Scenario-Based Learning

flickr photo by Brian Rinker, shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by Brian Rinker, shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

scan with app


Scenario-based learning (SBL) uses real-life situations to engage learners in a problem, process or decision that they have to collaboratively resolve. It provides excellent opportunities for improving critical thinking and problem solving skills, and allows for assessment of the learning process. In this studio you will be immersed in a real-life scenario, challenged to make decisions, and asked to reflect on outcomes!

Opener: Earthquake Scenario

The best way to understand the impact scenario based learning can have in your classroom, is to experience it yourself!  We have chosen a scenario that is familiar to everyone and does not require any subject matter expertise. The focus is on the scenario based learning process and experience not subject content. We’ll be doing this scenario together in the face to face studio  – details are in Challenge 1 below.

Considerations for Using and Creating Scenarios

Scenarios can be developed for any purpose and for any subject matter, and to any degree of complexity. A range of technology levels can be incorporated into almost any scenario – from simple narratives and visuals to the use of high-tech multimedia. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish, who your learners are, and the resources available to you.


To get you started:

Step 1: Why Scenario Based Learning?

Is scenario based learning the best option? Look at your course outcomes – development of critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration skills work well in SBL.Simulating real-life/work situations that your students would not normally experience is also an effective use. It can be time consuming so think about what resources you have available for development and how long the content will remain relevant.


Step 2: Develop Purpose & Objectives

Get clear about why you are applying scenario based learning in your class. Objectives form the framework of your scenario by describing the specific outcomes you are trying to achieve and providing focus for evaluation.


Step 3: Develop Expected Actions & Prompts

From your objectives identify expected actions. The expected actions are individual, discrete tasks that need to be completed in order for students to successfully achieved an objective. If all expected actions for an objective are completed, the objective is fully achieved – if not, it may identify learning gaps. During the scenario, expected actions are translated into prompts and instructions through the use of questions, and/or tasks and/or problem statements.


Step 4: Create Evaluation Criteria

Evaluating the scenario based learning activity involves determining if learning objectives were met. Expected actions provide a metric to measure what students have accomplished during the simulation.


Step 5: Create Scenario/Story

The goal is to develop a scenario that is realistic, relevant to your discipline and to your students. It should be directly related to your learning objectives and provide sufficient complexity. Choose topics that lend themselves to scenario based learning – challenging situations requiring collaboration and complex decision making.


Step 6: Debrief Strategy

Debriefing is a very important part of scenario based learning. This is where meaning and connections are made. It allows learners to reflect on and understand the consequences of their decisions (either positive or negative) in a safe and supportive environment. The debrief is focused on your purpose and objectives.


Tools and Resources

More About Scenario Based Learning


Designing Scenario Based Learning Activities

  • Scenario Based Learning Guide & Templates (link – will finish cov later today)



  1. Experience & reflect on scenario-based learning.
  2. Create a low-tech scenario based learning activity.
  3. Create a scenario using only open media.



How could you apply scenario based learning in one of your courses?

What do you see as its benefits? Challenges?

What was it like for you participating in the Earthquake scenario?

How would you prepare to debrief a scenario based learning activity?




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