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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Design: Creating a Scenario to Teach Software Procedures

When teaching a software procedure to learners, we know that you should break down the procedure into its discreet parts and then allow the learner to practice the various parts of the procedure and then put it back together again as final practice.

One method I often suggest is that, throughout the learning situation, you provide the learner with a number of different scenarios. Each scenario describing how the procedure would occur on the job. This helps for a number of reasons.

One is so that the learner understands the context in which they are required to perform the new procedure. When should this procedure be used?...for special cases, whenever a certain piece of information is received? What situation triggers the procedure? Learners need to be cued as to when they should follow a particular procedure.

Second, we know from learning research that the more methods used to encode information, the more likely the person is to recall the information when needed. A scenario provides various “paths” to the information as opposed to simply memorizing a sequence of steps. Also, the scenario should be as close to the “real life” situation as possible so the transfer of learning will be easier when the learner is required to actually perform the task on the job.

Your scenarios should progress from:
  • Simple (which the most basic, just a review of the steps…this might even be so simple that it is not really realistic...too simplistic but the basics are covered.)
  • Typical (which means this the usual situation the learner will encounter on the job, this is how the procedure typically unfolds while on the job)
  • Complex (this is the exception and rarely happens, however, if a learner can address this scenario, he or she is probably aware of the nuances of the procedure and ready to perform the work)

Your instruction should at least encompass one version of each level of scenario.

Unfortunately, creating the scenarios is not always a simple task and usually you need to enlist the help of a Subject Matter Expert who typically has no idea how to create the scenario (they usually want to give way too much detail.)

To address that issue, I have created a Scenario Example that can be provided to the Subject Matter Expert to use as an example when they are asked to create the scenario for the learning. Please try out the Scenario Example/Template and see if you can’t get better results from your Subject Matter Experts. If you do give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks Dr. Kapp - my dept. is dealing with SME scope creep big time and any aids to remedy this is appreciated.

Karl Kapp said...

Yes, dealing with SME's can be a difficult process at times. Check out my post The Difficult Subject Matter Expert (SME) for additional tips.