Scenario-Based Learning for Soft Skills Training in VR

What is scenario-based learning?

A popular and creative way to deliver soft skills training is through scenario-based learning – specifically what is known as branching scenarios.  Branching scenarios are likened to the “choose your own adventure” books, popular in years past.  As the participant makes decisions based on their knowledge of the subject, the scenario branches off to a new direction – making every interaction fun and engaging.  This simulation format allows for an in-depth knowledge check for the learner and an opportunity to learn more about the specific skill they are practicing.  

How can VR help with soft skills training?

This method is especially helpful with soft skills training.  Subjects like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, complex problem solving, and more can be practiced in a real-life way through branching scenarios.  Creating scenarios that require the proper application of these skills allows participants to practice them safely and gain insight into real consequences of their action or inaction. Draft a master plan for your branching scenario.  Take the time to think through each twist and turn.   Make the experience as lifelike as possible, considering the logic and emotion in each decision that needs to be made.  

Building a better training scenario in VR:

Effective branching scenarios start with understanding the learner, their needs and expectations to create realistic scenarios.  The closer to life you can get in the scenario and its possible outcomes the more motivated the learner will be to continue in the scenario.  Put the learner in full control of the outcomes.  Their decisions should drive the next step in the scenario.  As they move through the scenario, increase the level of challenge to keep them interested and motivated.  

Throughout the branching scenario, be sure to recognize the learner’s successful performance of the key behaviors and skills you are working to reinforce.  Utilize badging and leaderboards to connect with the learner’s competitive side.  Take advantage of the opportunity to highlight and reinforce concepts to fill the knowledge gaps when they fail a challenge, or their choice is not the best.  Adding in those resources affirm there is more for them to learn on that topic. As you wrap up the scenario, be sure to add in resources and links to additional learning opportunities.

Branching scenarios are very common in elearning modules and achieve moderate effectiveness through that modality.  Using branching scenarios in immersive learning such as Virtual Reality (VR), provides a more in-depth, more engaging and memorable experience for the learner.  As they move through the scenarios in VR, they are completely immersed in that experience.  This allows the scenario to not only test the logic of their decisions, but it also triggers the emotions that go along with it.  

For example, in a VR scenario about obstetric care in a hospital setting, the learner is placed in a labor and delivery room with a patient who is in labor.  Acting as the nurse, the learner must make decisions based on the circumstances presented with the patient.  When the patient complains of pain, the learner needs to do what they can to assess the pain level and make treatment recommendations.  In VR, this can be achieved in a truly dynamic way.  Not only does the learner see the situation, but they also hear the sounds that would be present if they were really in that scenario.  This type of stimulation triggers the emotions that come with hearing and seeing someone in distress.  

How can AI augment scenario-based learning?

Adding in AI can take this dynamic VR experience to the next level.  Instead of having multiple choice answers to the scenario, AI allows the learner to respond in the best way they know how without the confines of specific answers, because in real life, we don’t have multiple choice answers in decision-making situations.  The AI then understands what the learner has said and routes the scenario accordingly to the next branch.  The learner receives instant feedback from the simulation regarding the decision they made and how it was delivered.  This gives the learner that moment of need response to note and correct the behavior if needed.  

What about augmented reality (AR)?

If VR is not available, AR integrated into e-learning offers a similar return.  While the learner is not completely immersed in AR, they have an opportunity to experience the scenario in a more dynamic way.  Adding AR trigger points throughout your e-learning module gives the learner a chance to see and hear the see the simulation in a digital overlay of their existing environment.  This triggers the logic and emotion in a similar but less impactful way than VR.  AR integrated into an e-learning is a nice midpoint for offering dynamic immersive experiences for soft skills training.

VR with branching scenarios is truly a remarkable and effective tool for teaching soft skills.  The technology effectively alerts our senses in the same way a real-life scenario would, making the learning more impactful, long-lasting and real and offers us a chance to keep learning as we practice in a virtual world.

Betty Dannewitz

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