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.