By Shelley A. Gable
Several posts on this blog promote the idea of using scenarios to make training as realistic and hands-on as possible.
Most of us don’t need a blog to remind us of that. But do we all know how to write scenarios realistically?
Show rather than tell.
This certainly isn’t new advice. But let’s explore what this might mean for writing scenarios for training.
Many of us tend to write scenarios that describe situations rather than create them. For instance: Mr. Brock calls to cancel his flight. What should you do next?
A simple approach to making this scenario more realistic is to write dialog. What does a customer typically say when calling to cancel? Are there certain statements that could influence what the learner’s reaction should be? Writing dialog, instead of basic description, prompts the learner to not only identify the next step, but also to first recognize a trigger for that step.
For the Mr. Brock scenario, a simple alternative might be: Mr. Brock says, “Hi. I’ve had something come up and I need to cancel my flight for this weekend. What are my options?” What should you do next?
Or: Mr. Brock says, “Hi. My father-in-law recently passed away, so I need to cancel my flight for this weekend. Can you refund that to my card?” What should you do next?
When writing feedback for eLearning activities, we can do more than tell learners whether their response was correct or incorrect. We can also describe the consequences of their response. What happens if they select an incorrect option on a form? Or attempt to sell a product the customer doesn’t qualify for? How does that inconvenience the customer? Does it create rework for the learner or other colleagues?
Describing consequences helps learners understand the bigger picture and can help their decisions in training feel more real (and perhaps more memorable).
eLearning lessons teaching computer systems often include knowledge check questions that ask learners to identify which button they must click to start a particular workflow.
Sometimes these knowledge checks are in the form of a multiple choice question, where the stem sentence provides the name of the system screen and the options are the names of buttons. But is this realistic? Do learners have to recognize screen and button names to perform correctly?
A more realistic approach is to provide a screen image with a hotspot interaction. Or, even better, an interactive simulation of the entire workflow. Reinforce visual recognition and the actual behavior.
How can we confirm realism?
Hopefully subject matter experts (SMEs) can help. Ask open-ended questions about what customers usually say in a situation or what the consequences are for a particular action. A conversation can often solicit what you need more effectively than hoping a SME will make those suggestions during a review of your drafted materials.
Observing experienced employees in action can provide a goldmine of ideas. Jot down quotes and behaviors. Ask questions. Try to observe a mix of top and middle-of-the-road performers. If you can’t be on location to observe, explore virtual options such as web conferencing, recordings, or transcripts. Of course, if you’re designing training for something brand new, observation might not be an option.
What do you suggest?
What touches do you add to scenarios to make them more realistic? And how do you verify their realism?