This is Principle 5 of the manifesto: “We will provide learners sufficient levels of realistic practice; for example, simulations, scenario-based decision making, case-based evaluations, and authentic exercises.”
My response to this is, of course we do this. The underlying reason is simple. We should place the learner and the work context central to the learning, instead of giving the content the lead role.
Connecting to the Workplace
Currently, the biggest eLearning trend is connecting eLearning to the workplace. This leads to other learning experiences than only courses. eLearning continues to move into the area of ePerformance more and more, and it also integrates with knowledge management (curation for example). The goal is to support the learner (employee) during his moment of learning need on-the-job which lessens the focus on courses than previously. If you decide to create a course, it must be ‘learner centric’ and not ‘content centric’, Simply put it is not about the topic you want to cover, but what the learner needs to do with the content and how he can apply it in his work. The simplest way to make this happen is to use real life situations as the foundation for eLearning modules. There are plenty of options available: Simulations, scenario based, case based and authentic exercises. I will discuss each of them in this post.
A simulation tries to recreate a real world process in such a way that the learner can take part in that process and learn from it. The ‘process simulation’ often comes in the form of an animation that places the learner in the ‘story’ or process. In order to complete the process, the learner must learn along the way, so additional information can be presented at the moment of need. Presenting information in the context of this process motivates the learner to read and learn the information much more than if you just presented it as an old fashion course. The problem with simulations is that they are often animated, cartoon like, but at the same time they need to be realistic enough to engage the learner. In my experience, only hand crafted simulations are engaging enough, while many simulations created with default tools are not attractive enough.
Here is a well done animated example of a simulation about collecting evidence at the site of an accident.
Scenario-based and Case-based Learning
From my perspective, scenario-based and case-based learning are more or less the same. In both cases you create a story that the learner goes through. A difference between a case and a scenario is that with a case the learner needs to find information to come to a solution and in a scenario the learner often has to find the correct ‘golden’ path to get to a solution. Case based tends to be a bit more complicated because the learner has to gather information which influences the outcome. But if you look at examples of both types of learning, they very often are very much alike. The learner is in a situation and given several different choices where he needs to choose one, and based on the choice he move ahead to the next situation and so on.
I’d welcome additional input and insight into the difference. If someone can explain it in a better way, please let me know!
Scenario or case-based learning is a very effective way of creating learning experiences that come from a realistic situation, instead of focusing on content. And it is much easier to create these learning experiences than a simulation. A story told with images and text (or a self-made video) is easy to create and powerful for learners – we should use it more often!
I found the rules listed below on how to develop good case based learning from Clyde Freeman Herreid. Good case-based learning:
- Tells a story.
- Focuses on an interest-arousing issue.
- Is set in the past five years
- Creates empathy with the central characters.
- Includes quotations. There is no better way to understand a situation and to gain empathy for the characters
- Is relevant to the reader.
- Must have pedagogic utility.
- Is conflict provoking.
- Is decision forcing.
- Has generality.
- Is short.
(I found this list at the site of the Queens University )
Another great thing about these learning approaches is that someone from the workplace (not an eLearning specialist) is able to create such stories. The technique and didactics are simple, yet very effective.
If you decide not to tell a story through a case-based or scenario-based exercise, and want to put the content more in the lead, at least provide examples and exercises that are realistic and recognizable by the learner. This is the least you should do.
See the first post on this topic for the goals and other posts on the serious eLearning manifesto