Branching Scenarios In eLearning: Appraising Critical Thinking

Creating Branching Scenarios In eLearning
Summary: Branching scenarios are a great tool for eLearning designers to effectively teach decision-making and situation-handling skills.

Branching Scenario Challenges And How To Solve Them

In many situations in life, there is no definite good or bad answer to a problem—some may be more effective than others. A common example is a sales interaction with a customer. There is no definite right or wrong way, but the sales executive has to evaluate the situation and respond to clients in the best possible ways. The biggest challenge for educators is how to train people in such situations where there are multiple possible paths or multiple possible outcomes. In a traditional classroom training setup, this was done by role-plays where the learner is put into a hypothetical situation. However, this is not possible in a typical web-based training module.

In eLearning, this problem is solved by a technique called branching scenarios. It is a highly interactive module with non-linear navigation. The learner is presented with a scenario and asked to choose from the available responses that they would make in that situation. Usually, there are 3-4 responses that the learner has to choose from.

The module progresses as per the choice made by the learner. For example, if the learner selects response A, they will get different content than if they choose response B. In a sense, the module has many branches which the learner can traverse as per their response, that’s why it is called a branching scenario.

In short, a branching scenario is basically a highly interactive eLearning module that allows learners to interact with the module and choose the path they want to traverse. The learner can choose a decision as per their understanding and see the impact of the decision.

When To Choose A Branching Scenario 

Branching scenarios are best suited to train people on decision-making skills and situation-handling skills.

Why Choose A Branching Scenario?

There are many benefits of branching scenarios:

  • Learning becomes engaging and the learners have to participate. Thus, it promotes active learning rather than passive, non-effective learning.
  • It is the best way to teach decision-making and situation-handling skills. The learners can try real-life scenarios and understand how their decisions impact the scenario.
  • It enables learners to experiment with possible decisions and to see how things unfold without fearing real-life consequences.
  • It gives learners the freedom to handle a situation or make decisions from different points of view and see what works and what does not work.

3 Key Challenges

Let’s see 3 key challenges (or common errors) in creating branching scenarios and how to overcome them.

1. Non-Realistic Scenarios

A branching scenario will be effective only when the scenario is relevant to the actual job of the learner. This can be two types: the parent scenario is non-relevant or the branching scenarios are non-relevant.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Do a task analysis and situation analysis before creating scenarios. Take feedback from the experts and understand the possible branching. If the branching is not correct or obviously not plausible, then the purpose of branching is lost.

2. Lack Of Flow Between Branches 

Another challenge and common mistake designers make in branching scenarios is the lack of flow between the scenarios. Branching scenarios basically contain a series of decision points interlinked by plausible alternate situations. Often after one or two branchings, the storyline becomes weak or the plausibility of alternatives becomes weak.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Instructional Designers working on a branching scenario need to create a clear roadmap of all the possible branches along with possible alternatives and clearly define the flow and sequence of decision-making. They need to finalize how scenarios will flow and how each branch will culminate.

3. Too Complex Of A Scenario  

Making things simple is more often a challenge than not. The same is the case with branching scenarios. Many a time, the branching becomes too complicated and the learners cannot follow the path or forget where they started.

How To Overcome The Challenge

To keep the scenario simple, the Instructional Designer needs to focus on the key scenario path and design the alternates accordingly. The module should be designed in such a way as to guide the learner to the most suitable path rather than confusing them with alternative paths.


Branching scenarios are a great tool for eLearning designers to effectively teach decision-making and situation-handling skills. A well-designed branching scenario is fun as well as challenging, helping learners put their best foot forward and become equipped to take on real-life challenges.

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