8 Tips To Improve eLearning Navigation Using Cohesive eLearning Course Maps

Is your eLearning course cluttered and chaotic? Or do you provide your online learners with a clear direction to guide them through the process? In this article, I'll share 8 tips to create cohesive eLearning course maps to improve eLearning navigation.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

8 Tips To Promote Non-Linear eLearning Navigation

There are times when sequence and structure are the best approach. However, giving your online learners free roam of the eLearning course map offers a variety of benefits. In this article, I'll share 8 tips to promote Non-Linear eLearning Navigation.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The 5 Types Of eLearning Interface Standards

In an eLearning course, at any given time, learners should know where they are in the course and be able to navigate to any desired location with the help of clear navigation or the course menu. Let us see how eLearning interface standards help learners navigating through a course.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Applying The Conversation Theory In Instructional Design

What do you get when you combine cybernetics with online education? A theory that takes a systematic, technology-based approach to Instructional Design. In this article, I'll share everything you need to know about the Conversation Theory, including the core principles, levels, and types.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

7 Best Practices For eLearning Course Navigation

eLearning Course Navigation Best Practices 

As a seasoned eLearning professional, I firmly believe that a module should be designed in a way that the learners do not encounter any challenge while moving from one slide to another. It should never be designed in a way that keeps the learners guessing about the next move; else they will end up losing their focus very soon. Now the question is whether there should be a set of best practices for eLearning course navigation. If yes, here are 7 of them:

  1. Provide a single way to navigate forward.
    Learners often get confused when they see multiple ways on a slide to navigate forward in the course. For instance, if there is a “Next” and a “Continue” button on the same slide. In this case, it should be either of the buttons and not both. You may consider removing one of the buttons so that the learners are not confused as which of the paths they should follow next. In some scenarios, where it is a tricky situation, you may want to add a call-out to provide clear guidance to the learner.
  2. Provide a tour on how to navigate through the course.
    For the benefit of your learners, it is always a good idea to provide them with brief explanation of how they should navigate through the course. It need not be something elaborate. It can be as simple as a few text boxes that have instructions in them and a couple of arrows that point towards the different buttons on the slide. The various things that you may want to highlight include a way to exit, a help feature, and other navigational information that you feel is important for your learners.
  3. Always use short and crisp titles.
    As an eLearning professional, your success will always be measured by how easily your content is digested by your learners. Hence, it is a good idea to label your links or icons clearly. For instance, you want your learners to click a button to exit the course. Start with an action verb and label it as, “Exit Course”, which is more direct, rather than “Click Here To Exit The Course”.
  4. Use icons that are relevant to the context of your course.
    It is always better to use icons that your learners are already familiar with. For instance, a forward arrow is more relevant when you use it to direct your learners to navigate to the next page or screen. An image of a star or a flower will confuse them regarding the action they would need to perform. Also, while localizing your eLearning course, it is good to use images that are accepted globally.
  5. Be consistent with the placement of navigational links.
    You must be absolutely clear and consistent with the placement of your eLearning course navigational links. They should be inserted in the same place on every slide. It helps the learners decide where they want to go next in the course. To be consistent with the position of the links, you can use the navigational controls that are already built in the template. It helps to avoid the slide jumps that most frequently occur when you place the links manually.
  6. Allow learners to view their progress.
    When your learners are navigating through a course, and do not know how much they have covered so far or when the course is going to end, at times they may feel discouraged and disoriented. Therefore, it is a good idea to let your learners view their progress through different ways, for instance, by encouraging communication, providing them with immediate feedback, etc.
  7. Perform a thorough testing of the eLearning course navigational links before deployment.
    Prior to publishing the course and sharing it with your learners, you must perform a thorough testing of the navigational links. You may also like to seek the feedback from few of your peers who have never seen the course before to check if they are facing any kind of difficulty while navigating through the eLearning course. In some cases, it happens that the course links work fine in the first instance, however, when it resumes to its initial state, it may throw up some linking errors. Hence, it is important to check every navigation link in every page.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

8 Tips To Use The Next Button In eLearning

How To Use The Next Button In eLearning: 8 Tips For eLearning Professionals

Letting your learners freely roam about the eLearning course and choose which path to follow has its benefits, but if you are dealing with a linear structure a next button is often the best way to go. It guides your learners through the process and takes the frustration and guesswork out of the eLearning experience. Here are some tips for effectively using the next button in your next eLearning deliverable.

