Scenario Based Learning
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A very recent study (September 22nd, 2011) conducted by Pando Networks revealed the speed of Internet connections around the globe with for Australia at least, some interesting findings. For eLearning developers and advocates, it has been a considerable challenge over the past decade to convince large corporations as to the merits of adopting a serious investment in eLearning. A large part of the reluctance and resistance has centred around the problem of bandwidth.
Pando Networks based their study on 27 million downloads by 20 million computers in 224 countries from January through June 2011. Quite comprehensive then. So what does it mean for Australians and in particular, for eLearning in Australia? (see Appendix 1).
It may interest you to know for instance, that the good people of Romania enjoy their broadband at roughly 5 times the speed we can manage. Similarly, both Iceland and Russia are much, much faster. Lithuania can play online poker more than triple the speed we can, not to mention the Mongolians, who download their reality cooking shows faster than us.
The lucky country indeed! It of course goes without saying that the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy and all other European countries have little men who can pedal substantially faster than ours in delivering our broadband services. Malawi are only just behind us, just to add to your dinner table repertoire.
The advent of smartphones and tablet PCs has meant that most people now have an expectation that anything they utilise will involve media of some kind. For years, eLearning has been crippled in this regard, due to the size of audio and video files. This has meant that most people would rather do their own eye surgery than be subjected to a hour long eLearning program.
Last week, a client challenged me to deliver a compelling learning object that would allow an immersive learning interaction at under 1 meg. No video, no audio and no flash. He is currently working with outlying communities in delivering back to work programs for the long term unemployed, and is substantially challenged by their lack of internet speed.
So - it is possible to create an interactive and immersive scenario-based learning object using less than one megabyte?
This file was created in PowerPoint and uses nothing more than text, very small images and the animations and branching functions PowerPoint offers.
The purpose of the project was to explore the possibilities for very small files to be utilised as learning interactions. Given PowerPoint can be used to publish to any number of rapid eLearning software tools such as Captivate, Articulate and Atlantic Link, these can easily be introduced to an existing course.
The project incorporates the following content:
1. iStockPhoto - for all people images
2. Microsoft Clipart - for nature photos
What is Scenario-based Learning?
SBL is also called case-based learning or problem-based learning. It works under the principle that expertise takes experience. Traditional eLearning courses focused on delivering information and knowledge about a given task, subject or situation. It's goal was to educate the learner on the details, facts, figures and features of the subjects. This involved a large amount of text and perhaps a photo or two of a stock image (Clark, 2009).
SBL aims to drop the learner in an authentic environment where they will face the exact same choices they would experience in the workplace. They may or may not have had previous training, but the point is to open their minds to an immediate and pressing need to find the answer to a problem. This, for adult learners presents a compelling challenge.
Whilst solving the problems, the learner is guided and coached through the use of "branching" so that they navigate and experience the results of their choices immediately.
For example, in this interaction the learner is asked to respond to a scenario where they have to make a decision on the loan application of a prospective client. They are able to choose when and if to submit the application, whether to verify their documentation or not, and whether to request further information.
The advantage of this type of training is clear. It requires that the learner actually perform the tasks required of them in the real world. The alternative to this would be to present the learner with a series of slides that provide the rules and regulations included in a piece of legislation.
Where does SBL work best?
Generally, it works best when the learner must perform non-routine tasks that involve people skills, judgment and higher order skills such as decision making. Scenario based learning is used extensively in the military, mining and industrial health and safety training, in addition to management and soft skills training (Jonassen, 2003).
Moreover, SBL works best for learners who have already been inducted into their working environment. For those who are new to the workplace or have little or no experience, immersion in a scenario environment may be frustrating as they do not have the requisite knowledge to participate effectively.
