Scenario-Based Learning

Scenario-Based Learning

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A pedagogical approach where learning is based in an authentic scenario, reflecting real-life situations and enshrining all the complex elements needed to approach a certain issue where specific skills and knowledge will be covered. Through authentic scenarios participants learn by doing while dealing with the situation at hand, which is in accordance with the idea that knowledge is not independent of the context the learner is involved in. The best learning condition occurs when scenarios are close to the real-life, as they are likely to be enough complex to make participants develop all the skills and knowledge they need to acquire. The more realistic the scenario is, the more involved learners feel and the more they learn. From the tutor’s point of view, learning scenarios provide a context that can be used to easily explain difficult and abstract concepts.

See also: Critical Incident-Based Learning, Design-Based Learning, Problem-Based Learning (PBL), Scenario-based Assessment.

Characteristics and advantages of SBL:

  • It usually sounds like a story or a narrative of common occurrence (a case or problem that is commonly encountered in the workplace) with a specific plot, context and characters;
  • It can have a game-like appearance;
  • It is presented from the learner’s perspective;
  • It involves a “precipitating event” which places the learner(s) in a role;
  • It focuses on performance improvement rather than correct answers;
  • It filters out theoretical information;
  • It makes learner reflects engaging him in realistic situations;
  • It has high instructional interactivity if learners are required to collaborate with their peers.

Scenario-Based Learning can be useful to:

  • Let learners become aware of gaps in learning;
  • Help learners to surmount difficulties in learning;
  • Help learners to change their behaviour in specific situations;
  • Assist teachers and tutors in describing difficult concepts.[1]

Toolkit.png Building a Scenario- Based Learning activity
How to build a SBL activity:
  • Determine if Scenario Based Learning is the best choice for your audience and type of subject

SBL generally works with tasks which involve judgement, decision making and problem solving skills and with learners who already have a relevant professional background.

  • Determine the best scenario for the skills you want to develop

The main goal of SBL is building and improving expertise in a selected field. You can invite experts to list challenging situations they already experienced in job domain and their decisions and actions.

  • Build your own learning environment/scenario

Identify a typical trigger event and give learners all necessary details (documents, data, and interviews). Moreover, you should design instructions and learning resources.

  • Define your media
Define if you want to present your SBL task on a face-to-face or e-learning environment. In the former case, consider synchronous forms of collaborations such as discussion groups and decision making while in the latter case, asynchronous forms such as blogs, forums, or wikis would better suit your needs.[2]

Job Aid

Pdf.png How to build a Scenario-based Learning activty

Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below additional information and resources.
Link Content
Scenario-based Learning: an overview (slide show,20 pages) An informative slide show containing practical examples and tips on how to design SBL.
Ingredients of Effective and Engaging On-Line Learning (slide show,37 pages) A slideshow on how actively engage students in learning where you can also find examples of SBL (p. 8, 9, 13, 14, 15).
Use Scenarios to Keep e-Learning Real (article) An article showing how simple scenarios are cost-effective ways to enhance e-Learning transfer.
Workshop: Create a Scenario (on-line workshop) Practical tips to build SBL tasks.
SBL Suggested Readings A list of suggested readings on the pedagogy behind scenario-based tasks.


  1. (25 July 2008), (20 May 2009), [S.Naidu, E-Learning, A Guidebook of Principles, Procedures and Practices, Commonwealth of Learning, pp. 18-19]
  2. (25 August 2011), (25 August 2011),