Create a Branching Scenario in Microsoft PowerPoint
by Thomas Reyes-Cairo
A branching scenario is a great way to help a learner apply knowledge by providing a simulated situation from real life. They're also fairly easy to create! Follow these four steps to quickly bring your PowerPoint projects that extra bit of interaction.
Storyboard it Out
In the case of a branching scenario, it is important to map out which slides you want to go where and to do what. Storyboarding is an important part of any design, but is critical when working with branching scenarios (and especially if your scenarios are complicated ones).
There are lots of different ways you can design a situation to unfold. The simplest way would be to make it so that each individualized situation has a set of answers that have no affect on a future outcome or conversation. Think of it like this. The learner can give a client a good or a bad suggestion on investment opportunities. If the learner gives a bad suggestion now, feedback is provided but it doesn't change the client's attitude going forward. This is relatively easy to map out: Slide 1 goes to Slide 2 for positive feedback and to Slide 3 for negative feedback. Both then go to Slide 4 for the next scenario.
If you're going to create something akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series of yesteryear (hopefully, with a lot less untimely demises), you should get your charting skills ready. Like the number of branches on a tree, any time you want to reflect a recurring change throughout a decision-making process, you can expect it to grow at an exponential rate every time there is a new decision to make. This isn't to say that you shouldn't do it; there's a lot of value in remembering consequences to a decision. Just be ready to make sure you have mapped it all out.
Find your Visual Style
For an interaction as simple as this, you're not going to need more than a text box and the buttons that will mark each decision point. Some people naturally have an eye for design and can easily make something that fits the parameters for an activity like this. This could be you or it could be the friendly graphic designer the next cubicle over. Personally, I try hard but am often found wanting in the graphic design department. So, instead of trying to make something out of nothing, I'm going to snag a few templates out of the eLearning Brothers PowerPoint Graphics Library to demonstrate the next point.
Either way you go (designing something from scratch or finding a good-looking template), visuals are important and shouldn't be left by the wayside. You want to make sure that you're stimulating your learners' brains in positive ways, encouraging a focus on your content and principles.
Working with PowerPoint
Now for the fun part: linking everything together! As you can see in the image, I've built out all of my slides according the needs of my plan. In this case, I'm going with the easy route of just having each question self-contained with its outcomes. I'll start with Slide 1 (pictured above). In this case, I want Answer 1 to go to Slide 2 for positive feedback and Answer 2 to go to Slide 3 for negative feedback. Both of those will then advance on to Slide 4 for Question 2. I'm going to accomplish this by using Action Settings.
Find the object that you want to click to go to the appropriate slide. In this case, I'm going to use the brown Answer buttons above the text on each side. Right click on the button (make sure you're not in the text editing box but have the actual object selected) and choose Action Settings.
Check the Hyperlink to: box and select Slide from the drop-down menu. Select the appropriate slide (ie., Slide 2 for Answer 1) and click OK.
Repeat this for each button you have on the page, assigning it to go to the appropriate slide. Also, if you haven't done so, ensure that on your feedback slides you have included a Continue button.
Give this button (but not any others) a hyperlink to your next question. Continue this process for all remaining questions. Pretty simple, right?
There's one last thing you'll want to do, though. Head to the Slide Show tab on the ribbon and select Set Up Slide Show.
Under Show type ensure that you check the Browsed at a kiosk option. This will disable other types of navigation, including simply clicking to the next slide and the navigation bar that usually accompanies a presentation.
Depending upon the remainder of your slide content, it may be important to include a Continue button on each slide. Don't worry! If you copy/paste an object from another slide, the hyperlinks will also paste with it. Simply just make one button that hyperlinks to the Next Slide (and maybe one for a Previous Slide, if desired) and that should do it for any regular content slides you might have.
Test it Out
This often goes without saying, but for that very reason I mention it here. Sometimes when something goes unsaid, it also goes undone! Anytime you're dealing with something you've built, you should take some time to make sure that it fully works the way you would expect it to. Don't just check a few of the branches and make sure they're sturdy before hopping on one. Ensure that each path you've created yields the expected outcome. This will save you any headaches come presentation or learning time. The last thing you want is for someone to get positive feedback for something that was actually done poorly or improperly!
At the end of the day, there's no doubt that branching scenarios give you more possibilities with your content than your standard linear presentation. Take some time to experiment with hyperlinking in your PowerPoint projects and see a whole world of possibilities open up to you!