RESEARCH ON SCENARIO-BASED LEARNING
Study 1. Sherlock
Sherlock is a learning simulation created to train two-year Airforce technicians in how to trouble shoot electrical issues. . Sherlock immerses learners in simulated equipment failures, growing ever more complex as they progress through the simulation. A study highlighting the effectiveness of Sherlock after 25 hours practice showed the troubleshooting competence of two year technicians matched that of their 10 year trained managers. There is no substitute for experience, however this SBL shows that this experience may be replicated to a great extent by having learners solve ever more complex problems in a virtual environment. (Gott and Lesgold, 2000)
Study 2. Medical Students
The medical industry has used various forms of SBL for many years now, as they seek to ensure their graduates and interns have the necessary skills with which to act in an emergency situation. There are lives at stake, rather than budgets. Dochy et al, in 2003 and Hmelo-Silver in 2004 noted that medical students prefer problem-based learning formats to their more traditional knowledge-based studies.
Study 3. University of Hong Kong Medical School
In 2003, Kumpta et al studied the effectiveness of scenario based web objects given to third year orthopedic students
The case studies focused on clinical problems that tasked learners with selecting the right tests, interpreting the results and then deciding the necessary treatment for the patient. To evaluate the effectiveness, participants were compared with students who did the usual online case work. The SBL students achieved significantly higher results that the case based students.
So Scenario-based learning works better than simply throwing facts up on a PowerPoint and hoping they in some way apply to the real world. Is this really worthy of a study? There is definitely a time and place for traditional knowledge based training. However, if it is possible to replace and or augment this type of linear intervention with SBL that targets those exact skills required to perform the tasks successfully in the real world, then we need to learn how to quickly and efficiently incorporate SBL into our eLearning.
In creating this interaction, the vast majority of the work has no been done. The PowerPoint template having been created, this object can now be repurposed again and again for all manner of different scenarios. All that is required once the branching has been designed is that the text is changed and the images are replaces, which simply requires a 'right click'.
Given that the whole scenario is indeed delivered in less than one megabyte (509k to be exact), it should be possible to deliver quality and meaningful learning to outlying regions of Australia who are unable to benefit from the larger audio, video and flash based interactions.
Clark, R.C. (2009). Building Expertise – 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. See Chapter 13.
Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van den Bossche, P., Gijbels, D. (2003). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis. Learning and Instruction (13), 533-568.
Gott., S.P. and Lesgold, A.M. (2000). Competence in the workplace: How cognitive performance models and situated instruction can accelerate skill acquisition. In Advances in Instructional Psychology: Educational Design and Cognitive Science. R. Glaser (Ed.). Mahway, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16 (3), 235-266.
Jonassen, D.H. (2003). Learning to solve Problems: An Instructional Design Guide. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Kumta, S.M., Psang, P.L., Hung. L.K. and Chenge, J.C.Y (2003). Fostering critical thinking skills through a web-based tutorial programme for first year medical students – A randomized controlled study. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 12 (3), 267-273.
What else might be interesting?
- The addition of a video highlighting a case study where everything goes wrong is played before the scenario begins. Then the learners are invited to follow the steps of the video's protagonist in trying to achieve the best outcome. This could be achieved easily using any video camera, with the resulting footage leading to a different video playing out the correct choices and resulting successful outcome.
- Online synchronous team based play. This would require a central facilitator to send two teams of perhaps 4 participants a scenario that required each of them to make two decisions within the scenario. It could easily be done using just a PowerPoint, or more dynamically online. The scenario is limited by time, and the "relay" begins with the first participant making the first choice, saving it and then passing it on to the second participant and on to the third and fourth until they have an outcome. Alternatively, they work together to achieve the outcome by voting on the choices made and racing to submit the correct outcome before the other team beats them to it.
- SBL could also be done effectively using online games as a vehicle. Team based corporate training events have long been held outdoors on rope courses and at kart tracks, however this is expensive and time consuming. There are so many games that require tactical thinking, crisis response, prioritisation and that reward sacrifice and altruism that the outcomes could easily be replicated using a game such as Medal of Honour, Call of Duty, Project Canary, Gran Turismo and more.
Appendix 1 - Interactive Map of Global Broadband Speeds
Keywords: interactive scenario, PowerPoint presentation, e-learning, learning object, branching interaction, scenario-based learning, case-based learning, problem-based learning