TCC09: Engaging Students with Scenario Based Learning in Online Environments

Office Legos
Office Legos

Liveblogged notes from the TCC online conference. My notes in italics.


  • Lyndon Godsall, Kaplan University School of Criminal Justice
  • Amy Hilbelink, Kaplan University School of Nursing

Summary: “This forum will demonstrate and discuss two examples of scenario-based learning (SBL) in an online environment…SBL can be adapted to any subject and is a natural fit within the development of online environments. This presentation will demonstrate how two different approaches were used to engage students in similar ways, and those differences will be discussed along with similarities and how this impacts retention.”

Nursing course

  • Patient assessments weren’t done properly
  • Students were used to having all information when they did the assessment in the course; Not common in real life
  • Wanted to change it to be more holistic, looking at all the context

Used html with good graphics, but no multimedia–this is possible without using multimedia

Start with an introduction to the virtual “family” they will work with in the course.

  • 6 families, racial and age diversity
  • All families live in same community–have background of who is working, who isn’t, etc.
  • Each week, one or more people in the family need medical care
  • When a patient comes in, get the medical file

Both faculty and students were used to being given all the information spelled out, but the scenarios leave some questions open. As nurses, they have to ask questions and take into account the rest of the family. They have to search for information.


  • Discussion boards for every family so all students working on a family can compare notes
  • Group work (wikis soon, but don’t have them yet)
  • Assessment of health history to date–they have limited information like real life

This model could be used in other programs too–the structure of having scenarios is the important part

Criminal Justice Course

Similar model to the nursing course

Scenario: Murder (CJ Reporter); builds over the whole 10-week course

Use multimedia

Problem: One of the 1st courses; student retention was a problem. Want a more exciting environment to engage them.

Unit 1 is mostly meet & greet; scenario starts in Unit 2

A little confusing to students when they see they are supposed to do a discussion but it’s actually multimedia used in place of discussion. Sounds like maybe just a usability issue with how they’re putting the multimedia in the LMS

Why use scenario based learning?

  • Present a situation to get learners to think and make decisions about course content
  • In CJ, lots of students are coming in with familiarity with CSI, Law & Order, etc.
  • Dynamic environment
  • More engaging

Use visuals/animation and audio–created with Flash (or “Flash based”–he wasn’t quite clear how it was created) They contracted out the multimedia creation

Questions to ask yourself when designing?

  • What situations require learners to know this?
    • Experienced learners confirm what they already know
    • Novice learners get something new
  • What choices could they be expected to make in that circumstance?
    • Choices should be somewhat right and somewhat wrong
    • Let facilitators address the nuances
    • Leaving things in the gray area leaves students wanting to learn more
  • What are the consequences of those choices?
    • Healthy level of uncertainty without being too difficult
    • More exciting & dramatic

This is a great set of questions; I could use this with SMEs to help walk them through the process of writing scenarios.

They use a video of a real crime scene to show the process. Films on Demand has a video library on many topics that they are using.


  • More participation in discussions–introduce SBL and animation and postings quadrupled
  • Student feedback very positive; say they like the CJ Reporter
  • Get more of the nuances–individual students can run with a particular nuance
  • More engaging
  • Anecdotal, seeing as much writing in the discussion boards as would be in a paper, but they’re so excited that they haven’t noticed how much they have written


They use SMEs and some contracting for different courses, so they have resources for both in-house and contracted development

Their cost for 9 units: $12K. Worth it for them b/c large program and intro course; wouldn’t invest this kind of money in a small course.

They changed the outcomes when they revised the courses; now the courses are meeting the goals. Still too new to have too much data on student performance yet, but looks good so far.

Very effective in setting the tone and expectations for the rest of the CJ program–getting them comfortable writing a lot, getting them comfortable being back in school, getting them to practice communicating

Did faculty resist? Yes, it was new for many faculty. One faculty asked for the book to know all the answers and predict all student responses. Eventually they did like it.

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2 thoughts on “TCC09: Engaging Students with Scenario Based Learning in Online Environments”

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