Branching Scenario

This is a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) scenario inspired by National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) case studies. It challenges the learner to make difficult decisions on a team under pressure.


Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is required for outdoor educators, guides and search and rescue (SAR) professionals.

Training is expensive, often requires travel and extended time away from work. Re-certification is required every 2-3 years and opportunities for realistic practice are few and far between. This leaves a large practice gap.

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has attempted to fill this gap with text based case studies that challenge the reader to pause and think about their decisions before reading the solution. This has limited engagement potential because it doesn’t provide practice making decisions in the context of unpredictable branching scenarios with realistic consequences.


Scenarios are central to adventure education. E-Learning is a great opportunity to challenge decision making capabilities in a cost effective, convenient, safe environment.

Design Process

The design of this scenario was inspired by Cathy Moore’s action mapping technique, her e-learning project Connect with Haji Kamal, and by Michael Allen’s approach to designing meaningful, memorable, motivational learning experiences through context, challenge, activity and feedback (CCAF).

  1. Identify the most direct path to success. What actions will a learner have to take? What are the right decisions they’ll have to make?
  2. Given the scenario, at each decision point, identify the most common tempting distractions.
  3. Provide corrective feedback from each tempting distraction and get the learner back on track.
  4. Map out a prototype in Twine and test it with learners.
  5. Refine and develop based on feedback and observations.
  6. Gather data at decision points to help understand the most common pitfalls.
  7. Provide more practice where needed.

While testing this scenario, learners consistently made the wrong choice and released stabilization of the patient’s spine. Although this is positive, because it means the scenario provides realistic distractions, it was discouraging for some and the consequences were too severe. The prototype was adjusted to provide supportive, corrective feedback through dialog within the scenario—

Jennifer pulls you aside while Robert maintains stabilization of the patient’s spine. She warns that even though the patient doesn’t show signs or symptoms of a spinal injury, he took a pretty big fall.  

“We should protect his spine until professional rescuers can examine him and make sure he’s safe. Let’s think this through again.” Jennifer says.

First Iteration Prototype in Twine


  • Articulate Rise (final production)
  • Adobe CC (image editing)
  • Twine (prototyping)