The WAVES project from Bayer and St George’s, University of London

One task of a busy L & D professional who is responsible for new joiners in a large business is to provide them with relevant training that enables them to carry out their jobs effectively as soon as possible. She is always keen to explore new ways of delivering training; however, her organisation is a long-established company with set ways of doing things. These approaches have worked in the past, so why change them now?


One day, she attends a workshop on scenario-based learning (SBL) and discovers that it is a method in which learners are presented with a real-life situation in a safe environment and given a set of choices. The learners’ decisions lead the story down one pathway after another, and as they progress, they learn about the consequences of their decisions and how to handle the same situation in real life.


She finds out that this is how many of the graduates that she would seek to attract to her company have been taught; incidentally, many of them are also gamers (another form of scenario-based learning). It makes sense that she should be looking to use the same methods to train her new joiners, if she wants to make sure they learn effectively. She also knows that people learn better from doing than from just reading theory online.


Businesses and academia can learn from each other in their use of scenario-based learning, and it is from this idea that the WAVES (Widening Access to Virtual Educational Scenarios) project was born.


This is a three-year project (co-funded by the European Union ERASMUS+ programme) that joins universities, hospitals, and businesses in the task of delivering a set of tools for people like our L&D professional above. The results will empower her with the skills to design her own scenario-based learning; software to develop the learning; and guidance on how it could be integrated with her existing learning management systems.


The project is half way through, and so far, we have identified what trainers, educators, IT specialists, and learners across different sectors like and dislike about scenario-based learning as it is currently delivered. We have discovered that learners want realistic scenarios relevant to their work. Interestingly, what they don’t want is highly immersive 3D-type scenarios. They are more interested in good, well told stories that engage them. This can be done simply with pictures and text.

We have also found out that trainers and educators want to be able to create scenario-based learning quickly and easily and desire a simple way to be able to update it when changes are made to working practices. Finally, we have discovered that trainers, educators, and IT specialists want guidance on how their scenario-based learning could be integrated with their online courses and learning management systems.


We are currently working on a technical toolkit to provide guidance on how SBL development software can be embedded in online courses and learning management systems, and we are creating our own online course (a MOOC) on how to design and develop scenario-based learning scenarios. It will cover topics like using storytelling and designing the structure of a scenario, including creating a situation, trigger points, and branching. The toolkit and MOOC are being developed by leaders in the technological and pedagogical aspects of scenario-based learning.


Over the past few years, the multinational company Bayer has been making increasing use of SBL in their e-learning modules and has used it in two particular ways. Firstly, to help learners know how to respond to incidents in their work, e.g. when something happens to a patient enrolled on a clinical trial or if they are presented with a situation that might result in a conflict of interest. Secondly, SBL has been used to develop empathy in order to bring alive how a potential new treatment might work. In this case, we presented learners with a “patient” undergoing treatment. As they were taken through the story, they were shown the treatment’s possible impact on the patient’s quality of life. It was seen as a much more engaging way of presenting the information. These examples have been presented in a variety of formats, from text-based stories on screen through to audiovisual material.


St George’s University of London has been implementing SBL in their medical curriculum for over 10 years and were one of the first universities to implement interactive virtual scenarios. With their successful implementation, the same approach was used to deliver more interactive lectures in medical ethics and law. The teachers reported that learners were more engaged and interested when the virtual scenarios enabled them to debate different viewpoints.


In addition, medical students have been provided with extra virtual scenarios to complete at the end of a learning week to apply their theory to different patient scenarios. These cases have options and consequences, as well as multiple-choice questions for weekly self-assessment. This concept has been further disseminated to other medical institutions globally, and they are using these virtual scenarios to avoid error in working life.


Together, we, Bayer and St Georges University of London, are collaborating to host a session on SBL at OEB in December. Participants will walk away with insight into what SBL can do; gain practical experience in generating scenarios (to develop learning modules and MOOCs); and become part of a wider discussion on how to implement SBL and increased interactivity for workplace learners. Workshop attendees will be offered a modern approach to online learning that is better suited to how people currently learn – through interactivity. The session, hosted by leaders in SBL methodology from both academia and business, is one not to miss!


Co-Written by Stephen Taylor, Lindsay Germain and Chara Balasubramaniam from Bayer + Sheetal Kavia and Terry Poulton from St George’s, University of London



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