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  • Writer's pictureRocio Granela

Take Your Scenario Writing from Dull to Dazzling

by Rocio Granela & Katie Hynes

Picture this: A cozy home office, cat purring on the windowsill. Dusk. Threat of a storm. The room lit by a computer screen. 

You stare at an open Word doc, lips pursed, eyes fixed on the blinking cursor. 

All work and no play…

Then, a flash of lightning. A thunderclap!

“I’ve got it!” With a wild look, your fingers fly across the keyboard. Tight shot of cat with side eye.


You’ve studied your audience and mulled over the learning objectives. You can see it now: A relatable situation, evocative details that bring the scene to life, a relevant challenge and a sense of urgency that drives the action forward. A scenario that allows your learners to navigate a realistic workday encounter, applying new skills as they make decisions about which way to go, what to do and say next.

Dark, epic music swells as you find your writing flow and get your first draft finished under the light of a crescent moon. 

The twins at the end of the hall? That’s a scenario for another time…

Engaging learners through realistic, thought-provoking narratives (scenarios) can provide an opportunity for learners to grapple with complex dilemmas and make informed decisions in a safe, supportive environment.

How do you make it count?

Here are 12 practical tips for creating scenarios that are not only effective but also enjoyable for learners.

  1. Understand Your Audience: Begin by understanding the characteristics and interests of your audience. What challenges do they face in their roles? What scenarios would be most relevant and relatable to them? Tailor scenarios to match your learners' experiences to lay the foundation for meaningful engagement.

  2. Define Clear Learning Objectives: Clearly define the objectives you aim to achieve through scenario-based learning. What specific knowledge or skills do you want learners to acquire? For example, a basic healthcare scenario might center on the interaction between provider and patient. If the objective relates to improving active listening, the scenario will unfold differently than if the objective is tied to mastery of the hospital’s health record software. In the first example, you’ll need to include details like subtle cues in patient body language for learners to pick up on. In the second, more emphasis will likely need to be placed on the tech.

  3. Outline the Scenario: Begin by outlining the scenario. Define the setting, characters involved, and the central challenge or problem the learners will encounter.

  4. Provide Context and Background: Establish the context of each scenario by providing relevant background information and setting the scene effectively. Engage learners by painting a vivid picture of the scenario's context, characters, and challenges, allowing them to immerse themselves fully in the learning experience. Draw inspiration from real-life situations that learners are likely to encounter in their professional or personal lives. By grounding scenarios in reality, you enhance their authenticity and relevance, making them more compelling and effective as learning tools.

  5. Identify Decision Points: Determine key decision points within the scenario where learners will need to make choices or take action. These decision points should align with the learning objectives and promote critical thinking.

  6. Write Dialogue and Interactions: Write dialogue and interactions between characters that drive the scenario forward. Dialogue should feel natural and authentic, reflecting how people in the scenario would actually communicate.

  7. Encourage Exploration and Experimentation through Branching Paths: Empower learners to explore different paths and outcomes within scenarios, fostering a sense of agency and ownership over their learning journey. Encourage experimentation and provide opportunities for learners to learn from both successful and unsuccessful outcomes.

  8. Maintain a Balance of Challenge and Support: Strike a balance between challenge and support to keep learners engaged and motivated throughout the scenario. Offer appropriate guidance, feedback, and resources to help learners overcome obstacles and succeed while maintaining a level of challenge that promotes learning and growth.

  9. Consider Multimedia Elements: Scenarios can be text-based, but integrating multimedia can help you bring scenes to life. Consider using multimedia elements such as images, videos, or interactive elements to enhance the scenario's engagement and realism. Choose multimedia that complements the narrative and reinforces key concepts.

  10. Keep It Concise and Clear: Write in clear, concise language that is easy for learners to understand. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complexity that could distract from the learning objectives.

  11. Include Opportunities for Reflection: Build opportunities for learners to reflect on their decisions and outcomes within the scenario. Reflection promotes deeper learning and encourages learners to consider alternative perspectives.

  12. Test and Revise: Once the scenario is written, test it with a sample audience or colleagues to gather feedback. Revise the scenario based on feedback, making adjustments to improve clarity, engagement, and alignment with learning objectives.

But, why do we strive to write great scenarios? 

The answer is simple— we want to make learning “sticky.”

The value lies in the connection we can develop with the learner through the scenario and the impact we can have on their everyday work experience. If we can transform the learning experience from a passive absorption of information into an active engagement through well-written real-world situations, then we end up with learners who not only understand but can also apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.

In reflecting on my journey with scenario-based learning, I've discovered that scenarios breathe life into learning experiences by presenting situations that feel familiar, relevant, and, most importantly, actionable. It's like learning to ride a bike by actually riding, not just by reading about it. How many times did you fall? How many times did you get up and try again until you got it right? Learning shouldn’t be confined to reading articles or PowerPoint presentations—it should be an exploration where wrong turns are just as valuable as the right ones.

Of course, all scenarios aren’t built equally, and that’s where our 12 tips can help you get it right.

Do You Accept the Challenge? Dazzle Us!


Want to skill up with improved writing chops?

Join us for the next cohort of I Can Ducking Write.

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