How to use Quandary to write an elearning scenario

Cathy Moore runs a course on how to write scenariosI’ve been taking part in Cathy Moore’s four-week course on writing Learning Scenarios.  It’s clarified a lot for me, particularly on the differences between scenarios and questions set in the workplace, when and why to use scenarios and when to use different types – simple mini-scenarios and more complex branching ones.

There’s been a fair bit of discussion around the best way to script and develop them, with tools like Twine and Branchtrack being demonstrated.  These all start from a flowchart paradigm and Cathy recommends sketching out a flowchart at first to create the structure of the scenario before writing any words.

A few years ago I had a period of creating a lot of scenarios at work; I used a different approach, a tool called Quandary, which doesn’t use a flowchart approach at all.  Quandary works best when you have access to a subject expert to create the scenario there and then.  Rather than a flowchart, the paradigm is a series of pages in an old-fashioned text adventure game.  You begin with the ‘best’ path.  Create scene 1 and the best choice, which leads to scene 2; the best choice from that leads to scene 3 and so on, with each scene being a numbered page in Quandary. When you’ve reached the end of the ‘best’ path you go back to the beginning and add another plausible but less correct choice. If your ‘good’ path took you to scene 8, then your first ‘bad’ choice will take you to scene 9. There you describe what happens and either link back to give them another chance or take this line of exploration further in further scenes. And so on for each of the scenes you’ve set up, you add some alternative choices and the pages that show the results of those choices.

A flowchart would be a good overview, no doubt, but you get a couple of benefits from Quandary:

  • at any point you can try out the scenario – it creates a simple text HTML page that runs the entire scenario to the point that you’ve built it; this gives the subject expert a much more direct experience of what the scenario will be like for learners than trying to decipher a flow chart
  • when you’re done you can output a Word document which presents the scenario like a text adventure, with the choices simply sending you to look for the right number of scene. Again, it’s simple and easy for the subject expert to read, correct and update

For example:

Mr White:
I’m just calling to let you know I’ve changed my address.  The new address is 67 Morrison Gardens, East  Crossferry, CF30 4GR

What do you say next?

(2) Thanks for letting us know, but I’m afraid you need to
put it in writing.

(3) Sorry we can’t do this by phone.

(4) Thanks – what’s your account number?

2: Need this in writing
Mr White:

Well, HSBC take it over the phone. Why can’t you?

What do you say?

(5) For your security we need your signature before we can
make a change to the account.

(6) Sorry that’s just our procedures.

In those days I used this script to create the scenario in my own HTML/Javascript templates; today there are many tools to use.

Another advantage of Quandary is that it’s free.   As tools are developed with this task in mind, like Branchtrack, it may be left behind, but I certainly found it a very useful tool for quick development from idea to execution.

Update 30/01/2017

Since this was written I’ve had a lot more experience and compared Quandary with Twine, coming out generally in favour of Twine for creating a working prototype.  Here are two more recent posts:

Scenario scripting and prototyping tools: Quandary

Scenario scripting and prototyping tools: Twine



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