Why Scenario-based eLearning Paired with Collaboration is a Winning Strategy

group of people working at desk


You want your employees to feel empowered after they have completed a training course. You also want them to be engaged.

According to Wikipedia, an “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization's reputation and interests.

In many situations of life, people are motivated (or not) by their emotions and this affects how they learn and behave.

Giving learners a greater feeling of accomplishment will build their self-confidence and the competence with which they perform their jobs.

How do you give them that sense of accomplishment?

We learn best 1) by doing and 2) by sharing what we learn with other people. It is when a learner has a positive CAN DO experience and can SHARE it with others, that he or she feels the greatest sense of accomplishment. Let’s focus on those two methodologies:

1. Learning by Doing

Experiential learning has been described as the process of:

  • learning through experience and, more specifically, 
  • learning through reflection on doing.

Learning through experience

When it comes to online training, simulation and scenario-based eLearning is the best way to deliver learning-by-doing. It is especially powerful if it uses a compelling, story-like scenario that resembles the real-life context, as closely as possible.

The primary purpose is to facilitate real-world applications.

Research has shown that people more easily transfer and use new skills if they learn them in the context in which they need to be used 1. In other words, skills are best acquired in realistic contexts.

Learning through reflection

Reflection is a potent component of simulation and scenario-based training. Learners can learn from experience, by trial-and-error. The fast feedback cycle enables them to almost instantly review the consequences of their choices and evaluate their results.

“This quick, almost simultaneous feedback is one of the advantages of simulations over other experiential learning tools.”2

"Decision-making scenarios prompt retrieval practice—learners have to retrieve information to make decisions. Such practice bolsters on-the-job remembering better than information presentation alone.”3

The ability to retrieve and apply new knowledge and skills and to achieve positive outcomes at work, gives learners a sense of accomplishment. When they know they are competent they enjoy greater job-satisfaction.

2. Learning by Sharing

Throughout time, humans have learned through stories, told within the context of the community in which they lived and worked and through experience, living and working alongside others and learning from life experience or learning by doing.

Learning is most effective when it takes place in a social context

We have always learned in a social context.

Modern research has confirmed that we still learn best through shared experiences in a collaborative community. 

Learners are more mobile and social than ever…And, over half of all learners value more social, collaborative environments—both in the office and when they are engaged with online learning.”4

“Neuroscientists also know the importance of collaboration. Research shows that when people collaborate, the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the frontoparietal network are activated, the latter of which aids in the development of executive functions. Neuroscientists refer to these different brain areas as the ‘social brain.’ When we collaborate, our brains are charged with the complex task of making sense of another’s thinking and learning to interact.”5

Shared learning involves colleagues working collectively to achieve a common objective.

Scenarios paired with collaboration make learning more life-like

Team members can share knowledge and experiences and complement one another’s skills. Collaboration may take place online or offline (face-to-face) or both.

Through collaboration, participants can all benefit from:

  • the variety of expertise and prior experience (stories and scenarios) available
  • the strengths of peers
  • reflection and self-evaluation
  • constructive feedback from others

Stories, in the form of anecdotes or realistic scenarios, can place eLearning in a life-like context. When paired with collaboration, either online or off-line, the yield can be even more far-reaching than alone.

Stories are embedded with valuable information about culture, survival, history,  and environment, and we are still wired to understand, remember, and respond” [to them.] 6 

Employees learn valuable lessons informally at work from problems, mistakes, queries, upgrades, accidents or challenges on the ground. These scenarios and experiences can be shared in training content. They will emphasize the purpose of training and highlight the problems that the company faces. This can make employees more aware of the need for training and more motivated to take it.

When collaborating, learners can get timely feedback from each other. They can challenge each other to think critically. They can discuss, debate or brainstorm and use new information to solve problems together. They can then apply this new information and experience in other situations in their work environment.

"Research has found that learners remember more of what they’ve learned when the learning context is similar to the retrieval context than when it is not.”7

Collaboration promotes a sense of belonging

Some learners are intrinsically driven to engage in training in order to improve their knowledge and work performance. They know it will enable them to contribute to the organization more effectively. 

Others thrive on recognition from peers or superiors. They feel empowered after completing a course because it gives them a sense of belonging. 

They believe that the training helps them to measure up to their peers and be part of the “company flock”. 

Most employees also seek approval from superiors. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2019 confirms this: “75% of employees would take a course their manager assigned”. 8

To sum up, we learn best by doing, by simulating actions or decisions in a realistic scenario and by reflecting on those actions and their consequences.

When this interactive learning process is paired with learning in a social context through collaboration, learning becomes even more life-like. Learners are not only empowered to apply what they learned, but they feel a greater sense of accomplishment and belonging. 

These positive emotions increase performance, job satisfaction and worker engagement. Win, win, win!



    1. Thalheimer, W. (2009, April). Using Linguistically, Culturally, and Situationally Appropriate Scenarios to Support Real-World Remembering. http://www.work-learning.com/catalog/
    2. Edelheim, Johan & Daisuke, Ueda. (2007). Effective Use of Simulations in Hospitality Management Education - A Case Study. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sports and Tourism Education. 6. 10.3794/johlste.61.104
    3. Thalheimer, W. (2009, April). Using Linguistically, Culturally, and Situationally Appropriate Scenarios to Support Real-World Remembering. http://www.work-learning.com/catalog/
    4. LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019
    5. Jo Boaler, Limitless Mind, HarperCollins Publishers, London, 2019
    6. Stone Age Brains with Space Age Tools, Deep Digital Learning in a Distracted World ebook, SimuLearn October 2019
    7. Thalheimer, W. (2009, April). Using Linguistically, Culturally, and Situationally Appropriate Scenarios to Support Real-World Remembering. http://www.work-learning.com/catalog/
    8. LinkedIn commissioned study by Census Wide of 3,072 US full time workers 18+ 


About the author


SimTutor Inc is a global leader in simulation-based learning.

SimTutor Author is an authoring tool designed to help you build interactive procedural simulations and branched scenarios for any industry where realistic, just-in-time, measurable training is critical. 

SIMTICS is a library of ready-to-use simulations for learning medical and healthcare procedures and skills, powered by SimTutor Author.