There's no question that Problem Based Learning sparks creativity within the L&D communities that produce it, and no ones saying that the output does not deliver an engaging, rewarding experience for learners. It's just that in the corporate world, where time constraints, budget restrictions and deadlines usually dominate the business agenda, Problem Based Learning often looks like an expensive luxury that's just too difficult to justify. Or is it?
Since launching earlier this year, Articulate's Storyline has been winning hearts and minds right across the online learning sector. For many, it's the first authoring tool that really allows course developers to create the powerful and engaging experiences that PBL demands. In just a few short months, we've seen course creators pick up the principles of Storyline's layers, triggers, states and variables quickly and really start leveraging them to deliver powerful interactions that go well beyond the capabilities of previous software packages.
When we ask users to pinpoint the key features that make creating Problem Based Learning scenarios practical in Storyline, three things keep coming up:
Powerful branching is critical to any Problem Based Learning approach, and Articulate Storyline excels in this department. Unlike classic slide creation tools that usually offer just one limited big picture overview, Storyline lets developers drill down and refine any particular branched scenario they're working on within a course. They can toggle from one branch to another and use story view to see how particular plot strands are developing alongside alternatives.
The ability to see how subplots can influence the big picture storyline means course creators are able to review the branches they are working on in context, and manage them effectively. They may even see scenarios they'd otherwise have missed because crossover opportunities between one scenario and another are much easier to spot.
Storyline lets developers configure variables so that data entered by the learner is stored and used to boost relevance later in the course. At its simplest, this may be something like the learner's name or the company they work for, but the same technique is easily extended in Storyline to present learners with a much more personal experience. Variables keep track of everything learners do, and determine how they navigate through the content.
The ability to create interactions that remember what learners select opens up a whole new platform for creative interactions. A learner could, for instance, identify him or herself as a manager for the Asia Pacific region early on in a course, then be presented later with a series of scenarios located in regions most relevant to them, or see local product imagery or pricing details throughout the course. Crucially, the way a learner chooses to address a problem early in a course, can present different consequences later, just like in real life.
The concept of triggers is simple, they are instructions to perform an action: it's managing them that usually causes difficulty. One trigger can be dependent on another or may need to deliver personal outcomes as learners approach the trigger via different branches.
Ultimately, in the past, creating custom triggers and variables probably meant reverting back to hardcoding for most course developers, but not anymore.
Storyline's interface means even complex triggers and variables can be created and managed within the platform. All triggers are listed in sequence and can be easily edited in Storyline's trigger panel. Course creators can use a single trigger to jump to the next slide, or series triggers and variables together to create highly immersive interactions.
Delivering Problem Based Learning is no longer the problem
Problem Based Learning means developing truly inspiring scenarios. It means creating high-definition storylines that learners believe in, and it means anticipating the diverse journeys of discovery that will ultimately prompt behavioral change. These are the bold challenges that the most ambitious designers in the learning industry want to meet today. It's these ambitions that every software development in our industry must support.
In the past, the big problem with Problem Based Learning was that it was more difficult for course creators to deliver than it was for learners to do. Latest advances in leading software packages like Storyline are now effectively addressing this imbalance.