  1. Define your navigation icons in the beginning.
    You cannot just assume that all your learners are going to know what each navigation icon means, including the next button. Even if you are going to use the traditional arrow, clearly state that in the beginning of the eLearning course and identify all other navigation buttons as well. In fact, it may even be wise to include text on each button throughout the eLearning course, just in case the learner needs a reminder. Also, if there are other icons in the mix, then be sure to place them on a different section of the page in order to avoid any confusion.
  2. Don’t be vague about where the button leads.
    Most learners are hesitant click on a button if they aren’t sure where it will take them. This is true for most things in life though. As a general rule, a vast majority of people will think twice before doing something if the outcome is not clearly stated. It’s all about the fear of the unknown, and this also applies in eLearning environments. Therefore, be very clear about where the next button in eLearning is going to lead. For example, you can include a “go to the next page” or “start the scenario” label on the next button.
  3. Create eye-catching buttons by using contrasting colors.
    Who says that the next button in eLearning has to be drab and dull? Why not spruce up your next icons by using contrasting colors that catch the learner’s eye? It’s a known fact that objects or images that are colorful or interrupt a particular pattern are more noticeable. Create a red next button to stand out against your white page backdrop, for instance. Just make sure that your text is also in a contrasting color so that it doesn’t blend in.
  4. Keep mobile users in mind.
    Mobile phone usage is on the rise in the world of eLearning. So, you’ll have to remember that some of your learners will be using their mobile devices, which have smaller screen sizes, to access your eLearning course. This means that your next button in eLearning has to be large enough to tap, but not so large that it occupies the whole screen. Try your button out on a variety of different mobile devices to determine how big it should be, bearing in mind that most people use their thumbs when they are clicking through a mobile learning course.
  5. The Next button in eLearning should grab learners’ attention, but not steal the spotlight.
    Ideally, the next buttons you include in your eLearning course design should be prominent, as you want them to be noticed by your learners, but they should never be distracting. They are navigation icons, after all, not a key takeaway or eLearning exercises. Keep it simple by adding just one next button and one back button to each eLearning page, and make sure they are separated from other clickable items, such as hyperlinks. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to click the next button and ending up somewhere else entirely because the clickable areas are too close together.
  6. Give it a “clickable” appearance.
    Speaking of clickable, you want to make sure that your next button is, well…a button, which can be clicked, rather than just another graphic on the page. Ensure that it has borders around it to define its parameters, and that it has a shape that somewhat resembles a button, like a rectangle or arrow. Above all else, make sure there’s a sufficient amount of white space around it to draw more attention to the fact that it is a navigation icon.
  7. Follow the natural flow of the eLearning course page.
    The next button should be at the bottom of the page, preferably on the right hand side. Unless you are addressing to particular cultural groups, learners’ gaze will naturally go from right to left and top to bottom, so the next button will be the last thing that they see on every screen of the eLearning course. This also helps to guide learners through the eLearning course, as they will be able to immediately determine that this is the button that will help them move along and progress to the next page, thanks to its position.
  8. End the page with a cliffhanger.
    Sometimes your learners need some coaxing to push that next button, especially those who may be lacking intrinsic motivation. Why not convince them to click by leaving the page on a cliffhanger. For example, you can ask them a thought provoking question, or cut off a story just before the conclusion to pique their interest. You want your learners to wonder what is going to happen next or get an answer to a fascinating question. You can even mention that they will be able to “see the conclusion to the story” or “get the answer” by clicking the next button.

The next button doesn’t have to be a major faux pas in eLearning. In fact, by using these tips you can create an engaging and exciting linear course that is easy to navigate and enjoyable for every member of your audience.

Looking for more tips to improve your eLearning course navigation? Read the article Effective eLearning Navigation: 5 Key Principles to learn about the 5 key principles of eLearning navigation that will help you create organized and user-friendly eLearning experiences.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Effective eLearning Navigation: 5 Key Principles!

How To Design Effective eLearning Navigation

You are designing your eLearning course and you have no idea which is the best way for your audience to navigate through it? Instead of guessing your learners’ expectations about what, where, and when to click, have these 5 key eLearning navigation principles in mind and get ready to design a handy and user-friendly eLearning navigation system.

