Student engagement through eLearning platforms can be one of the biggest challenges of designing the curriculum. Students often lack a teacher to provide incentive and additional reminders to remain on task. If the content isn’t engaging enough to hold them, they may wander off-task, engage in other activities, and even give up on the lesson altogether. Your lessons must contain the elements students need to attain full engagement, or they will be worthless to the students who use them. For many learners, scenario-based learning is one of the best ways to fully engage in the lesson at hand.
Direct Interaction with the Virtual Platform
The ideal visual medium allows students to engage in the activity at hand, getting hands-on experience from the other side of the computer. Direct interaction with the virtual platform takes students as close as they can be to the actual experience without bringing them into a traditional classroom and allowing them to physically touch the items they are learning about. For example, SmartBuilder has provided an excellent tutorial that allows the user to learn how to hook up a laptop for a presentation. Each of the ports on the back of a laptop is displayed, allowing the learner to click through and learn what each of them is for. Similar scenarios could be used for a variety of other topics: understanding how to work complex mechanical equipment, “excavating” a historical site, or going through a dissection. The more complicated the subject matter at hand, the more complicated the simulation must be. But by permitting eLearners to use this hands-on style, you engage kinesthetic learners from the other side of the computer screen and give them the hands-on tools they need to succeed.
Get the Timeline Right
One of the biggest problems with eLearning is that it makes it easier for students to get steps out of order. When they’ve only learned about the materials through books and online reading, they simply don’t have the experience necessary to feel comfortable with the material. To help with processes that require a specific set of instructions, put together the pieces and require the student to go through each task in proper succession. For example, a student might follow the process of cellular respiration, walk through an event in history one step at a time to understand the factors that came together to cause a specific reaction, or perform a particular science experiment through the interactive scenario. An English student might learn the correct steps to writing a paper, beginning with an outline and working through the body of a paper before writing the introduction and conclusion. A timeline-based scenario relies on the specific order of the tasks as much as the content of each one, so this is most appropriate for scenarios that require specific timing.
Branching Scenarios Let Learners Make Their Own Decisions
Some of the best scenarios in eLearning allow the learner to take their lessons through to the obvious conclusion. Branching scenarios present the learner with a variety of choices, allowing each learner to individually determine the course of the rest of the scenario. Branching scenarios are particularly useful for providing levels of instruction within a single scenario. A learner who is unable to fully grasp the current requirements might take a slower path, while a learner who has already “gotten it” and is just working through the rest of the process might take a faster path through the scenario. Branching scenarios also allow the learner to learn from their mistakes. In a chemistry experiment, for example, a wrong step or one taken out of order could cause the entire experiment to come tumbling down. How does the learner work from there? Do they remember the appropriate safety protocols for taking care of the experiment and getting back on track? Branching scenarios are also great for learning a foreign language, as mentioned in the linked article. In these scenarios, students are able to make their best attempts at the language and fumble around from there until they’re able to get their point across in conversation. A fluent speaker might be able to move through the scenario with ease, while a struggling student might spend more time working through the individual vocabulary words until they reach a resolution to the conversation.
Force the Right Answers
Not every student will be able to come up with the right answer every time. On the other hand, you can go a long way toward guiding your students to the proper choice. In a multiple-choice situation, this is as simple as marking off incorrect answers until the student finally chooses the right one. In a scenario-based lesson, this might include not allowing the user to move forward until they select the correct item or insisting that the items are selected in the right order before the user can proceed to the next step. For example, in the timeline-based scenario of cellular respiration, a student might be able to start anywhere, but need to follow the scenario all the way through to the conclusion in order. Failure to complete it in order could result in going all the way back to the beginning so that they can work through it again.
Scenario-based eLearning is a great way to increase engagement among students and give them the tools that they need to succeed. For younger students, it’s like playing a game–and in some cases, turning it into one is the best thing you can do for the learning process. If you want your curriculum to provide students with everything they need for success, try adding an eLearning scenario template into your course today.
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