Branching Activities – Planning and Building

Last month, I touched on the concept of branching activities, specifically focusing on the why and the when. Now that you’ve got a solid foundation and understanding of their practicality, it’s time to look at how we may plan and build out a branching activity.

Planning

Planning is the most crucial part of the branching activity process. In some cases, you’ll have a good idea of starting points for your activity but may not be sure where it will go from there. This could just be having a topic and understanding of what you want to accomplish with the activity without much content. To plan through a situation like this, we recommend identifying decision categories that students may need to work within and building out content from there:

In other cases, you may have an idea of where you want students to end up but aren’t sure how they will get there. You’ll have to plan backwards in this situation:

Either way, it’s important to think about every possible landing point that students may reach and map out every possible way they may get there.

While thinking about these things, there are multiple processes you may use to plan content for your activity. You may use pencil/paper or Dry-Erase, drawing boxes to represent each page. You may use notecards or Post-it notes in the same way with the added flexibility of being able to move things around. You may also use mind-mapping if you would like to plan digitally.

Building in Carmen

Once you’ve planned, the hardest part is over! It’s now as easy as building out your planned pages and connecting them. We’ll start by walking through this process in Carmen:

  1. Within Carmen, we recommend you start by creating a module specifically for your activity. You can move the activity into another module with the rest of your content later, but it’s easier to keep everything for this one activity contained during the building process.
  2. Within this module, create each page that you planned out. Think about it as a page for each notecard/Post-it note or each box if you used the pencil/paper or Dry-Erase method.
  3. When creating pages, naming convention is extremely important. Using “BA” (for branching activity) or some other recognizable naming structure at the beginning of each page puts every page for one activity next to each other in Carmen’s “Pages” list, which makes bulk publishing/unpublishing and/or editing much easier to follow.
  4. After all pages have been created, you’ll need to connect them together. Go to any one of your pages and list any other pages that can be reached from that page. Then, highlight text that want to turn into a hyperlink and use the “Links” tab to the right of the rich content editor to link to additional pages.
  5. Once everything is finished, you’ll need to decide whether your students should only see the beginning page of the branching activity or all pages within the activity, which you can toggle by adding or not adding pages to a module. Either way, every page in your activity needs to be published for students to see them, and all modules that hold any pages within the activity need to be published.

I’m guessing that this may have been hard to follow without any visuals, so we’ve created this step-by-step video to walk you through the process:

Building for Other Systems

There are other tools that will may be able to produce something a bit more robust than what Carmen can provide or produce something more specific to your needs. One alternative option is Twine. Twine is an HTML-based, mind-mapping software that is easy to use and produces basic scenario/decision-based activities.

Larger software programs like Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate are specifically made to create rich interactive projects with multimedia elements, but these tools are pricey and require a steep learning curve. Also, Twine, Storyline and Captivate are not OSU-supported.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of branching activities and how you may plan and build one for your course(s). Over the coming months, be sure to revisit this blog for updates on our multimedia efforts. I will be sharing monthly updates, presenting easy-to-use tools that can improve your course(s) and sharing up-to-date research and developments from the eLearning world.

If you have any questions about branching activities or anything related to multimedia elements of course design, feel free to reach out to me at tamburro.5@osu.edu.