I recently presented a session at the Learning Solutions Conference 2014 in Orlando, Florida, about building three-step scenarios using Articulate Storyline. Afterward, several people asked if I could send them a recap of what I had covered. And I thought: “Gee, that sounds like a good topic for a blog post!”

The key to building a great scenario lies in how you approach your content. You should always endeavor to relate your content back to the real-life situation your learners will be in when they need to actually apply the information from your course.

In my example scenario, a pharmaceutical company is launching a new product, and the e-learning module is for the company’s sales reps. Given that, the question orienting our content is: “Why would the sales reps need to know about the new product?” The answer, which defines our scenario, is: “In order to sell the products to potential customers.”

That’s how easy it is. Once you start to think of your content this way, you’ll see that your scenarios will come to you naturally. Thinking of the real-life situations your learners will be in when they need to know your content is the hardest part. Once you’ve got that nailed down, building your scenario using Storyline is super-duper easy. Let me walk you through my recommended three-step process.

1. Introduce Characters

The first step is to insert the characters that will play out the scenario. You can use either the photographic or illustrated characters that come with Storyline. Remember to try to pick characters that are meaningful to and representative of your audience. If we know that the sales reps at the pharma company tend to be males between 25 and 50, it seems natural to select a middle-age male to be the character in our scenario.

Once you’ve added in your characters, you should introduce them, including names and job titles. This will make the characters seem more real, and lets the learner know why they are on the screen. Img1.png

2. Insert Background Image

Once you’ve got your characters on screen, add a background image to set the context for your scenario. When you’re thinking of background choices, ask yourself, “Where will the learner be when they need to apply the information they are learning?”

For this example, our sales rep would likely be in an office, on the telephone with a potential customer. So both our sales rep and the customer would be in their place of work. We can simply add in our images to create a background. In my example, I added a “transparency” effect of about 90% to both images make them appear more faded, so the text and characters stand out crisply.

3. Use Convert to Freeform to Build Your Scenario

Building your scenario boils down to asking a multiple choice question with one correct answer. The difference between any old regular multiple choice question and a scenario-based multiple choice question is simply how you frame your question. A scenario-based question puts the learner in the context of a situation they might encounter in the workplace, and asks them to make a decision based on the information provided.

Asking a scenario-based question ensures that your learner is able to do their job and make the right decisions, instead of just testing whether they’ve memorized a few facts.


For this example, I’ve used rectangles with text to present my question and two possible answers. I then used the Convert to Freeform option to turn my slide into a “pick one” quiz slide.

One final key piece of your scenario is to provide feedback to your learners. Just as your scenario-based multiple choice question asks learners to make real-life decisions, the feedback should illustrate the actual consequences of their actions. When you use the Convert to Freeform option in Storyline, your Correct and Incorrect feedback layers will be generated automatically. You can then customize your characters’ responses, facial features, and other feedback information as needed.


And voila! Those are three easy steps you can follow to create your own simple scenarios using Storyline. Remember, you just need characters to play out your scenario, a background to set the context, and a freeform slide to make an interactive pick-one question. If you have any tips of your own for creating great scenarios, please leave a comment below. We love to hear your ideas and advice!

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