The effectiveness of scenario-based eLearning is widely recognised.

As storytellers we love incorporating real-world scenarios as a core instructional technique throughout our courses.

These scenarios are based on real-world realistic challenges that seek to develop core behaviours and underpinning knowledge as the learner progresses from scene to scene through to the outcomes.

In this latest series of our Diversity and Inclusion insights, our Instructional Designer, Maresa Malloy takes a look at the use of using scenarios in diversity and inclusion training.

Scenarios present learners with a range of situations or dilemmas that could happen to them in real-life. They challenge you to solve these dilemmas based on what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve developed in the learning programme.

A scenario-based approach is ideally suited to equality and diversity eLearning.

It allows you to tell engaging stories about a range of people, with diverse characteristics, and develop the learner’s judgement in line with the equality and diversity values you want to model.

Here we map out six advantages of using the scenario-based approach

1. Scenarios challenge and engage learners

We believe in challenging learners and getting them to think and problem-solve for themselves: this ensures they’re more likely to feel motivated and to engage with the eLearning.

For example:

Instead of presenting a list of ‘protected characteristics’ (such as age, sexual orientation, disability status…) from your policy or legislation, and then testing learners on their knowledge of these characteristics…

Begin by presenting a situation of potential harassment and ask learners if they think the person in the story is protected under the law from harassment and has grounds for complaint.

This is much more likely to challenge their current understanding by getting them to identify that the person in the story has a protected characteristic and apply the legislative framework to that person.

In our recent webinar, Rethinking Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, How L&D Can Help, our panellist's discussed the success of scenarios in eLearning to help engage and immerse learners to competency, as demonstrated through their decision-making in a series of situational dilemmas.

2. Scenarios encourage reflection and further learning

Within scenarios, learners are presented with decision points and different courses of action they could take, typically:

  • The competent path – the right thing to do.
  • The completely incompetent path – the wrong thing to do.
  • The plausibly incompetent path - which people might think is competent.

They are then provided with rich feedback which outlines or shows the consequences of their choice. This provides opportunities for learners to reflect on their own approaches to equality and diversity and to read supporting information, such as relevant policy details and explanations of key concepts (such as discrimination, prejudice and unconscious bias).

3. Scenarios reinforce the competent path – as well as showing what could go wrong

A scenario involves a series of decision points which show a situation unfolding from start to finish. We describe or show the consequences of selecting an incompetent path along the way, but we can also require the learner to select the competent path to progress through the scenario, in order to tell a story of competent practice.

For example, if the scenario is about a woman receiving inappropriate comments from a colleague at work, we might start by asking the learner what she should do about this, then show her lodging an official complaint on grounds of gender, and possibly taking it to a tribunal. Learners who do not select the best course of action at each decision point can be shown the consequences of that choice, helping them to recall the impact of poor choices later when they come to apply their learning. They’re then invited to retry the decision so they can get back on the right path.

This shows learners the full breadth of real-life challenges and the range of options available to them and makes progress through the story depend on learners making the right choices.

4. Scenarios help learners retain and apply the learning

If you ask somebody to read a document and a couple of days later ask them about the details, chances are they’ll not have retained much of the information. If you give them a task to do that depends on them reading the document, chances are they’ll not only remember the information in the document a couple of days later, but they’ll be able to apply it too.

It’s the same with scenarios. Give learners use for the information, and they are more likely to retain the learning and apply it in the workplace.

5. Scenarios are visually appealing

Photo stories and video-based scenarios provide an immersive experience for the learner. They make characters more relatable and engaging and close the gap between learning and practice by making it easier for learners to imagine the story unfolding in real life.

6. Scenarios reflect what’s really happening

We talk to your Subject Matter Experts and people on the ground to find out what’s really happening to people in the workplace regarding equality and diversity. We ask questions such as:

  • What are people finding difficult or where are they making mistakes?
  • Where are there common misunderstandings?
  • Who is most affected by people’s misunderstandings and why?

We then design scenarios which focus on these areas of difficulty, target them at a range of audiences (covering different roles, ages, genders, etc.) and place them in a range of settings (office, with client/customer, communal areas, etc.).


At Aurion, we have a strong understanding of diversity and inclusion topics, based on our extensive experience in the delivery of related eLearning content to clients including Queen’s University Belfast, Health & Social Care NI, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Universities Association, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
What would you like to see covered in your scenarios?

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