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locked navigation e-learning

“How do I lock navigation?” is one of the first questions we get when showing people how to use our software. In fact it’s one of the questions we had to revisit in a recent Articulate Live webinar where people wanted to see the features used to lock navigation.

I understand the question and why it’s asked, but from an instructional perspective it’s one of the most frustrating questions to answer because locking navigation may inhibit learning and it’s a miserable experience for the person stuck in a boring course irrelevant to their needs.

Why Are We Asked to Lock Navigation?

There are a number of reasons why courses are locked. Most of the time the customer wants some assurance that the course taker isn’t just clicking the next button and skipping important information. Locking the navigation and forcing people to go through the course slide by slide is one way to guarantee that they’ve seen the slide.

But does being exposed to the content meet any real objectives? Doesn’t the content exist to promote some sort of decision-making or performance?

How to Move Past Locked Navigation

There are a number of ways to move past locking your course navigation. Here are a few ideas:

  • See the course in two parts. Part one = information required to make decisions. Part two = the types of decisions they need to make to show they know the information. Focus on how the course takers can demonstrate their understanding.
  • Step away from the solution. The elearning course is a solution to meet specific objectives. My guess is that the business objective isn’t to look at screens of information. Why does the course exist? Build it to meet those objectives and rest assured that locked navigation doesn’t meet them. Activities where they practice and demonstrate understanding is a better way to meet objectives.
  • Avoid linear courses. Most courses are linear, “A to Z” courses. They beg to be locked. If you open them up and make them more exploratory, this makes locking them less critical.
  • Create relevant content & context. People don’t normally make a habit of reading policies at work. But they routinely make decisions that hopefully align with the policies. Convert your content into real world activities where they use the information to make decisions. This requires them to know the information and prove it.
  • Lock the course at decision points. You probably can’t get past some form of locking. In that case, create decision points where the course taker demonstrates understanding of the content to move on. This allows you to give them freedom to explore content between the decision points.
  • Replace locking with rewards. Instead of forcing them through content, provide an incentive to collect information (or make good decisions with the information). This can be in the form of a dashboard where they collect badges to reward completion.
  • Chunk the course into smaller segments. Even with all of these tips, there’s a good chance you still have to create locked navigation. In those cases, chunk the course content into smaller segments. I like to call them coursels (course morsels). No one likes locked navigation, but it’s definitely a lot less frustrating when it’s a quicker experience.

What tips do you have for those who are stuck in the world of locked navigation?


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5 responses to “It’s Time to Quit Locking Your Course Navigation”

I totally agree with not locking navigation.

One important aspect of e-learning is the ability to use it as a job aid to refer back to when working – we all know the quotes about how much is forgotten immediately or over a short period of time.

E-learning can be seen as a way to create awareness and an understanding of what you should be doing, and then as a source of information (or links to that information) you need when working.

This is why it is also crucial that e-learning be accessible across different devices and platforms, as a source of readily accessible information at hand when needed to support performance.

I like the idea of presenting the option for learners to go straight to any assessment.
This gives the learner the feeling they are not wasting time taking courses they “know”. If they fail the assessment, then lock them back into the course, or areas of knowledge gaps at least.
But if the user can pass the assessment without looking at the content, they understand the content.
The assessment must be capable of checking the user has full understanding of all areas.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about a navigation best practices disagreement I’ve been having with a colleague for the past 6 months. This is about “menu slides”: a slide with a number of buttons for several topics that branch off to different sections of the course. He/she thinks all slides, including menu slides should have open (not locked down) navigation. However, I think menu slides should not have open navigation, especially when it is essential the learner visit all of the branched sections in order to be able to pass the quiz at the end of the course. My colleague even had a course where the quiz questions were spread out throughout the course within the various branched sections, and when the learner failed to go to all of the branched sections, because they just kept clicking the next button and weren’t paying attention, they wouldn’t even get the opportunity to pass the course because they’d missed a couple of questions.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well as the reasons why either open or locked for menu slides.

Locking things only forces your learners into ‘annoyed’ mode. If they need to pass a test tell them that they need to cover all topics first. Also give them a ‘hint’ or ‘refresh’ button to go back to key stuff (in Storyline a lightbox is excellent for this). Remember Knowles principles of adult learning: give your learner’s choices and give them responsibility.

“You can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.”

December 13th, 2016

give your learner’s choices and give them responsibility.

That’s the key.