Applying World War II Scenario-based strategy in eLearning?

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Our belief: At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synthesis. During WWII, the US Army used the elements of illusion, imagination and impersonation as strategies to mislead the Nazi Germany. The US Army created ‘a believable scenario’ to telegraph a message to the enemy who was closely monitoring Allied movement. In this blog, we will read how WWII scenario-based strategy is being applied in eLearning.

During World War II, the US military created a ‘ghost army’ in order to mislead Nazi Germany. It was composed of inflatable airplanes, tanks, trucks, jeeps, canons and other military paraphernalia. Thousands of these inflatable military hardware were designated in specific regions to give the impression of US military presence and power. Viewed from above or from a distance, the US ghost army looked so real and threatening that it affected the strategy of Nazi Germany.

The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II, imitating earlier British operations, officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army: to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a “traveling road show”. utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions and pretense. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their mission was kept secret until 1996, and elements of it remain classified.(Wikipedia).

Interestingly, the US ghost army were not composed of soldiers. It was an army of artists, actors, visual artists, engineers, architects, set designers and advertising professionals. These army of artists helped create a scenario that altered the course of World War II. Military experts opined that the presence of the ghost army was able to save thousands of lives, probably because it restrained Nazi Germany from advancing, altering more radical military offensive.

I was particularly thrilled to recognize the concept of scenario-building and interactive design – elements currently applied in eLearning – used as a World War II strategy. In today’s eLearning culture, we designers rely on scenario building, aimed to draw learners into an interactive zone. By creating virtual reality within a virtual classroom, we engage the learners through collaboration, interactivity, feedback and gamification.

As an elearning instructional designer, I picked up several lessons from this. The ghost army created a scenario of strength and power. US military commanders used illusion, imagination and personification to send a message across enemy lines. To a certain extent, the US ghost army utilized data visualization by using inflatable military hardware to project statistics and information.

The scenario-based eLearning design of Vignettes Learning leverages the basic elements of the US ghost army. Here are several points:

• Create plausible scenarios with believable human elements.
• Make sure that your ‘inflatable’ scenes mirror real-life experiences.
• Personify your characters. Put yourself in their shoes and make them authentic.
• Do not hint about the climax and resolution of your story-based design

Incidentally, the 69th Anniversary of D-Day, the successful landing of Allied forces in Normandy, France is celebrated every June 6, the date of publication of this blog.

Related Blogs
Put the elements of viral videos in eLearning story design

Data Visualization for Meaningful Story Comprehension

The Ghost Army: The Amazinf Story of America’s Secret Art Ops in WWII by Susan Karlin

Ghost Army, Wikipedia

The Ghost Army, 2013 (Trailer)

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