The e-learning landscape is a continuum of different instructional designs meant to adapt to individual student needs. This is where scenario-based learning (SBL) comes in, when learners are immersed in real-life and situational scenarios which lets them gather skills and information which in essence is learning by doing.

Learners are able to identify with a course when they are “in their own shoes” and scenario learning gives them that kind of immersion and hands-on approach. A good example is student internship programs. This kind of learning provides them with a realistic scenario and usually involves applying strategies they have learned throughout a course.

Why scenario-based learning?

Learners are motivated when the skills they possess give them opportunities to improve by using them in an actual simulation. They want to be challenged. They want real-life situations where their skills are put to the test. Abhijit Kadle believes that it’s best to use interactive scenarios to support active learning strategies. He believes SBL requires navigating across a timeline, leading to an exploration of the aspects and eventually a resolution of the problems. Scenario-based learning simulates real-world situations and allows learners to make decisions. If they make mistakes, it’s okay as the point is to provide students with a chance to rectify the situation until they get it right.

SBL allows students to fully apply their knowledge and skills in a simulated setting. And it can be applied even in online courses which increases the likelihood that learners will remember the concepts further. Since SBL provides students with a simulation of real-life situations, the goal of SBL is to build and improve mastery in a given course.

How do I do it?

Learning content can be made more relevant for learners when they are in the context and are forced to make decisions which affect outcomes. That said, there is no singular strategy to create the perfect scenario-based learning content but do bear in mind that such stories have to be realistic and should have authentic details. Avoid exaggeration.

Educators can construct scenarios like they would create a novel (complete with a plot, characters, climax and resolution) while learners situate the role of being primary characters faced with different problems designed to enhance their critical-thinking skill set. The plot may branch out to provide even deeper conflicts and subplots, and decisions made by learners affect the outcome of the simulation.

It is also important to provide learner feedback and tell them why they either succeeded or failed. It may involve showing them a detailed explanation as to why and how they came up with a possible outcome. If they failed, provide feedback which explains the actions they took, and probably detailing them any remedies they can take to avoid any future negative outcomes. They can also practice handling real-life situations at their own pace, over and over again, and all they need is their device.


SBL is very effective in engaging students because it gives them control over their decisions. Scenarios enable learners to tap their already-established skills and apply them in real-life circumstances.

As always, I’m bugging you to fill-out the comment section below should you have any questions, comments, rants or just about any idea that pops in your mind.

Author: Enzo Froilan

Enzo is a marketing consultant by profession and a passionate e-learning blogger. He’s also a Microsoft Education Ambassador and an advocate for education, so his articles discuss e-learning not just from the insights of a student but also a from a teacher’s perspective, by leveraging his experience to deliver helpful posts.