  1. Keep it simple.  
    Your learners make several complex decisions in their personal and professional lives, which means that, when taking an eLearning course, they really don’t need the extra stress of trying to figure out how to use it via a complicated eLearning navigation system. Undeniably, it is tempting to create a custom look and feel for your eLearning courses, but your primary aim should be to keep the navigation as clear as possible. Regardless of the eLearning navigation style you will use, e.g. horizontal, vertical, tabbed, next/back etc, the design should be straightforward, clearly structured, and perhaps quite conventional, so it becomes intuitive. This lets the learners focus on your eLearning content rather than on how to navigate in it. Furthermore, consider standardizing your eLearning navigation design, in order to keep it consistent. If you don’t use the same navigation patterns in all parts of your eLearning course, your learners might get confused and, ultimately, lost.
  2. Provide clear instructions.
    You should offer navigation instructions, at the beginning of the eLearning course and make sure that the “Help” button is visible on every page. If your eLearning course navigation requires a lot of time spent on figuring out how to use it and how it works, you need to question its functionality. When learners are presented with an abundance of mysterious icons and buttons, as well as with a variety of unpredictable paths, time is wasted and, again, focus is lost. Your learners don't have to be trained on how to navigate in your eLearning course all at once; in fact, they can learn more about specific functions as they are moving forward. Also, in order to help advanced learners to save more time, consider offering them an optional tutorial or instructional video, so that learners with more eLearning experience will not be forced to go through information that has been created for those who aren’t familiar with the structure of your eLearning course, or for those who have never taken an eLearning course before.
  3. Free it up.
    Locking the eLearning navigation is a way of preventing learners from clicking through the eLearning course without following its initial structure. However, this can lead to frustration when, for instance, a learner wants to skip the audio and the next button does not seem to be active until the narration is over, or the learner needs to have immediate access to information provided later in the eLearning course without being able to do so. You need to realize that when you lock access to the eLearning content, you are blocking the learning process. After all, not all learners have the same level of expertise and experience; and your job is to accommodate all of them. In order to enhance the eLearning experience and provide your learners with more freedom and control over the eLearning content, you need to unlock the navigation options by adding buttons like “Back”, “Undo”, “Remove”, “Close” and “Are you sure you want to ...?”. This way, if some learners want, for instance, to take a quick look at everything your eLearning course covers and then go back and start from the beginning, or others feel the need to deal first with something they don’t know at all, to be able to do so. Also, rather than forcing navigation in a particular way, consider guiding your learners through your eLearning course by giving them reasons to take it step by step and not move fast ahead. Add tests and quizzes or create scenario questions that your learners won’t be able to work through, unless they have already first mastered the previous content. Ultimately, remember that your goal is not to frustrate learners by forcing them to read every single screen of the eLearning course, but rather to create an eLearning environment wherein they are free to explore the eLearning content as they wish, according to their unique learning needs.
  4. Make it interesting.
    A dull eLearning navigation design can easily make even the most devoted learner bored and wanting to quit. Eliminate the boring “Click Next” button and consider using a more visual approach that helps the learners navigate through the structure and topics of the eLearning course. Use color, images, timelines, mind maps, animations, even game boards, to create an entertaining environment. Similarly, if your eLearning course includes a story or a scenario, use the story’s main characters or an easily-identified scene from the scenario as eLearning navigation helpers. The drag and drop interactions are also a great way to trigger your learners’ interest. By having them drag and drop a navigation tutorial or video in order to watch it, you increase their engagement. Finally, you can create a sort of a suspenseful atmosphere for the learners by asking questions or creating dilemmas before they click on the “Next” button. Use your imagination to present your audience the information you want in interesting ways, so that their curiosity is heightened and their attention is captured right from the very beginning, before even clicking on the “Start” button.
  5. Keep it relevant.
    The truth is that no two learners are alike. People don’t learn the same way. As eLearning professionals, it's crucial to understand that every member of our audience is unique and will approach the eLearning content we are providing in his or her own unique way. Thus, while developing your eLearning course, take the time to analyze your audience in order to design the eLearning course navigation based on their profiles. Conduct surveys or focus groups before you start developing your eLearning course and never forget to get feedback from those who have experienced it after delivery. This way, you will know what worked, and actually meets the needs of your learners, and what didn’t and needs to be changed. As far as the language you use for your eLearning navigation design is concerned, always use simple and user-friendly terms for the eLearning navigation menu, in order to help learners immediately understand the meaning of every click they make. Furthermore, add a glossary in order to help learners deal with difficult and complicated terms that your eLearning content may include.

Have these principles in mind when designing eLearning navigation for your next eLearning deliverable and you will be able to offer your learners an easy, friendly and stress-free eLearning experience.

Want to know more about perfecting your carefully crafted eLearning deliverable before you launch it? Read the article Launching Your eLearning Course: 15 Things To Double Check to find the 15 things that you must double-check before launching your next eLearning course.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The Top 6 eLearning Course Navigation Styles

Effective eLearning Course Navigation Styles: What eLearning Professionals Should Know

For your eLearning course to meet its objectives, apart from a powerful eLearning content you need to develop a clear and learner-friendly eLearning course design. Your eLearning course navigation needs to be effective, in order for your learners to successfully absorb the information you are providing without getting confused or lost. After all, you want your learners to comfortably navigate throughout your eLearning course and focus on your content. But which eLearning navigation style is suitable for your next eLearning deliverable? In this article you can navigate through the 6 most effective eLearning course navigation styles available and decide which one (or even more; creative combinations are always a plus) is right for your audience's needs.

  1. Horizontal Bar Navigation.
    Horizontal bar navigation is one of the most popular eLearning course navigation styles and one can find it in various eLearning course designs. The horizontal bar is usually located on the top of the screen and it may or may not be combined with drop-down sub menus which reveal secondary navigation items.

