Scenarios offer learners an opportunity to practice responses in a controlled environment.

One of the biggest leaps most learners make as they grow a new skill is putting theory into practice. In low-stakes situations, this isn’t usually a big deal. It’s inevitable that learners will bake a few bad cakes, hit a wrong cord, or write some buggy lines of code. That’s an accepted part of the learning process. But what if the stakes are high? What if failure isn’t an option—or, at least, not one most learners want to repeat very often?

In these situations, educators have to find ways to help their learners practice before they face high-stakes situations in real life. When educators are working with learners in person, this practice may come in the form of coaching, shadowing, or role playing. But online, educators need to look for other solutions.

Read More: How to use Branching Scenarios in E-Learning

Branching scenarios are one of the most effective tools available to online educators. While they take time to construct, they give learners a chance to a chance to become familiar with situations they might face in real life, and to practice their responses in real time. The more a learner becomes accustomed to these situations in training, the more capable they will be of responding appropriately when it matters.

Here are just a few examples of how branching scenarios can provide learners with safe environments to fail.

1. Customer service training.

Customer service is a difficult job. Most people only contact customer service when something has gone wrong, which often means they’re already in a bad mood. Employees must then help solve their problem, often while dealing with rude behavior, without giving in to unreasonable demands.

Branching scenarios can give employees practice with increasingly delicate situations. Working through a scenario can help them identify ineffective responses so that they can better satisfy customers.

2. Leadership and management training.

Many businesses struggle to find managers who can navigate complex employee relationships while also achieving department goals. For instance, how does a manager know when someone needs extra support, and when that person is feeling micromanaged? How does a leader create a positive office culture? And how should someone respond if an employee is causing problems with coworker?

Leadership and management scenarios can guide trainees through various workplace situations and provide them with actionable feedback about their performance.

3. Crisis response.

Crisis response is the kind of training no one wants to ever use, but everyone wants to prepare for. Many of us have practiced drills for earthquakes, tornados, and fire drills enough to know why this training is necessary: in a real emergency, no one has time to second guess their decisions.

This kind of training can be applied in many other situations as well, however, including ones that aren’t as life-threatening. They can also be part of an annual check-in for employees, to make sure everyone still remembers what the correct protocols are.

4. Classroom management.

When it comes to teaching skills, one of the most important—and most difficult to learn—involves how to work with a classroom of children of varying attention spans, interests, and motivations. For as much as teachers may hope to work with an idealized class of engaged and respectful students, the reality often falls far short. Teachers need to know how to work with a classroom when students are misbehaving, how to engage students who are shy or unmotivated, and how to retain attention.

Scenario training can help teachers work through these situations ahead of time and practice techniques for engaging students and managing a rowdy class.

5. Business negotiation.

Negotiation is a skill that many people need to learn in real life, whether they’re landing a contract or asking for a raise. In these situations, achieving a goal is about more than presenting a convincing argument. It’s also about helping the other party leave the table feeling good about their decision.

Branching scenarios can help a learner improve a sales pitch, respond to hesitations, and know when to push a little harder and when to back away.

Read More: 6 Tips for Writing Training Scenarios

6. Language learning.

Many language courses focus heavily on the skills needed to read, write, speak, and understand a certain language. But what about the culture that goes with it? Since many language learners hope to engage with a culture as well as the language, knowing how to respond in social situations so as to avoid causing offense would be a useful part of any language course.

Branching scenarios in language learning could cover a range of situations, from business settings, to manners at meal times or in the home, or even engaging with a culture’s religion respectfully. Knowing what is expected can help learners achieve their goals with more confidence.

7. Therapy.

Many therapists work with their patients for years to help them rewrite negative thought patterns or behavioral responses. Part of that training can involve practicing responses to certain triggers. Branching scenarios provide a way for therapists to control exposure to these triggers, and tune them so that a patient isn’t overwhelmed.

Practice responding to ambiguous or high-stakes situations helps learners grow in confidence.

As you can see from these examples, in many cases, learners must learn how to respond to situations where the “right” course of action is ambiguous. Some customers will never be satisfied, and the best a learner can do is deescalate a confrontational scenario and not allow themselves to become provoked. Some business negotiations can’t be won, but a learner can still maintain a professional relationship in the hopes that it leads to something more in the future. And people within any cultural group will respond differently to a foreigner making a well-intentioned faux pax.

However, even in scenarios where there is no perfect solution, giving learners a chance to practice will help them feel less overwhelmed when the time comes to put their learning to work. And in many cases, confidence and self-assurance is the main thing a learner needs to work their way through a challenging situation.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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