When you’re trying to make your e-learning spring to life for learners, it’s hard to top a good scenario. In the end, scenarios are really just a type of story, and stories are ideal for presenting information in a fun and engaging way.
Designing effective scenarios is one of the cool, creative parts of creating e-learning—but it does require a little advance planning. For instance, one thing you'll want to consider when designing your scenario is how it should involve the learner; in other words, the point of view your scenario will take. Point of view takes two primary forms in e-learning: the visual design perspective and the narrative perspective. There’s a lot of overlap between these two since the visuals you choose should support the narrative, but in this article, I’m going to focus solely on the narrative perspective (aka the nerdy grammar stuff).
What is a Narrative Perspective?
Narrative perspective is the point of view your scenario takes, and just like other forms of writing, it’s either a first-person, second-person, or third-person perspective. Point of view is established through your use of personal pronouns—“I,” “you,” “she,” “he,” and “they,” for instance.
The first-person narrative perspective means the scenario is presented from the narrator’s or a character’s point of view. If you find that you’re writing scenarios using “I,” “me,” or “we,” you’re writing from a first-person perspective, as in “I found this explanation of point of view very helpful.”
A first-person perspective can be either omniscient, meaning the learner can see and explore the actions, feelings, and thoughts of all the characters, or limited, meaning the characters can only tell the learner what they know, see, or hear. Either way, the narrator or a character is the one addressing the learner.
I find writing scenarios in the first-person is a good fit for topics where the learner has the knowledge and skills to act as an advisor to the character. This approach can be made more engaging through the use of branching to show the impact the learner’s choices have on the character’s situation, like in this Storyline 360: Customer Service Scenario by Nicole Legault where we see the customer’s reactions to the customer service rep’s responses at each decision point.
A second-person point of view is the most common writing approach for all sorts of immersive experiences—and especially for e-learning. That’s because it puts the learner at the center of the action. With a second-person point of view, the narrator speaks directly to the learner, using the pronoun “you,” as in “You will find this explanation of point of view very helpful.”
One consideration when writing scenarios from a second-person perspective is how you’ll present the learner with the consequences of their choices. To maintain an immersive experience, ideally, you'll want your learners to experience the consequences of their actions. Two ways you can do this include letting the learner choose an avatar to represent them in the scenario, or by using point-of-view visuals. You can see these ideas in action in this Storyline 360 example: How to Fight a Bear by Sarah Hodge, in this Storyline 360: Workplace Violence course from Richard Watson, and in this Storyline 360 example: Scenario-Based Health & Safety from Josh Goodswen.
The third-person point of view—the most common approach for fiction writing—relies on the use of pronouns like “she,” “he,” and “they,” as in “He found this explanation of the third-person point of view very helpful.”
Because of their use in fiction writing, the third-person narrative can also be a good choice for writing scenarios. Much like first-person, a third-person perspective can be either omniscient (the learner can see and explore the actions, feelings, and the thoughts of all the characters), or limited (the learner follows one character’s actions and thoughts). Either way, the learner is more of an observer of the scenario, rather than a participant in the scenario.
Whether you choose a first-person or a third-person narrative approach, both approaches give you a way to balance objectivity with learner involvement. For instance, a first-person or a third-person perspective could be a really effective approach for exploring difficult topics like ethical or moral decision-making where the personal involvement of the learner could feel too threatening.
One great example of a third-person perspective in action is this Rise 360 course: Digital Media Ethics by Kate Lee. I love how Kate’s story-inspired design is nuanced and encourages you to explore the perspectives of the other characters as you weigh the options.
Let’s Sum It Up
Simply put, a first-person scenario is a story told from the writer’s or narrator’s point of view and uses “I” or “we.” A second-person scenario is directed at the learner and uses the pronoun “you.” A third-person scenario is told from an outside narrator’s point of view and uses pronouns such as “he,” “she,” and “they.”
Whichever point of view your scenarios take, it’s best to stick with that perspective throughout. In other words, if you've written a scenario in the first person (using “I” or “we”), try to avoid pivoting to a second-person pronoun like “you” or a third-person pronoun like “they.” Shifting perspectives like that can get confusing to learners.
While there are lots of decisions to make when you’re crafting a scenario, thankfully there are also tons of pro tips, examples, and resources for creating effective scenarios here on E-Learning Heroes. I’ve gathered a few more articles on the topic of scenarios to round out your reading list:
What are your thoughts on point of view in crafting scenarios? Which point of view do you find yourself using most? Share your thoughts and experiences with me in a comment, below.
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