When instructional designers are tasked with developing an e-Learning course, one of the dilemmas that they face has to do with navigation. While most e-Learning professionals believe that successful e-Learning courses should not be linear and therefore, navigation should not be locked, they still continuously develop courses with locked navigation to accommodate their clients’ request. The main reason why clients want to lock navigation is because they want learners to go through every single screen in order not to miss any important information. While this reasoning makes sense, it does not address the ultimate goal of any training program, which is learning transfer.
The reason is simple. If the learner has visited every single screen and listened to every single word, does that mean that the learner now knows the content and can apply it to his daily job? Well, most likely not. E-Learning modules must be interesting for learners to engage with the content and actually benefit from the training. Let me give you an example. Let’s assume that you were tasked with the development of an e-Learning course that teaches policy. Since the client wants the employees to know everything about the new policy, he wants you to lock navigation and include all the content in the course. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
We all know that policy exists for a reason. People need to understand the policy to apply it to the decisions they make, and frankly, most people do not understand the legal language behind the policy. As instructional designers, we should help people interpret the policy and apply it to their decisions. The best way to accomplish that is through scenarios and storytelling.
Develop relevant situations and have learners respond to problems and make decisions that help them not just learn but also understand the policy. Remember, that by creating page-turners you are essentially wasting your and your learners’ time as they could simply read their policy manual instead. Certainly, you can always attach all the legal and policy information and laws to the course in a form of a word document or a pdf file. That way, learners would have a chance to download and review it if needed. If you make your training relevant and engaging, unlocking navigation should not be an issue as learners would not want to skip it anyway. You should also consider adding a knowledge check at the end of the course and have learners apply new policy to situations. Since learners will be forced to pass the test, they will not want to skip any sections of the course. There is another benefit to unlocking navigation. You want to give your learners freedom to find what they need within a course in case they want to go back to review a certain section. You also do not want to disadvantage the learners who are already familiar with some of the content and want to skip over it.
All in all, instructional designers should build their courses around goals, expectations, and objectives, and make them relevant and engaging by allowing learners to be part of the situation. By creating exploratory and scenario/simulation based courses, you will be able to report a positive ROI and you won’t have to worry about learners who click through the course just to get to the end.
Daniel Cadorette says
That is an interesting question / comment. It is true we are always face that dilemma as clients wish to make sure the learners see every single page. What we have developped is a customizable navigation system. Depending on the context, every client can choose if they wish to lock or unlock the navigation, even within the same client for different sessions. What we often see is if the group is following a course in a context of initial training, they choose to lock it. If they are refreshing knowledge, they will let it free. In our system, they can set the criteria allowing students to move from one course to the next (percent complete, passing grade) and then set the type of navigation within the courses themselves. I strongly agree that the most important is knowledge transfer but since the client has the final choice, we can only advise them the best we can and try to give them tools to cutomize a few things along the way. Thank you for your comment and pardon my english! Daniel
Tim Maher says
Great question. For something as legally important as policy, the lawyers want to be able to say that the employee looked at every screen. No flexibility here. For other situations, you can start the module with the scenario, and then let the learner explore the content as they want and/or need to be able to arrive at the solution. Having this amount of control is great for building intrinsic motivation. It is also more efficient, since the learner can skip the content they already know.
Frank Shearn says
Let’s assume that as professional instructional designers we have designed our learning content so that it’s engaging, relevant, concise and entertaining. The users love it! The question of whether to lock the navigation or not is in the end the client’s decision – but being persuasive professionals we can point out the advantages of alternative approaches. For example, by allowing the learning to unlock behind the user as they progress though the “locked” course so that when they get to the end they can go backwards to any point in the learning content and forwards again as much as they like – before they attempt the compulsory assessment. Add to that another possibility – a hidden keystroke combination or clickable area controlled by a password that allows an instructor or facilitator to unlock the entire navigation at any time. So if a learner is having difficulty the facilitator.instructor can step in and offer guidance with free access to any part of the learning.
On another note – page turners have their place if the content on the page is well designed and engaging. In the end its all just a pile of pages no matter what order in which you choose or are required to look at them.
Have a nice day folks! :0)
Antonio Palacios says
There is more than one type of locking. This post assumes the most basic, granular one. But in a wider sense, I can’t say that locking is inherently bad, not even in view of the most recent adult learning theories, or that all learning should be unlocked. It all depends on the context.