Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with a subject expert who ‘gets’ scenarios. Rachel, who acts as a subject expert for Coachwise, understands about situating the learning in a realistic story. So do the rest of the learning team at Coachwise. We’re working on a series of scenarios for primary teachers and with her teaching experience she’s able not only to tell me what the difficult decisions are but also why the best decisions are the best and, most important, why teachers don’t always decide that way. Then she can visualise a teacher in that very situation and articulate the pressures on them to make a decision, and bring alive the likely consequences of several choices.
Often the subject experts I’ve worked with have only their subject expertise to bring to the table, couched in terms only of theory and principle. If they have experience of elearning it’s often just the kind of content-heavy page-turners they disliked at their own workplace. With all my clients so far I’ve worked hard to change their perception of what elearning could look like, and to get them involved in conjuring up workplace stories. But unlike with Rachel, it sometimes takes time.
That’s why I wrote Designing Predicaments. I was on a train journey back from London, thinking about one of my clients and how they weren’t able to meet me very often to sketch out scenarios. They were buying into the idea now, and I thought if they had a series of questions to work through – what’s the best choice? what’s the principle that makes it the best choice? what would the outcome be here? – they could probably write some themselves. And so they did.
It’s no big deal. To use an old fashioned term, it’s a workbook – a series of almost-blank pages to fill in after which you’ll have at least the first step in your scenario. It’s for subject experts who want to contribute their stories, and for designers who have always worked in linear presentations and want to take first steps into scenarios. If that’s you, why not give it a try and let me know how you get on.