Limited Time: Inflation-relief pricing on all video courses.

E-learning Scenario

Free Guide: How To Create Scenarios

Apr 08, 2023

Are you an instructional designer or an e-learning developer who feels like there's a writer of director trapped inside of you?

Well, scenario design might just be the window you need to let your inner Jane Austen or Steven Spielberg out.

And if you’re considering freelancing, this could be your niche. Imagine being the go-to person for creating memorable and engaging scenario-based e-learning.

Unfortunately, L&D pros hesitate to try scenario design because they think it's too time-consuming and difficult.

But fear not, with the right framework, you can turn a conversation with a subject matter expert into a masterpiece of real-world, challenging, and memorable decision-making activities.

And the best part?

This skill will transform your L&D career, opening up new opportunities for growth and advancement, and ultimately making you a more valuable asset.

Let's get started.

The Holy Grail of E-learning: Scenario Design

If you’re reading this, you might be thinking scenario design is the answer to your e-learning woes.

However, many L&D pros struggle to get started for a variety of reasons:

  • Abstract concepts bog us down, making it difficult to bring scenarios to life.
  • Working with subject matter experts can be like herding cats.
  • Software gimmicks distract us from the core learning goals.
  • Some of us may feel insecure, thinking that the collaborative process of scenario design isn't for introverted individuals.

But don't be discouraged.

With the right mindset and framework, you can conquer these challenges.

The journey may not be easy, but the rewards of mastering scenario design are worth it.

So let's dive in and discover the holy grail of e-learning:

Start with Believable People

To design scenarios that reflect real-world situations, it's essential to talk to practitioners who have achieved the outcome you want learners to model.

These authentic "heroes" can provide insight into the specific steps they followed and the key factors that contributed to their success.

Make sure to adopt a researcher's perspective, connecting the steps and understanding what (really) lies at the root of their success.

Choose a Core Mechanic

When designing scenarios, it's important to focus on the activity or "core mechanic" that will be the structure and guardrails for your scenario design.

This serves as your foundation, and you can then concentrate on collecting the raw materials to fill in this structure:

What are the situations?

What meaningful decisions are there?

What are the common mistakes and consequences?

From a project perspective, this is a pre-emptive measure, but it also makes life easier on your stakeholders and collaborators because they know how their content fits.

Hedge Your Bets

Hedge your bets and try to talk to at least 3-5 practitioners.

Sourcing only one practitioner puts you at a disadvantage, as they will become a bottleneck.

By interviewing multiple practitioners, you can spot trends and emotional patterns.

Focus on Motivational Factors

When you talk to practitioners find out what motivated them to achieve the desired outcome.

By tapping into the psychological state of learners, you can get them to want to finish the e-learning and want to do it again.

Understanding motivational factors was one of the primary reasons for our success, particularly with our viral Articulate Storyline project, 'Broken Co-worker.'

Note: If you want peak under the hood, and discover how we created 'Broken Co-worker' and made it so engaging, I highly recommend our course, The “Interactive Storytelling Blueprint” Masterclass.

Right now, in 2023, interactive storytelling is the easiest way to stand out and level up your L&D career. Join 500+ ambitious students and who can't sing its praises enough.

Capture the Inner Journey

Give learners the emotional experience of courage and transformation to help them overcome their resistance to change.

Capture both 'what people need to do' and their inner conflict with doing it. (This is what great movies do.)

You can help people overcome mental resistance to take action by designing scenarios using story structure.

Mine the Transcript for Gold

Interviews are simply a fast way to get the raw materials for your scenarios.

You're not supposed to feel like you got it all in the moment, but when you process the transcript, you can see the "gold" you need.

See, it’s when you sit down and analyze the transcript that all the pieces come together.

You'll draw on Story Structure and your Core Mechanic to create a compelling outline and prototype. If you need more information on each framework, here's my free guide.

Through this iterative process, you can refine your scenario until it's engaging, realistic, and effective.


In a crowded e-learning landscape, having a framework for designing engaging and effective scenarios is essential.

Follow these principles to create e-learning scenarios that are more engaging, realistic, and effective:

  1. Start with Believable People - Talk to authentic "heroes" to gain insight into the specific steps and key factors that contributed to their success.
  2. Choose a Core Mechanic - Focus on the activity or "core mechanic" that will serve as the structure and guardrails for your scenario design.
  3. Hedge Your Bets - Talk to multiple practitioners to spot trends and emotional patterns.
  4. Focus on Motivational Factors - Tap into learners' psychological state to get them to want to finish the e-learning and want to do it again.
  5. Capture the Inner Journey - Give learners the emotional experience of courage and transformation to help them overcome their resistance to change.
  6. Mine the Transcript for Gold - Use the story structure method and core mechanic method to make your outline and iterate on your prototype.

And, as a scenario design specialist, you can carve out a lucrative niche in the fast-growing e-learning industry.

That's all for my guide on how to create scenarios.

I'll be updating this throughout 2023.

Thanks for reading.

Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways we can help you:

1. If you're still looking to build in-demand skills, I'd recommend starting with an affordable resource:

The Skillagents ID System: Transform your instructional design skills by learning the "mindsets & patterns" top educators use to shift content into modern learning solutions. Join here.

The Interactive Storytelling Blueprint: Elevate your e-learning design game with 14 simple, proven frameworks to engage learners through interactive storytelling (and bonuses). Join here.

The Learner Engagement Summit: 30 learner engagement experts share 100+ actionable strategies that you can use to adapt to the new normal and engage even the most reluctant learners. Join here.

2. 10X your career over the next 12 months by joining the Inner Circle Community (Limited 6 spots/month)


Leverage trends, boost engagement, and level up your L&D career.

Join 8,000+ subscribers who get 1 actionable tip every Saturday morning.

We will never sell your information, for any reason.