(New) e-Learning metaphors: cased based learning

In my quest for new learning metaphors I have to pay attention to cased based learning (CBL) or Scenario based learning (SBL). It is not new, but it is very powerful. The great thing about it is that it approaches learning for the learners perspective, based on real world problems. It is great to use it in combination with the principles of action mapping, because these cases are always about a situation where you have to do things. It’s not about learning but it is about applying what you have learned and about learning while doing that.

It is not used as much as it should be. And I believe the reason is that it is a lot of work to create a good scenario and implement this in an attractive way. This difficulty is partly due to lack of good support by the authoring tools and it is more difficult to create a good scenario than ‘plain content’ e-learning’. As a developer you actually have to translate your learning objectives into real world problems. Problems and situations the learner can relate to. And that is difficult. But if you as a developer fail to create that connection to the workplace, the learner must do it by himself. I would say it is better to make that connection in the e-Learning, it will improve the quality and effectiveness.

But there is more to scenario based learning than just an other form of representation. Scenario based learning offers possibilities to not only transfer knowledge, but you can transfer and measure insight and skills. A much more valuable form of learning just than knowledge transfer. On top of this CBL is the most ‘game like’ form of e-Learning I know, that you can create without going into complex programming and expensive projects. All you have to do (from a technical point of view) is to connect a situation to a choice, which is simple branching that most authoring tools support.

I looked at a few examples of cased based learning. One of them is made by a Dutch company called Inbrain, and they have won an innovative e-learning award with it. It is a nice example to illustrate the power of CBL. It features a medical case where a doctor will see a patient and has to find out what is wrong and come up with the proper treatment. The learner can select some questions (see below) to ask the patient in order to find out what is wrong. After selecting a question the learner will get a video with the answer from the patient. In the right hand corner there is a button that gives you access to extra information. You can consult this when you want.

After questioning the patient you can select some medical test. You will see the price of every test and later on you will get the results.

As you can imagine this is only the start of the case, but for me it shows how powerful this is. It’s about doing and learning in the context of a real problem. I believe this really adds value and we should use this more often.

One way of promoting this is to have better support for CBL in the authoring tools. The foundation of CBL is branching: a learner selects an option at a certain situation and automatically navigates to the next situation based on that choice. A lot of tools have branching facilities, but this is not enough. My short research led to the following crucial functions that are usually missing:

  • A graphical representation of the branched scenario in order to keep the overview of the scenario as a developer
  • A facility to record the path the learner follows,you need this for proper feedback after the scenario has finished.
  • A sort of inventory where you can put items (or results in) and that builds up during the course.

Easygenerator only supports this partly, so we decided to put this on our development road map for this year. If you have any other suggestions for features that would facilitate CBL in a better way, please let me know! We are always looking for a way to improve our product.

This is the third post about metaphors, see also:


  1. […] (New) e-Learning metaphors: Cased based learning 51.844475 5.387829 Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookStumbleUponLike this:Like3 bloggers like this post. Filed Under: e-Learning, e-Learning metaphor, Learning maps, metaphor « Online Educa Berlin 2011 recap Webinar: Didactics, Management theory, Agile and new learning metaphors equals Outcome learning » […]


  2. Rather than using the scenarios solely for learning you could use standard linear teaching techniques but use scenarios for the evaluation/testing phases. This would, hopefully, ensure that the learner has the knowledge from the cpourse but it using it in an adaptive form during the confirmation of learning phases of the course. This initself leads to a better felling of achivement for the learner as well as validating the learning and instructional processes.


    • I totally agree with you. They are a great way to learn but an even better way to access knowledge and skills. Better facilities for scenarios are (next to the new metaphors) the second main development goal of easygenerator.


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