Branching scenarios: what you need to know | Near-Life™

Branching scenarios: What, why, how?

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This blog was updated with new content in 2023.

Say goodbye to passive elearning with branching scenarios

Traditional elearning has been criticised for being too passive as, often, learners are expected to absorb information without actively participating in the process. These content dumps become exercises that are endured or skipped through rather than really absorbed.

Branching scenarios can change that. They are an excellent way to introduce immersive storytelling, decision-making, and personalized learning paths. By presenting learners with realistic situations and allowing them to make choices, branching scenarios empower individuals to explore the consequences of their decisions in a safe and controlled environment.

What are branching scenarios?

Branching scenarios are interactive learning experiences that present learners with a series of choices and consequences, allowing them to explore different paths and outcomes based on their decisions. In a branching scenario, learners are placed in realistic or hypothetical situations and are tasked with making decisions or solving problems.

Young barista discussing performance with manager. Three button options on screen.

The key feature of branching scenarios is the branching structure, where the learning content branches out into multiple paths based on the learner’s choices. Each choice leads to a different set of consequences or outcomes, providing learners with immediate feedback on the impact of their decisions. This feedback can be positive or negative, reinforcing learning objectives and allowing learners to understand the consequences of their actions.

Branching scenarios often incorporate elements of storytelling, immersing learners in a narrative context that enhances engagement and motivation. By presenting learners with realistic challenges, scenarios offer an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills in a practical context, promoting critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.

Why use branching scenarios?

Branching scenarios are better for learning. They:

  • Provide a safe learning environment
  • Are highly engaging
  • Develop better knowledge retention

What do we mean by safe learning environment?

Branching scenarios provide a safe space for learners to practice their skills in an environment where mistakes can be made. In other words, the risks involved in real-life situations are completely eliminated.

Learners can understand the impact of their choices without the added pressure of real-life consequences. It’s a safe space in which to fail. They’ll also have the opportunity to continue practising and learning. Therefore, they’ll learn what you expect them to DO in a given situation.

Boosting engagement

Branching scenarios are engaging because they provide learners with autonomy and control, allowing them to make decisions and see the consequences.

The storytelling elements of branching scenarios create immersive narratives that capture learners’ attention. Immediate feedback reinforces learning objectives and promotes a sense of accomplishment.

Branching scenarios also stimulate critical thinking and problem-solving skills, challenging learners to analyse situations and make informed decisions. Additionally, the customisation aspect allows learners to explore content relevant to their individual needs, increasing engagement and relevance.

Improving knowledge retention

Through the interactive nature of scenarios, learners apply their knowledge and skills in realistic situations, making connections and reinforcing their understanding.

The immediate feedback received in branching scenarios helps learners remember the consequences of their choices, creating memorable learning experiences.

The ability to explore different paths and outcomes encourages learners to reflect on their decisions, enhancing their comprehension and retention of the content. By experiencing the practical application of knowledge, learners are more likely to retain the information and transfer it to real-world situations.

Getting started

There are several authoring tools on the market that can help you create branching scenarios: Near-Life, Articulate, BranchTrack, Wirewax, Captivate, etc. They vary in terms of price and onboarding time. If you want an affordable solution with a short learning curve allowing you to create interactive scenarios in minutes, not hours, then Near-Life is probably your best bet.

Man and woman in front of desktop computer reviewing a branching scenario decision map.

In terms of the content, planning is crucial. Here are our 10 steps to scenario design success. You should also check out Cathy Moore’s scenario design tips. And, here, Kimberly Goh, provides her 7 branching scenario tips for 2023.

Finally, make sure you’re capturing learners’ interactions; the data is useful and can contribute to future learning development. Insights from your scenarios can help to provide individual support and to understand how well your learning strategy is working.

A better way to learn

To sum up, branching scenarios provide a more immersive way to drive behaviour change. Above all, learners can practice and fail in a safe environment where both engagement and knowledge retention will improve.

They are also applicable to many different sectors. For example, customer services, emergency services, health and safety, corporate training and countless others. St John Ambulance used Near-Life™ to create an interactive, branching scenario to give the public the skills and confidence to deal with an emergency. You can try it for yourself here.

Create your own branching scenarios and interactive video with Near-Life™. Book a demo today and see just how easy it really is to create, share and deliver better elearning experiences.

Need to find out more? Get in touch with our team.

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