Connect Scenarios to Objectives Plus More Tips

Bryan Jones from eLearningArt invited me and 59 other eLearning people to share their single best tip for creating effective eLearning scenarios.

Recently, Bryan Jones from eLearningArt invited me and 59 other eLearning people to share their single best tip for creating effective eLearning scenarios. The post is now live, and you can check it out here: 13 eLearning Scenario Tips that 60 Experts Agree On

He asked everyone this question:

What’s your #1 tip for creating effective eLearning scenarios?

My response

Scenario Expert Tip #23: Use your objectives to drive the action in your scenarios.

Use your objectives to drive the action in your scenarios

Align your scenario with your objectives. An engaging scenario that doesn’t help learners practice relevant decisions tied to your objectives is a waste of time and resources. Use scenarios to provide learners with a realistic context where they can make choices. In a scenario, the main character’s goal often reflects achieving or demonstrating the learning objective. Use your objectives to drive the action in your scenarios.

More on objectives in scenarios

Begin with the end in mind

Tie your objectives to scenarios right when you start planning. Begin with the end in mind. At the end of the training, what do you want people to do differently? It’s important to ask what you want learners to DO, not what you want them to KNOW. If we’re aiming for behavior change, then we need to focus on what behaviors we want. It’s not enough to simply increase awareness. This is how I start planning branching scenarios.

Connect objectives to character goals

In a scenario, you also have to connect the objectives to the goals of your main character. As an example, say one objective is for learners to “Provide reasonable accommodations for employees when requested, following company procedures and meeting legal requirements.”

What does that really mean for managers? Think about the business need. A manager’s goal isn’t really to provide the reasonable accommodation for a disability. Their big goal is to help their team be productive and successful. That’s the driving motivation. Providing accommodation will help the team be more successful; that’s the connection between the character’s goal and the learning objective.

Make the scenario relevant

One recurring theme in the tips from the other experts was about making the scenario relevant. I think that ties to the learning objectives as well. If you always keep the end goal in mind, you’re more likely to create a relevant, realistic scenario.

Provide feedback to support your objectives

The feedback provided in the scenario also needs to help you meet those learning objectives. What type of feedback is most effective depends on your audience.

Read all the tips

You can watch a summary of all 60 tips in four minutes in this video.

Visit the full scenario tips post to see all the detailed responses.

Read all of my posts on storytelling and scenarios.

7 thoughts on “Connect Scenarios to Objectives Plus More Tips

  1. Hi Christy, I’m a 5th grade teacher and this summer I’ve really been trying to better my teaching by looking through different blogs and at different websites to see how other people use technology to be a better teacher. I really like all of the things that I’ve read on your blog. This post especially brought me back into my classroom and helped me come to new realizations on how to teach my students. The more that I’ve read and looked around the more I’ve come to realize that if you cant make what you’re teaching relevant to your clientele then there is no point to teach it. My students come from very tough home lives, so oftentimes school is the last thing on their mind..

    I resort to storytelling in my classroom all the time because stories are easy to remember. 5th graders love to tell stories, so if I can incorporate a story into any of my lessons I find that I have a lot more success. Next year, I really want to incorporate technology more into my lessons and stories. Every student in my building has a Chromebook and we have SMART Boards in every classroom, so this year I really want to expand on their use of technology. Are there any (Free?) resources that you would suggest that I can use to help my students make connections between school and real life? Any websites that would help me design my lessons more effectively and make them more engaging by using their Chromebooks? We use them all the time, but I feel like I could be doing so much more with them. Any and all help/guidance is greatly appreciated!


    1. I have been out of the K-12 classroom for 15 years now. Most of my work now is with corporations or organizations, training adult learners. Having never taught with Chromebooks, I can’t really help with that.

      However, maybe I can point you in the direction of some resources. Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) is a teacher and blogger who I’ve been following for over 10 years. She has several posts about Chromebooks:

      In particular, try starting with this podcast episode on ways to “amp up” Chromebooks. There’s an extensive list of links at the bottom of the post.

      Beyond the technology, I think connecting learning to real life is more about the stories and how you handle questions. My daughter attends an IB magnet school. At the beginning of each unit, they ask students for their questions. Those questions are posted in a special place on the wall and referred to throughout the unit. The overall units still have to follow the district curriculum, but those questions help the teachers identify student interests and tie lessons to what students care about. While you maybe can’t do all the interdisciplinary connections that an IB school can, I think that technique of asking questions would be easy enough to carry over into any elementary classroom.

  2. Dear Ms. Tucker,

    I am back in school, once again, in my lifetime. Hopefully, my goal is to make a final career change into “what I want to be when I grow up” as I take and expand all of the education I have received throughout my lifetime. My previous education is a combination of rhetoric and communications, Spanish, English, secondary education, and graduate school in education. I am truly a life-long learner I love to research and learn new things on many different subjects. For a long time, I knew I wanted to go back to school but I did not want it to be for anything to do with “the every day classroom.” As life changes, circumstances change and I discovered the career of instructional design and I knew it was a way to combine everything I already had in my pocket and make it so much better.

    One of the main things that struck a chord with me in your article is your advice of “use your objectives to drive your scenarios.” My biggest complaint coming out of college and entering into the world of teaching was the lack of connection between the actual lessons and advice given in the classroom as to what really happens in a classroom. Your objectives are the heart and soul of your work piece and I agree in your statements suggesting that they need to be relevant, connect to the main characters, and focus on the end achievement. Really asking what do we what our learner to walk away with from the training? I feel it is also relevant to achieve application of the objective in its relevancy during the training. How exactly does it fit into the work day, the company, the procedure?

    I loved in the YouTube video from all of the contributors that there was a section where everyone spoke about covering the “gray” area. Do you feel this is a hard area to cover? Is it more effective to cover that with the suggestion of the SME with stories pertaining to the objective and the training?

    This time with my graduate degree I have learned to ask the right questions as an educator. I don’t want to walk away with “dream plans” as I did years ago. I want to walk away with realistic, relevant training that I can immediately apply and achieve with in a new career.

    Thank you for a great article and links to fabulous sources.

    1. The gray area is always challenging to cover. In branching scenarios, I often have three choices. One is a clearly bad choice, one is the ideal or best choice, and one is an OK choice. The OK choice is often partially correct. It’s the right action but out of order in the process, or it’s a closed question instead of an open-ended question. Those “sort of right” answers lead to OK but not ideal consequences. That shows learners that they’re on the right track, but they missed something. In a branching scenario, when someone chooses an OK answer, I usually give them an opportunity to correct their mistake and pick the best answer.

      I ask SMEs for their stories, and that helps me find out the kinds of scenarios that make sense for the audience. I ask them what people do wrong and what commonly confuses people. Those points of confusion are often gray area.

      Will Thalheimer commented on my post with tips for working with SMEs on scenarios that he asks SMEs for examples of the messy situations or edge cases where a principle wouldn’t work. If a SME gives you a basic principle, test the boundaries where that principle might not apply. Those exceptions help you find the gray area and incorporate those kinds of choices into your scenarios.

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