Life is hard for characters in elearning scenarios. And so it should be. Here’s why!
This week we come to step 4 of the thinking behind a scenario – Pile on the stress. If you get this right it can make the difference between an elearning exercise that you have to dutifully work through, and an adventure that you want to take part in because you want to know what happens.
To put it in its most basic terms – someone has to suffer!
So how might you add stress to the situation? Here are some ways.
Conflict: instead of just thinking of multiple choice distractors for choosing the right action, think of someone who actively advocates the wrong course of action – and tells you you’re wrong! The care home colleague who tells you to restrain a resident so you can finish your meal in peace. The business colleague who tells you not to blow the whistle on a misbehaving manager because it’ll reflect badly on the whole team.
Another source of pressure is time. If you give the learner various resources to look at in order to understand the situation, you could put them under time pressure by removing them after so long. Or you could have a timer running for the whole scenario. This works well when you’re simulating a task where time is part of the successful performance for example in a call centre, or a medical situation.
A third way to add pressure is withheld information – you know those characters you click on to get their perspective? They might not tell you everything. Or they might be ‘economical with the truth’. Take the manager dealing with a persistent latecomer – they may not tell you their child is being bullied at school because it doesn’t fit into ‘sickness absence’. You may not find out until you’ve made your decision. In a complex branching scenario you can create other ways to reveal the missing facts.
Criticism and losing face is a problem everyone has faced at work – a source of pressure in a scenario could be simply that your character has made mistakes in this sort of situation before and fears what will happen if they get it wrong again.
Finally you can build in internal conflicts for example, making your character someone who needs to be liked but giving them something to do that may risk that. You don’t need to spell out ‘You are Joan and you need to be liked’! But show her as popular and make it clear that some choices will bring her into conflict with her colleagues. If the learner has any similar feelings that will trigger them.
Always try to show the pressure rather than telling them about it – audio or cartoon word balloons or just reported speech are more alive than descriptions of someone else’s state.
In our ‘positive feedback’ scenario we can introduce drama by showing that Alex hasn’t performed well at all his tasks – he didn’t handle a new colleague’s induction very well. Not only do you have to decide whether to talk to him about that at the same time, but the new colleague is pressing you for action. Do you try to address everything or stick to the positive feedback?
This is probably the most important thing in building an engaging scenario – someone has to suffer!