click here to view the solution

Click here to view the solution

I’ve seen this principle violated most when IDs try to incorporate storytelling or branching scenarios for the first time. In e-learning, the stories only exist to reinforce the learning experience, not to detract from it. Strip the story down to its essentials, removing any extraneous details. Here’s the cluttered, long-winded “before” version.

Click to view It's Not a Novel

Click to view It’s Not a Novel

And here’s the elegant, much-improved “after” version.

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution


Turning Rules & Regulations Into Stories


You’re in the unenviable position of having to create an e-learning course on regulatory requirements. How can you breathe life into Article 27 Subsection 42 so that learners won’t forget it five seconds after they exit the course? Just turn it into a story.

The previous training was in the form of a PowerPoint using those ubiquitous bullet points. It was drab and uninspired. 

Before - Slide with Bullets

Before – Slide with Bullets

“Now, how are you going to make that into a story?” you might ask. Well, think of it this way; ask yourself (or better yet, the SME) what would be the consequences if A27S42 were violated? Where there’s a rule, there are always consequences, and those consequences are…drum roll please, your story!

Consequences can be grouped into three basic categories:

  1. Direct – If you leave the bathtub running long enough, it’s going to overflow.
  2. Disciplinary – Maybe there is no good sensible reason you can think of for A27S42, but you know if you violate it, you could get fired or face disciplinary action.
  3. Legal or regulatory – Your organization could get fined for violating these, and those fines can sometimes compound daily until the issue is properly resolved.

I’ve only discussed the negative consequences here, but there may also be positive ones like rewards, recognition, bonuses, etc. for doing the right thing.

Once you have the positive and negative consequences, create characters in the course who go through their day encountering various scenarios where these rules come into play. Give the learner opportunities to explore what happens both when they obey the rules and when they don’t using simple branching, layers, or states. This is especially easy to do in Storyline, but is also possible in other programs. Here’s what the new, improved story version looks like:

Character is presented with real-life situation

Character is presented with real-life situation

Learner has to choose what to do next

Learner has to choose what to do next

Learner gets feedback based on their decision

Learner gets feedback based on their decision