7 Branching Scenario Techniques For Instructional Designers

7 Branching Scenario Techniques For Instructional Designers
Summary: Real world experience is often the best teacher, especially when that experience doesn't come with any real world risk. In this article, I'll share 7 branching scenario techniques that Instructional Designers can use to create dynamic, immersive, and highly effective branching scenarios for their corporate learners.

7 Branching Scenario Techniques Every Instructional Designer Should Keep In Mind

Branching scenarios may not be the ideal solution for every online training program. However, they can give employees the opportunity to apply their skills, practice complicated tasks, and analyze performance gaps in a supportive, stress-free environment. This can be attributed to the fact that branching scenarios mimic real world behaviors, such as decisions and challenges that employees face on a regular basis. If they make the incorrect decision, the branching scenario will lead them down an unfavorable path, thereby allowing them to correct any behaviors that are hindering their success. In order to design an effective branching scenario, Instructional Designers should keep the following 7 branching scenario techniques in mind.

  1. Begin at the end (Backtracking).
    It's always advisable to know your destination before you take the first step, which is why the backtracking technique is so effective. This is especially the case if you have a more complex branching scenario that has multiple different branches and outcomes. Try to mix things up a bit when you are determining the endpoints to enhance the realism. For example, you may want to include a variety of unfavorable and desired outcomes, as well as those that walk the middle ground. Some eLearning professionals even take a "spectrum" approach, where they design the best and worst branching outcomes, and then fill in the space between with consequences or rewards that become progressively better or less favorable.
  2. Include a few stress-free decisions.
    It's a proven fact that creating just the right amount of tension and pressure can yield better results. For this reason, you should include at least a few choices within your branching scenario that are stress-free. This gives your corporate learners the opportunity to take a break from the decision-making process, as is the case in the real world. As a general rule, your learners don't typically have to make deal-breaking decisions at every turn. Include a handful of trivial branches that don't have any consequences or repercussions in order to improve immersion and give them a chance to take a deep breath before they move forward.
  3. Offer them "inner voice" branching paths.
    Not all choices that we make in life are aloud. This is why integrating "inner voice" paths is an effective way to make your branching scenarios more engaging and interactive. Instead of adding verbal response choices, such as "I would like to offer you a store credit," you can opt for an action or thought response, like "Offer them a store credit". In some respects, this approach can also make your branching scenarios more challenging, as corporate learners aren't able to simply guess the correct path. This is due to the fact that inner voice decisions often sound more natural, particularly when verbal responses usually aren't warranted.
  4. Show, don't tell.
    There is typically no need to include an introduction or backstory in your branching scenario. In fact, most of the information should be conveyed through the dialogue and the branching choices. For example, instead of telling your corporate learners outright that the customer is unhappy with their purchase, let them figure this out on their own by reading or listening to the dialogue. You can even use this "Show, don't tell" method to make your characters more dynamic, which allows you to develop the characters when necessary, without having to include a lengthy bio.
  5. Keep character development to a minimum.
    Speaking of lengthy bios, it's wise to keep your character development limited. Including a vast amount of information about the character's relationships, mental state, and experience will only overwhelm your learners and draw attention away from the subject matter. You may also want to avoid explanations for why your characters are behaving in a certain way, as the dialogue and actions should speak for themselves. The exception to this rule is a branching scenario that centers on behaviors and motivations, as corporate learners will need to know the backstories in order to make informed decisions.
  6. Provide detailed feedback.
    To make your branching scenarios truly effective you must be ready to offer targeted feedback and constructive criticism. If a corporate learner embarks down an unfavorable branching path, then let them know why their decision was incorrect and give them the information they require to correct their performance behaviors. You should also be as specific and detailed as possible when creating your outcomes. This gives your corporate learners the sense that their actions and choices do carry weight, and that every decision they make leads to real world consequences or rewards.
  7. Set the mood.
    It's important to set the tone when developing your branching scenario. Choose music that creates a specific mood, and images that offer the perfect amount of realism. There must be a feeling of immersion and interactivity in order to draw your corporate learners in and stress the real world applications and benefits of the branching scenario. If possible, use pictures from the workplace and integrate imagery that they can relate to, such as photos of an employee in business attire for an office-based environment or snapshots of the equipment they use on a regular basis.

Branching scenarios give corporate learners the chance to gauge real world consequences, minus the risk. Each decision takes them down another path and allows them to see the repercussions, good or bad, of their actions. This makes it one of the most effective and engaging online training activities for every generation of your workforce, from the tech-savvy Millennials to the goal-oriented Baby Boomers.

Are you still on the fence about whether branching scenarios are right for your online training course? Read the article The Top 7 Benefits Of Using Branching Scenarios In eLearning to learn about the benefits of using these true-to-life training tools in corporate eLearning.