You really should consider creating a “choose your own adventure” type course.

Remember those fun “choose your own adventure” books you read as a kid? If you weren’t a kid in the ’80s then perhaps you may have seen the same thing in the “choose your own adventure” games included in the bonus features on DVDs like The Lion King. The basic principle is that you choose the path the story takes. I don’t know about you, but I’d end up re-reading the book over and over. Making different choices just so I could read the different endings.

In the online learning world, this is known as a scenario-based course. With choices and consequences that help deliver the course content.

Most courses follow a linear progression, where you complete one module after another in a set sequence. And in certain courses this is essential. But creating scenarios where people can try out new concepts can be a great way to reinforce learning. It makes people more interested and invested in the learning experience. Just like the way I re-read the choose your own adventure books over and over as a kid.


3 Benefits to scenario-based learning


Increased investment and engagement
How much of your schoolwork do you remember? Did you learn the lessons taught, or just memorise enough to make sure you passed the exam? Passively taking in course info doesn’t necessarily equate to a proper understanding of the topic. Providing choices and consequences to the learning experience changes a passive experience into an active and engaged one. And when you’re engaged – you learn more.

Makes it easy to fail
As a kid, I had no problem re-reading and making different choices with the “choose your own adventure” books. There was no pressure to make sure I made the “correct” choice. There was no fear if I ended up having to “walk the plank” in the pirate adventure. I’d just try out a new ending if that one didn’t work for me. The stakes are much lower in a scenario-based learning situation than they are in the real world. You can make mistakes and learn from them without fear of failure or judgement from others. And of course, failure is the best teacher, right.

It’s easy for you to tweak and update
Sure creating a scenario-based course takes a lot of up-front planning and preparation. But if something isn’t working, you just tweak that section instead of having to re-work an entire course. This is especially helpful if your course deals with something that changes fast and often like technology. You can remove and add new “branches” as and when you need to.


So how does it work?

There are three sections to creating a scenario:

  • Provide a challenge. Create a situation with information for people to process and reflect on.
  • Offer Choices. Once they’re challenged provide some choices to work through the challenge. They should all be realistic choices that someone would face in that situation.
  • Results or consequences. Each choice comes results or some sort of consequence for the decisions made. This could be immediate feedback on the choice made or lead to more choices.

How do you create a scenario-based course?

You don’t need to go all-out with multiple scenarios and multiple pathways for people to follow (unless you want to). You could make it as simple as different buttons/links to choose from which take them on different linear paths.

Example 1:

People learn differently, some learn faster than others and may skim the material to get what they need. Why should these people be penalised and be forced to progress through a course at the pace you define? Others like to consume all.the.things. They’ll go through the material meticulously happy to follow along with your pace.

In this example, you could offer two choices: Fast-track or Full-detail.

Example 2:

If people who attend your course are at different experience levels with the course topic. Some are complete beginners and others have some experience.

In this example, you could offer three choices: Easy, Medium or hard.

Example 3:

You could cater to different learning styles where people can choose the type of course material they see.

In this example, you could offer three choices: Read/Write, Visual or Audio.

In either of these examples, people get to choose the way they learn and are less likely to feel frustrated with the course progression.

Scenario-based courses create engaging and immersive learning experiences. They also effectively prepare learners for facing these situations in the real-world. Why wouldn’t you want to integrate them into your courses?

Researching some examples for this article sent me down a fantastic Youtube rabbit hole – full of “choose your own adventure” videos. Unless you have a couple of hours to spare – proceed with caution… Don’t say I didn’t warn you.