    • Advantages
      Due to the fact that it is the most popular website navigation pattern, it allows every single learner who has ever used the internet to know exactly how to handle it. It is simple and clearly structured, which helps learners to easily find their way throughout your eLearning course and not waste any time on figuring out how to navigate it. It is ideal for eLearning courses that only need to display a limited number of items in the navigation bar.
    • Disadvantages
      Because of the limited size of the horizontal bar (after all, how big can a screen be?), this eLearning navigation style might not be suitable for complex eLearning courses with loads of information. If you need to display several navigation items in the horizontal bar, you may find that it is not the best option for accommodating large volumes of information, even if you do use drop down sub menus.
  2. Vertical/Side Bar Navigation.
    This equally simple eLearning navigation style is formatted as a vertical/side column, where navigation items are arranged one on top of another. As with the horizontal bar, it may also be used with a sub-menu for additional information. If you’re wondering where you should put your vertical navigation bar, right or left on the screen, a usability study on navigation patterns revealed that navigation time is faster when the navigation menu is located on the left-hand side. Left side is also the default content menu location of eLearning authoring tools like Adobe Captivate and Lectora, which must mean something.

    • Advantages
      Vertical/Side bars are particularly versatile, because you can make the navigation items list as long as you like. They can also be easily integrated into almost every single design layout out there.
    • Disadvantages
      Its main advantage is also its main disadvantage: You may design the column to be as long as you like, but again the number of the navigation items you can place in the bar is limited. Not by default of course, as with the horizontal navigation style, but the truth is that a lengthy navigation bar can be overwhelming for learners. And you certainly do not want that.
  3. Tabs Navigation.
    In this eLearning navigation style, a series of tabs are placed vertically or horizontally, but the latter is usually the best option because the text can be read more effectively. The mechanism of tabs navigation is quite simple: once the learner clicks on the tab, the content is displayed right below it; or next to it, if the tab series is vertical.

    • Advantages
      There is an emotional bonus hidden in this eLearning navigation style: Tabs remind us of notebooks and paper folders now and in the past, in the romantic, non-digital era, and this real world metaphor makes the navigation process natural and spontaneous. They are subconsciously associated directly with navigation and they can be incorporated in various visual styles; colored, glossy or plain, rounded or squared shaped etc.
    • Disadvantages
      Tabs navigation is usually harder to design than horizontal or vertical bar navigation styles. It also doesn’t work well if you plan on using loads of information on the navigation menu, because the tabs take up a lot of space themselves; if you aim to an aesthetically pleasing result, that is.
  4. Next-back Navigation.
    Next-back navigation is probably the most basic and widely used eLearning navigation style. “Next” and “Previous” buttons, sometimes in the form of arrows displayed on a slideshow, are usually a default, standard option in eLearning courses.

    • Advantages
      It is the most widely used eLearning navigation style exactly because it helps learners to easily navigate through the pages or slides simply by moving forwards or backwards.
    • Disadvantages
      Undoubtedly, if used without being integrated into another, more interesting, eLearning navigation style, next-back navigation can be quite unimaginative and, ultimately, boring.
  5. Breadcrumb Navigation.
    This is a secondary, or supplementary, eLearning navigation style. Named after the famous Hansel and Gretel fairytale, breadcrumbs help learners to find their way home or, in eLearning terms, show them where they are in the eLearning course. Breadcrumb navigation is used to support your eLearning course’s primary navigation system and it is placed on the top of the screen, usually formatted as a horizontal list of secondary navigation items (breadcrumbs).

    • Advantages
      Breadcrumbs are ideal when learners want to switch from the home page of the eLearning course to its chapters, or vice versa, which happens quite often.
    • Disadvantages
      Obviously, if your eLearning course navigation is “shallow” or/and not clearly structured and categorized, you don’t need breadcrumbs. And if you do choose to use them anyway, they might confuse learners instead of helping them.
  6. Grid Style Navigation.
    Grid style is often used when your eLearning course has a visually rich content. It is nothing more than a series of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines that create free spaces where you can insert images, shapes or, less frequently, text.

    • Advantages
      Apart from the obvious advantage, which is a clear structure and organization of massive eLearning content, grid style navigation allows learners to easily follow the layout of the eLearning course and rapidly retain the information offered. It can also boost the aesthetic value of your eLearning course, allowing that the images it contains are appealing.
    • Disadvantages
      You may find that grids may be stifling, less creative and that may lead to a static and boring layout. They can also reveal a restrictive nature, if you decide to be a little more imaginative when considering your design options.

Now that you know the most effective eLearning course navigation styles to consider when developing your eLearning course, read the article 6 Tips To Improve eLearning Course Navigation where I shed light on how you can significantly improve your eLearning course navigation to offer your learners a friendly and powerful eLearning navigation experience.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.