How to create scenario based learning experiences

How to create scenario-based learning experiences  

How do you create a real-life learning scenario?

Step 1: What makes up a scenario-based learning experience? The 5 Simple Cs at the center of this learning theory

The 5Cs of Successful Scenario Building
The 5Cs of Successful Scenario Building
  1. Context – A relatable situation and surrounding real-world context that take into account place, space, modernity, diversity and culture. This sets the scene for your challenge or situation. It helps people get in the zone and begin to ‘read’ the situation.
  2. Challenge – A well outlined problem or situation set within the context, including any constraints such as completion time. It is the ideal place to set the learning intention, achievable points or other learning outcomes.   
  3. Choices – The options that are presented at a juncture in the branching scenario. The choices lead the participant to a desired outcome or consequences. 
  4. Consequence – Impacts or outcomes that can be positive or negative depending on the choice. 
  5. Contemplate – What chances or opportunities are there to learn from this experience? Contemplation, review or reflection questions or feedback can be provided here as part of the learning process. Feedback can be made more effective with interactive and multi-modal forms of explanation.  

Step 2: Planning the SBL experience

Create a storyline of how your scenario will work out. You can use an online tool or simply sketch out with pen and paper or a whiteboard. It helps to think of the scenario as a story which evolves down different paths – a bit like the old “choose your own adventure” books.

Step 3: What can I use to create my scenario-based learning material?

There are authoring tools and apps which will assist you to create branching scenarios. With ThingLink’s Scenario Builder you can combine different media types including videos, audio, 360° media, 3D and images into a complete learning experience. This makes it easy to create highly engaging online simulations for learning and development. There is no design or coding experience needed, so no requirement for learning a whole new skill before you can put it together.


Watch this quick 2 minute walkthrough of Scenario Builder to see what it looks like in action:

What is scenario-based learning?

Scenario-based learning (SBL) is a method of instructional design where learners work through scenarios which reflect real life situations or scenarios. They can be linear in nature, but are most effective when learners are able to choose their own path via a series of branches on the storyline.Because of this, these learning experiences are also referred to as branching scenarios. 

SBL learning theory provides an experiential learning process which contains many microlearning opportunities within a real-world context. As such it is seen as an effective learning tool for corporate training and compliance training. However, educators also use scenario based learning for a wide variety of training courses, in further and higher education and even older K12 students. In fact the gamification of the learner-led paths makes it one of the most appealing learning strategies for younger generations of learners. 

What are the benefits of scenario-based learning for your learners?

  • The active learning within the interactive scenarios leads to higher learner engagement. This in turn results in better retention of facts, soft skills and learning outcomes.
  • It provides a self paced learning environment via asynchronous online training (learners can complete at their own pace, in their own time).
  • SBL is perfect for Elearning from home. It is one of the easiest ways to bring situated learning into the online learning environment.
  • It is accessible for a wide variety of learning needs
  • It provides a safe environment to practice new skills and complex decision making under pressure
  • SBL improves decision making, critical thinking skills and provides problem solving skills training


To get you started in creating your own scenario, we have put together an introductory video (12 minutes watch). You’ll see how to create your own SBL experience for corporate training, K12, Higher or Further Education or any training program.

For more inspiration on how you could apply SBL in your training, see our Five Great Examples of Scenario Based Learning

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