What are the 3 C’s of Scenario Based Learning?

Leena Randhawa


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Scenario based learning is one of the many buzzwords we hear frequently in the learning and development industry. While some of these buzzwords wind up being passing trends, scenario based learning is more of a framework than a trend. In this article we will look at it’s fundamentals, focusing on  the 3 C’s; what they are and how you should use them. We will also cover how you can make sure your scenario based learning is as immersive as possible, which is important for engagement and therefore retention too.

Let’s get into it!



What is scenario based learning?


Scenario based learning (SBL) is a powerful learning framework with the purpose of engaging learners in interactive problem-solving and decision-making activities. When learners engage in activities that challenge them and require them to use their learning to problem-solve, something magical happens: they retain the information better and even feel confident in applying that knowledge. Why? Because, when a learner has to apply their knowledge to solve a problem, they stop being passive learners and become active learners; this transition happens when learners engage with scenarios that make them think instead of just trying to absorb information.


When you present learners with scenarios that require them to make decisions, weigh options, and consider consequences, they are encouraged to apply their new knowledge, which often results in improved understanding, critical thinking skills, and increased confidence in perceived self-competence.


Scenario based learning is built upon three key components: challenge, choice, and consequence. These three elements are the ingredients you need to consider including in your content that will help create meaningful experiences. They can be adapted for any subject or level of learner complexity. By using storytelling techniques along with interactive technologies such as virtual reality or simulations, educators can create compelling stories that pull learners into the curriculum while also providing opportunities for real-world practice.



What are the 3 C’s of scenario based learning?


The three C’s of scenario based learning—challenge, choice, and consequence—are the core elements that allow learners to engage meaningfully with content.


Challenge presents a dilemma or situation that requires the learner to take action. This can be anything from selecting an option among multiple choices or navigating a complex problem in order to reach a solution.


Choice allows learners to select between various options while considering their implications, allowing them to gain insight into how different decisions may lead to different outcomes.


Consequence is what happens as a result of the learner’s decision-making process; it provides feedback on whether they made the right choice or not, enabling them to identify mistakes and learn from them for future reference.


By using these three components seamlessly together, educators can create engaging scenarios that provide real-world practice and improve learning outcomes. Let’s take a look at each of the 3 C’s in more detail.




Creating meaningful scenarios is integral to the success of scenario based learning. The challenge portion of your learning is the initialisation of a problem; the “how do you solve this” part of any course that lets the learner know it is time to switch on what they have just learned. But what makes a challenge meaningful?


Educators should design challenges that are appropriate for the intended audience, as well as ensure that they have an achievable outcome. This goes hand in hand with other learning models such as adaptive and personalised learning. When you ensure the challenge is fitting for the learner, you have a much better chance of them using their new knowledge effectively. On the flip side; if the challenge is not appropriate for the learner, you run the risk of discouraging them, and damaging their confidence. Creating engaging and unique challenges in your learning materials is a nuanced process, but it does not have to be difficult.


In order to create thought provoking challenges for learners, educators must identify key decisions and possible consequences within a given situation. This helps them create multiple potential paths forward which allows learners to make informed decisions in a simulated environment.




Choice is an integral part of successful scenario-based learning; the choice stage lengthens the learning process, allowing more time for learners to experiment, make mistakes they can learn from, and absorb their learning.


The inclusion of plausible choices allows learners to evaluate various options and weigh their implications to make informed decisions. Providing a safe environment for experimentation is key; this means creating scenarios where mistakes can be made without demotivating repercussions so that learners are encouraged to explore multiple possibilities and learn from any missteps they might make along the way. An atmosphere where learning from mistakes is encouraged helps to build confidence in decision making abilities while also ensuring that learning remains engaging and meaningful for all involved.




The consequence stage is important because the learner solidifies their knowledge through their experience; it is the learning point as the result of the Challenge and Choice stages.


Consequences provide learners with the opportunity to practice decision-making and reflect on their solutions. It is important to ensure that the consequences are believable, just like the choices, so that the learner can experiment and trial out choices and see their consequences. This helps them develop a more nuanced understanding of the consequences associated with each decision they make and encourages critical thinking skills that are applicable in everyday life. Additionally, by allowing students to experiment without fear of judgement or repercussions, educators create an atmosphere where mistakes can be made without significant effects so that learners feel empowered to try new things.


For those already following an adaptive learning approach, putting consequence elements into your scenario based learning also enables educators to assess a learners progress in making decisions over time. You can use this information to adjust curriculum or provide additional support where needed to help learners reach their full potential.


How do I make scenario based learning immersive?


Ok, I know what you’re thinking: does my scenario based learning have to be immersive? Well, technically, no, but research shows that learners are able to retain up to 75% more through immersive experiences. But, how do you create experiences that are immersive? Don’t worry, often the jargon can make it sound more complicated than it really is.


In order to make scenario based learning more immersive, educators can incorporate interactive elements into their curriculum. You can do this by:

  • Using tech such as VR
  • Providing simulations of real-world situations that a learner can interact with
  • Incorporate storytelling techniques
  • Use narrative devices, such as characters and plot points to pull the learner into the scenario


There are lots of ways to make your learning content more immersive, from complicated methods that involve more resource, to simply creating a story that they can follow; you can fit immersive techniques to any budget or scale.


By combining these elements together, educators can create meaningful experiences that allow learners to engage deeply with content through interactive problem solving and critical thinking activities.