What is Scenario-Based Learning?

Scenario-Based Learning (SBL) is a popular instructional strategy used in online training. Using real-life situations provides relatable and relevant learning experiences. Keep reading to learn more.

Scenario-Based Learning (SBL) is a popular instructional strategy used in online training. It uses real-life situations to provide relatable and relevant learning experiences to learners. 

Digital Learning can often feel very ‘distanced’ from its real-life applications. Scenario based learning is proven to be effective in closing that gap. Immersing learning in real-life situations has significant benefits in comprehension, retention and application of learning outcomes. 

Benefits of Scenario-Based Learning

Immersing learners into real-life situations comes with many benefits.

  • Scenario-Based Learning applies to most training needs. 
  • This strategy can be used to enhance the learning impact of both formal and informal training. 
  • It can also enrich and support in-person or virtual instructor led training (ILT/VILT). 
  • It creates learning experiences where the learning sticks.
  • It provides a guided exploration of the learners.
  • It provides a safe practice zone to gain expertise and proficiency.
  • It allows the learners to make mistakes and, through feedback, reinforce the right approach.
  • It enables the reinforcement of the primary messaging.

Scenario Based learning can be used in many different ways. L&D teams use scenario-based learning to:

  • Validate learning
  • Facilitate the application of learning
  • Influence behavioral change
  • Aid decision making
  • Increase critical thinking skills

From the learners’ perspective it provides:

  • Real-life situations that are relatable and relevant to different roles
  • A problem-solving environment
  • A decision-making tool that provides an understanding of the impact/consequences of their decisions and choices
  • A safe mode to practice
  • An approach to hone their skills and achieve higher proficiency level

When Is Scenario-Based Learning Not Effective?

Scenario-based learning works in many different industries and for many various topics. But it is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. There may be situations where it’s not an ideal fit.

For example, your client is rolling out a new software program. A quick reference or procedure manual would be a better fit for procedure-specific training than scenario-based learning. 

What Makes Scenario-Based Learning a Preferred Instructional Strategy?

Let’s look at a typical L&D team’s wishlist of a “successful learning strategy”:

Essentially, a “successful learning strategy” should help them create learning experiences that are:

  • Motivating
  • Engaging and immersive
  • Relevant and relatable (preferably personalized)
  • Challenging
  • Rewarding

These learning experiences should:

  • Create sticky learning
  • Facilitate the application of learning
  • Provide room for practice and proficiency gain
  • Provide reinforcement to ensure the forgetting curve does not step in
  • Influence or trigger behavioral change

It is clear how these correlate closely with scenario-based approaches in online learning. 


The key to successful scenario-based learning is to ensure that the content of the scenarios is relevant and relatable. A solid instructional design team can create effective scenarios that will extend and enhance learning outcomes, while adding to the engagement factor of an eLearning experience. 

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