Effective eLearning Navigation: 5 Key Principles!

Effective eLearning Navigation: 5 Key Principles!
Summary: Well designed eLearning navigation is crucial for the success of your eLearning course. In this article, I’ll share 5 key principles to consider when designing navigation for your eLearning course, so that you can offer your audience the best possible eLearning experience.

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.