Creating a great simulation requires a well-defined learning path that aligns the learning objectives with the instructional content. As we often hear, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Often, charting this learning path is best achieved by working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME). Yet, whether you are working with a SME, or on your own, identifying just the right content is not always easy.

For example, you may find that there is a lot of great information all of which seems relevant; however, your simulation can only be 20 minutes long. Or perhaps you are working with multiple SME’s who disagree. I remember being at a design session during which two SMEs became embroiled in a heated debate about the content of the simulation. Without agreement, we couldn't move forward!

Here’s an idea to avoid these pitfalls: harness the art of storytelling! Begin by assigning one person as Chief Storyteller. This SME can get feedback from other SMEs, but will have ultimate decision-making authority. This will help avoid the differing viewpoints that can slow down the design process.

Then, ask your SME to tell you a fairy tale. Or to put in another way, ask her to walk you through the ideal process. Say, "What is the first thing you would do if you made the best decision? What is the best outcome of that decision? What happens next?" This will give you the optimal path. As she describes the steps and outcomes, create a flow chart. You can do this right in DecisionSim, and even write the SME’s comments right onto each screen. This becomes your storyboard.

Next, ask your SME to tell you a horror story. That is, ask her what would happen if learners didn’t master the primary learning objectives. Say, "Describe the typical mistakes that your learners might make. What would happen if they made those choices?" This will give you alternate paths and perhaps even an alternate ending with a suboptimal or poor consequence.

To ensure you identify just the right information, direct your storyteller to keep the story short and to stick to the theme. The theme is what you want learners to be able to do after completing the simulation—or to put it more technically, the theme is the sum of your primary learning objectives. A good rule of thumb is: if the content doesn’t relate to your learning objectives then it is either not needed, or you need to adjust your learning objectives. Any additional content could become the foundation for a new simulation. That would then give you a series of simulations that build upon each other.

By documenting your SME’s fairy tale and horror story, you’ll leave your design session with your simulation storyboard. Depending upon your preferences, you can create that storyboard right in DecisionSim, or in your favorite storyboard tool. We also have a storyboard template in the Help Center that you can use. After your meeting, you can refine your storyboard by developing the content, adding media descriptions, and creating assessments. This becomes your first version of the simulation. At your next meeting, you can review the simulation with your SME (or Chief Storyteller) for feedback.

To learn more, go to: The Nuts and Bolts of Working with SME's