What are the Advantages of Scenario-based eLearning for Mission Critical Industries?

technical training
Training for mission critical industries

Let’s start with a question: in an industry where human error can genuinely be a matter of life and death (or grave business risk), what’s the safest, most effective way to teach mission-critical skills to new starters and old hands alike?

In fields like medicine, aviation or engineering, trainees must learn to perform tasks that are crucial to that industry’s mission. Tasks for which failure has a serious consequence - either a high risk to the business, or a very real danger to human life.

We’ll call these tasks ‘mission critical’ - in other words, tasks that must be performed correctly every time because failure has a serious consequence. Research shows that human error causes as much as two-thirds of all failures in high consequence industries like medicine.

Let’s look at an example: a trainee nurse must learn how to give a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection without injuring the patient. This task is one that the nurse will need to perform countless times in their career. 

In the past, trainee nurses would have done their training on living patients, who had to put up with bruising and other minor injuries as a result.

This face-to-face training was very useful experience for the trainee - albeit a bit risky and nerve-wracking to start with - but not so great for the patients.

Next came the introduction of traditional eLearning, where students would study compartmentalised modules online and be graded as passes or failures. This had some advantages (fewer injuries for the patients) but failed to allow students to learn from making mistakes, and to progress at their own pace.

And that’s where scenario-based eLearning (SBeL) offers concrete advantages. Before the trainee nurse even approaches a patient in real life, they can apply the skill of administering an injection in a virtual replica of their working environment - in this case, a GP’s surgery.

In the scenario-based eLearning environment, the learner can practise the procedure as many times as necessary, in order to gain the confidence and skills required to treat a living patient in real life.

With SBeL, the learner is able to make mistakes, learn from them, and work at their own pace, in a way that just isn’t encouraged in either face-to-face training or traditional eLearning.

With traditional classroom (face-to-face) learning, the learner may feel under pressure to say they have understood the content of the lesson, when in reality they haven’t fully grasped it.

Likewise, with traditional eLearning, the student may, by memorising the answers or making lucky guesses, score full marks in an e-learning module, without fully comprehending how the module’s content relates to their real-life working environment.

There are many advantages of SBeL, but here’s a rundown of some of the major ones:

  • SBeL offers a real-world context to learners in high consequence industries. It can recreate a recognisable environment (for example, a mechanic’s workshop or the factory floor) which will help the learner actively retrieve the knowledge they’ve gained once they’re practising their skills in a real-life setting.
  • SBeL provides self-directed learning, which leads to more engaged and motivated learners, because they can explore complex tasks at their own pace. This contrasts with traditional eLearning, where the learner is guided through a series of steps where the order is set in stone - and where the module assumes that questions based on complex tasks have black and white, right or wrong answers. 
  • SBeL allows learners to make mistakes in a controlled and safe environment - and fully understand what the consequences of those errors would be in real life. This helps them retain and encode the knowledge they’ve gained and understand why the training is crucial to their roles.
  • SBeL enables learners to practise high-consequence tasks - it’s not just the theory behind the task. This leads to better staff performance and gives managers peace of mind around compliance. Managers can be certain that their staff members are well-prepared for real-life events, which could be medical emergencies or the need to land a plane safely.


Scenario-based eLearning doesn't have to replace all your existing training methods however, your organisation will benefit from its advantages if used together with traditional learning.

You’ll be able to provide truly immersive and interactive eLearning programs, allowing your learners to understand the risks and consequences of mission-critical tasks, in a safe and controlled environment.

See how scenario-based eLearning could help transform your organisation's training today. Read more