Branching Stories: Choose Your Own Learning

Perhaps you remember the series of books for kids titled “Choose Your Own Adventure” (if not, and if you have kids, check out these cool adventure stories on Amazon). Branching stories are the adult versions: structured, self-paced, scenario-based learning experiences.

Branching stories are founded on the concept that human beings (of any age) learn better when information is embedded in real-life experiences and the learner gets to choose what to do along the way. The learner also gets to learn from his/her mistakes which, when you think about it, is how all of us have learned the important things in our lives: by making mistakes and learning from them.

In the real-life learning scenarios, the learner must make important decisions and must learn the information necessary in order to be successful in making those decisions.

Branching stories are especially exciting for self-study, asynchronous online courses where a learner moves through the content at his/her own pace.

Here are three excellent resources for branching stories, listed in my order of preference:

guide-sidebar1. Cathy Moore’s Blog. An exceptional author and online trainer, Cathy Moore is by far the best resource for “branching scenarios,” as she calls them. Plus her blog is chock-full of an awesome collection of free training tips. For a taste of what she offers,  watch her humorous short video:Saving the World from Boring Training and sign up for her excellent free ebook.

2. Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. If you want to see how branching stories are used in a book-format, then I encourage you to explore Part Two, “Choose Your Own Learning,” of my book. You are actively engaged in answering questions, solving training issues, and choosing how to train in specific, real-life situations, even as you’re discovering the six brain science principles that the book is based on. Here is a free article about these principles: Six Trumps: The Brain Science that Makes Training Stick.

3. Learning By Doing. In his book, tech-author Clark Aldrich devotes a chapter to computer-based models that are similar to branching stories and programmed learning. More complex and IT-based, the book nevertheless gives a number of high-tech examples of the branching story format.

One last reminder: With branching stories, you learn as much or more from the mistakes you make as you do from the choices you get “right,” and you get immediate feedback every step of the way – kind of like how the real world works, huh?!

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