Example screen from Learning Zeko featuring a situation and three choices.

Elearning scenario examples: Learning Zeko and Autoloon Ethics

These are two elearning scenario examples created by Cathy Moore as demonstrations of how scenarios can be effective, even without high graphics and video budgets. Both are simple text-based scenarios with one background image. The effectiveness relies in the story hooking you in. So they’re not live client work, they’re demonstrations of principle.

Learning Zeko was designed purely as an experiment to explore two questions:

  • Could you use the interactive fiction tool Twine to create scenarios?
  • Could you use the scenario approach to teach language vocabulary – memorising facts?

It’s not a complete module, just an experiment, and Cathy states that she wouldn’t try to teach a whole language by scenario, that would be over the top. But it illustrates a few good points about scenarios.

Before we talk about it, I suggest you try it.

Setting the scene

Opening screen of Learning Zeko: a text narrative on a white rectangle over a photo of a desert landscape.
Opening screen of Learning Zeko by Cathy Moore (click for full size)

The opening page sets

  • the task – find out about a supposed crashed spaceship
  • some pressure – you’ve got to beat Agence France-Presse
  • and the main character – Ludo the driver who doesn’t speak English.

You’re straight into the story after a masterpiece of concise scene-setting.

The choices are set in the narrative but the clickable links are all dialogue: You say, Let’s go! and gesture toward the exit.

You have to learn enough of this invented language of Zeko to respond to the choices the driver gives you. From this point everything is done by deduction and guesswork – as you go you gradually build up a vocabulary. Later decisions re-use words learned earlier, so there’s repetition and consolidation. For example, you deduce from the translator’s reactions to your decisions that ‘bid’ means ‘no’. Later in the scenario he offers you a cigarette. You’re told your character doesn’t smoke so you have to choose ‘bid’ or ‘pa’ (yes).

Example screen from Learning Zeko featuring a situation and three choices.

The aim is not to suggest that this is an efficient way to learn a large vocabulary but to demonstrate that a learning scenario doesn’t need to be pre-loaded with facts to learn up front. In other words we don’t have to go from learning to practice as two steps. Learning can come from well-structured and involving practice.

What I’m suggesting instead is to skip the information and go straight to the story. Design the story so the learners can discover meanings on their own. Then provide a natural pause to review what they’ve learned and make sure they got it right.

The approach is transferable to any soft-skills situation, where the learning point doesn’t rely on memorising a lot of factual information.

Cathy Moore’s full rationale for the Zeko story, and her description of how she built it in Twine.

Autoloon Ethics – a deep branching scenario in Twine

Opening screen from Autoloon Ethics by Cathy Moore: text on white rectangle over a meeting room scene.
Opening screen from Autoloon Ethics by Cathy Moore

Autoloon Ethics is a similar approach but this time,  the protagonist is an instructional designer working with a client to uncover the real training need behind the presenting situation.

The branching is quite complex, but you don’t notice as you’re involved in the story. There are many humiliating outcomes where you lose the project by not listening to the client, not challenging them enough, or challenging them too early.

Try Autoloon Ethics

Graphic approach: one image

In both scenarios there’s only one image, a background image over which the scenario is played out in text. Would anything be gained from seeing Ludo the driver or Ann, the L&D manager at Autoloon?  One of the barriers designers sometimes feel they’re up against if they want to use a scenario approach is how to show each stage of the scenario visually.  That usually means getting characters with multiple facial expressions. Tools like Storyline and BranchTrack come with characters supplied but once you’ve seen a few Storyline courses you begin to recognise the faces. (Does that matter? We accept it in the cinema and TV.) So you might want to buy a new character set from the likes of Elearning Brothers or Elearning Art.  But you may not have the budget for that. What these demonstrations gently suggest is that it may not be necessary to provide anything other than a vague impression of the environment in which this story takes place – IF  your story is compelling enough.

Would it work for you?

Do you think this would work with your clients? Could you sell a simpler visual approach? Let me know in the comments below.

Free elearning scenario template

Just follow Designing Predicaments step by step for a believable, engaging learning scenario.

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