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Creating Branching Situations In eLearning

Branching Scenario Challenges and How to Solve Them

In many situations in life there is no unambiguously good or bad answer to a problem – some may be more effective than others. A common example is a sales interaction with a customer. There is no specific right or wrong way to go, but the sales manager needs to assess the situation and respond to customers in the best possible way. The main challenge for educators is to train people in situations where there are multiple possible paths or multiple possible outcomes. In a traditional classroom training, role-playing games were carried out in which the learner was placed in a hypothetical situation. However, this is not possible in a typical web-based training module.

In eLearning, this problem is solved by a technique called branching scenarios. It is a highly interactive module with non-linear navigation. The learner is presented with a scenario and asked to choose from the available answers that he would give in this situation. There are usually 3-4 answers for the learner to choose from.

The module continues according to the selection made by the learner. For example, if the learner selects answer A, he receives a different content than if he selects answer B. In a sense, the module has many branches that the learner can go through according to their answer. That is why it is called a branching scenario.

In short, a branching scenario is basically a highly interactive eLearning module that allows learners to interact with the module and choose the path they want to follow. The learner can choose a decision based on his understanding and see the effects of the decision.

When should a branching scenario be selected?

Branch scenarios are best for training people in decision-making skills and how to deal with situations.

Why choose a branching scenario?

Branch scenarios offer many advantages:

  • The learning becomes exciting and the learners have to participate. Thus, it promotes active learning rather than passive, ineffective learning.
  • This is the best way to teach decision making and situation handling skills. Learners can try out real-world scenarios and understand how their decisions affect the scenario.
  • It allows learners to experiment with possible choices and see how things play out without fear of real consequences.
  • It gives learners the freedom to deal with a situation or make decisions from different angles and see what works and what doesn’t.

3 main challenges

Let’s look at three key challenges (or common mistakes) in creating branching scenarios and how to overcome them.

1. Not realistic scenarios

A branching scenario is only effective if the scenario is relevant to the actual job of the learner. These can be of two types: the higher-level scenario is not relevant or the branching scenarios are not relevant.

How to overcome the challenge

Perform a task and situation analysis before creating scenarios. Take the feedback from the experts and understand the possible bifurcation. If the branch is incorrect or obviously implausible, the purpose of the branch is lost.

2. Lack of flow between branches

Another challenge and common mistake designers make with branching scenarios is the lack of flow between scenarios. Branch scenarios essentially contain a number of decision points that are linked to one another by plausible alternative situations. Often, after a branch or two, the action becomes weak or the plausibility of alternatives becomes weak.

How to overcome the challenge

Instructional designers working on a branching scenario must create a clear roadmap of all possible branches along with possible alternatives and clearly define the process and order of decision making. You need to determine how the scenarios will work and how each branch will peak.

3. Too complex a scenario

Making things easy is often more of a challenge than not. The same applies to branching scenarios. Sometimes the branching becomes too complicated and learners cannot follow the path or forget where they started.

How to overcome the challenge

To keep the scenario simple, the instructional designer must focus on the most important scenario path and design the alternatives accordingly. The module should be designed to guide the learner to the most appropriate path rather than confusing it with alternative paths.


Branch scenarios are a great tool for eLearning designers to effectively teach decision making and situation management skills. A well-designed branching scenario is fun and challenging. It helps learners put their best foot forward and prepare for real-world challenges.


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