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TCC 2009: Engaging Students with Scenario Based Learning in Online Environments

my live notes from TCC 2009

Engaging Students with Scenario Based Learning in Online Environments
by Lyndon Godsall and Amy Hilbelink

Discussion of two courses that used the scenario based learning model

  • Health/Wellness and Assessment
  • Criminal Justice Intro course

Health/Wellness and Assessment (Amy Hilbelink)

  • intro to course
    • assessments weren’t done properly
    • students were used to having all info
      • not at all common in real-life
  • wanted to take a holistic approach to assessment
  • in new approach not giving all information making the students use critical thinking skills


  • “meet your virtual family” – basic HTML pages (click and move)
    • great graphics and info
      • no multimedia
  • 6 families within the course to choose from
    • a variety of types (age, gender preferences)
    • same community, life issues to different degrees
  • Lin family (one of the 6)
    • can click on each of the patients (4 people in family)
    • throughout the course each person comes to the “clinic” for students to diagnose
    • click on person and gives a background info for that week of class (scenario)
  • what factors are involved in doing an assessment of this person?


  • discussion boards set up for each family
    • students compare notes, discuss what they learned, how they learned, what factors are key in assessing family members
  • group work (wikis soon)
    • in Unit 5 must do a health assessment of a person in their family “to date”
      • limited info, don’t know all factors to that point
  • no book
  • students had a difficulty at first using this set up because they were used to having all the info up front
    • finally got used to it

Once you build the scenario building blocks (model), can be used for any type of scenario.

Murder! a scenario based on a project who were just entering the criminal justice program ( Lyndon Godsall)

  • retention is something to be addressed, particularly online
    • need something to engage students immediately
  • the scenario builds as the course builds
    • the scenario begins in unit 2 (goes to unit 9)
    • unit 1 is for meet and greet and up front info
  • students get confused at time because they have to complete the discussion board but they are actually doing by participating in the scenario

Why use scenario based learning?

  • by presenting the right type of situation, you can get the learner to think and make decisions which helps them process the course content and make it part of their knowledge
  • built around this type of scenario
    • people come into program people are already familiar with CSI, etc
    • difficult because must match storyline with what is going on in class
  • Each piece in the unit is animated/video
    • audio, visuals
  • at the end, an assessment to recall what they saw
  • program: flash based

When you build your next course, instead of just presenting info, figure out how the learner will use it and then build scenarios around it

Ask yourself these three questions to help think through , and then build, a scenario
1. what situations require the learner to know this information?

  • create a circumstance where the learner gets to use the knowledge presented. The benefit for an experienced learner helps them confirm what they already know, and for a novice learner, you’ll be able to help them learn.

2. what choices could they be expected to make in that circumstance?

  • design with choices that are somewhat right and somewhat wrong and force the learner to pick. This will allow faculty to address the nuances by providing feedback and offering teachable moments.

3. what are the consequences of those choices?

  • your design should lead to a healthy level of uncertainty, but not make it seem difficult that you’re not motivated to learn how to overcome it. What your SBL should do is to leverage tension and curiosity. You want to keep the student engaged!

Investigation recap

  • assessment at end of section

At end of some of the units, they are directed to watch a video

  • a recording of a real crime scene
  • students are able to follow a real crime scene
  • points out a lot of info that they are learning through the scenario
    • Films on Demand (for those real world films)


  • we have found that students enjoy the SBL discussion boards. Typically in a weekly discussion board there is a total of 3 postings per student on a topic. When we introduce SBL and animation, students posting quadrupled. From student survey feedback, students reported that they liked the “CJ Reporter” the best in the class. They didn’t even know they were learning!


Did you see any effect on overall student performance (meeting learning goals)?
– part of the learning goal was to get students comfortable with learning online
– yes, it definitely helped them
– by taking part in discussion boards, they get comfortable with the environment and writing
– are able to express themselves and practice communication skills in an academic environment

Did you have any issues with faculty having trouble using this situational methodology as compared to the “old” ways?  Or did they perform better because their students were enjoying the course that much more?
– Yes, a very traditional group of faculty and this was new for them to take this approach
– used to have info up front, have a book to use
– had to be told that students were required to think critically
– after the course, instructors thought it was innovative
– I got the impression that there was a learning and application gap at the beginning (my thoughts)

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