Scenario-based learning has been steadily growing in popularity across education, but what exactly is it? Should you be using it in your institution?
In this blog, we’ll answer those questions, plus a few more, as we define scenario-based learning and outline five reasons why further and higher education institutions should adopt it. And we’ll include a few examples along the way.
Five reasons to adopt scenario-based learning
What is scenario-based learning?
First things first, scenario-based learning (SBL) is an experiential learning technique that utilises scenarios to support active learning. This means learners make choices or respond to the situation as they make their way through a narrative. But where did it come from?
SBL is derived from situated learning theory. Situated learning theory, first presented by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991, is the process of learning where individuals have the chance to take part in practice within a community. The theory states that, as a result of this in-community learning, learners reach an expert level due to having more practice opportunities within the context in which what they’re learning is used.
This then developed more widely into scenario-based learning, where the base elements of situated learning remain, but it relies less on learning directly within a community but rather replicating that experience in order to develop the application of knowledge.
You may also hear the term “Problem-Based Learning (PBL)” thrown around, sometimes even used interchangeably with SBL. However, while SBL and PBL share some similarities, they’re not exactly the same.
SBL focuses on placing learners in specific scenarios where the focus is on decision-making, problem-solving, and knowledge application. There may or may not be a specific problem to solve. Instead, the main goal of SBL is to immerse learners in situations that allow learners to practise and develop certain skills.
PBL starts with a problem or issue and often is solved by learners working in groups, and the learning is done in the solving of the problem, rather than being immersed in a simulation.
Now we’ve cleared up that first question, it’s time to delve into why exactly you should be implementing scenario-based learning at your institution.
Five reasons why FE and HE institutions should adopt SBL
Reason 1: It puts your students at the centre
By putting the focus on how the learner interacts within the scenario, SBL naturally places the student at the centre of the learning process. And student-centred learning has a number of benefits, such as increased engagement, improved critical thinking skills, and encourages great independence.
Reason 2: It encourages more than memorisation
Whereas some traditional learning techniques encourage the memorisation of content and not much else, the nature of SBL means students have to combine knowledge learned with practical application. They’re asked to ‘move beyond simple memorisation of new concepts to application of them in an authentic environment’, so students not only remember new content, but they also learn how best to apply this knowledge in real life situations.
This also means that SBL can be effective as an assessment method, which Learning Experience Design Consultant Christy Tucker discovered when implementing new assessment techniques for an online university.
Reason 3: It's more effective than traditional methods
While there’s not a wealth of studies out there yet on SBL, those that do exist show that SBL is more effective than reflective learning and can result in better knowledge transfer between training and application, leading to greater long-term retention.
And many institutions are already cluing in to its effectiveness. For example, at UCL, engineering students are given a six-week long SBL based task that gets them working in groups on a real-world based project that requires teamwork and communication skills as well as the hard skills they’re studying.
Reason 4: It focuses on 21st century skills
SBL focuses mainly on students developing analytical, intellectual, problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills. All of these are considered 21st Century skills: skills that today’s students will need for career success.
Giving your students the opportunity to develop these transferable skills is crucial perhaps now more than ever, as unemployment numbers for young people are hitting new highs.
Reason 5: It's a safe place to fail
SBL ‘enables a safe space for failure’ where students can make mistakes and then see the consequences of those mistakes play out in a safe space where there are no real-life repercussions. Then they can learn from these errors without anxieties about dealing with the potentially negative results of making a mistake in real life.
This was highlighted by NHS staff and students during one of their Bodyswaps’ pilot sessions: that having the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe space, such as immersive VR, provides a unique and valuable learning opportunity.
To wrap up, Scenario-Based Learning is a game-changer for students, putting them right at the heart of it all. No more rote memorisation; SBL pushes for a deeper, more meaningful understanding and outshines traditional teaching methods. You can bring SBL into the classroom, spice up your assessments, or let students lead their own learning initiatives.
Scenario-Based Learning with Bodyswaps
Bodyswaps’ immersive soft skills training platform utilises scenario-based learning with our modules in order to promote a combination of theory and practice, encouraging long-term retention and effective skills development.
If you’d like to implement our immersive scenario-based soft skills training at your institution, check out our 2023 Discovery Package. Our exclusive offer provides a 6-month solution with all the support, software and hardware you’ll need to deploy the best Bodyswaps pilot.