one to three flow chart

Branching Scenarios in e-Learning

(First published by Neil on 25/07/2017)

If you’ve never used a branching scenario in your e-learning you’re really missing out. This is where e-learning really comes into its own and we’ve used branching scenarios to great effect in the past in e-learning for healthcare. Unfortunately, these have always been proprietary so we can’t show them here, but one of the best demonstrations, that’s always cited as an example of how to do it well, remains Cathy Moore’s brilliant “Connect with Haji Kamal”. Try it out if you’ve got time by clicking on the link: it’s great fun. I thought it may be helpful if I offered up some of the things we’ve learnt over the years when doing scenarios like this. I think it’s in everybody’s interest if this method is used, and used well. 

  • Avoid over-complexity. If you don’t plan things out right from the very start, things can quickly get out of hand. If the learner has a choice of three options, and each of these leads to another three, then you’ve got nine outcomes before you’re even past two stages, shown in the diagram here:

(Don’t do this, Cathy Moore’s example, shown in her original 2010 blog post here, is about as complex as you want to get.)

  • So what software do we use to plan out the branching scenario? Well, call me old-fashioned, but we’ve found that a roll of leftover wallpaper and a felt-tip pen works pretty well. Work with your client or SME and plot out the entire scenario before you start. If the branching looks like going off the width of the wallpaper, then it’s too complex. Once you’ve frozen the design, resist pressure from your client to add more to the end.
  • Use loops and counter variables. There’s nothing to stop a decision looping back to a previous stage, but use counter variables to control this. For example, in one scenario, we had a healthcare assistant giving the patient some painkillers. Simply increment a variable each time this stage is chosen, and use it to ring an alarm bell and tell the learner s/he’s over-dosed the patient.  
  • Have numbered learning points throughout the scenario, and encourage the learner to keep going back to the beginning to try the ‘wrong’ pathway.

OK, now you’ve no excuses, let’s get branching!

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