Why Use Branching Scenarios in eLearning?

Designing Digitally


One of the biggest challenges we face in designing effective eLearning courses is keeping the learner engaged and interested in the lesson. It’s a fact that people learn best when a topic captures their imagination and motivates them to become an active participant. This type of engagement is possible when the eLearning presented is realistic, interactive and allows the learner to make choices and solve problems within the lesson.

One way to accomplish all of these goals is through the use of branching scenarios in eLearning. Using branching scenarios gives learners the ability to apply the information you’ve presented, and to see the results of their decisions played out immediately. This immediate feedback is important in reinforcing the material, as well as in motivating the participant to continue learning.

What are branching scenarios?


Branching scenarios are essentially stories that allow a learner to select a course of action and see how it plays out virtually. When designed effectively, branching scenarios teach the underlying principles of a lesson, giving learners the ability to extrapolate the concepts and apply them to any number of similar situations. This type of situational role-playing is both highly engaging and extremely effective in promoting learner retention.

Branching scenarios are more than just a series of scenes linked together. To be successful, branching scenarios must build upon previous decisions and relate the consequences to a particular choice or action. In this way, a learner can see the impact of even a poor decision, without the risk associated with doing it in real life.

Benefits of branching scenarios

Designing branching scenarios in eLearning courses has a number of benefits for learners. Immersing a learner into a scenario allows him or her to make decisions and assume responsibility for the choices they make. This emotional investment in the learning process ultimately has a far greater impact than traditional, more passive types of eLearning. Some specific benefits to branching scenarios within eLearning include:

  • Increased engagement. As mentioned previously, the more engaged we are when learning new material, the more likely we are to remember the concepts. Designing branching scenarios into eLearning courses helps promote engagement on the part of the learner, and allows for better retention of the material being conveyed. When designed well, these scenarios also create a more realistic and relevant training experience.
  • Learn from mistakes. The difference between being told what would happen when taking a certain course of action and watching it unfold before your eyes cannot be overstated. The brain is hard-wired to learn and remember the consequences of our actions far more than if we were simply told what they would be. In this way, making a mistake within a learning scenario and seeing the results can actually create a similar retention as if we had made the mistake in real life.
  • Skills can be practiced with no risk. Another major benefit of branching scenarios is that potentially dangerous tasks can be performed without the risk of injury or worse. An obvious example of this is firefighter training. If the skills required to enter a burning building and search for victims can be practiced using branching scenarios, then we gain the benefit of experience without the risk to life.
  • Branching scenarios are customizable. The use of scenarios to teach particular concepts or skills can be customized for almost any lesson. And since each scenario is its own mini-vignette, they can be modified as needed to update skills, increase complexity, or incorporate lessons learned.

The use of branching scenarios as a way to improve the effectiveness of eLearning is growing in popularity. When applied effectively, this type of interactive lesson delivery can increase engagement, improve knowledge retention, and build valuable decision-making skills. By encouraging learners to be active participants in their education and skill building, scenario-based eLearning can have a positive impact on any learning program.

To learn more about what this type of training can do for your organization, contact the experts here at Designing Digitally, Inc. We specialize in designing eLearning courses that incorporate a variety of branching scenario techniques and styles. Let us know how we can help you and your workforce.