Navigation and Instructions in eLearning

What are your thoughts on activity and navigation instructions in eLearning?

I see it as a balance where enough instructions are given (or good user interface design) so energy isn’t wasted on figuring out how something works or how to progress … ? ? ?

Are you treating your new hires or people who do your online learning like they don’t have a brain?

Often I see instructional text for activities and navigation through eLearning content is done in a way that treat staff or the eLearning audience as though they’re thick.


Here are some ways I’ve seen eLearning navigation and instructions treat its audience like idiots.

State the obvious, obviously

Push next to continue… repeat, repeat, repeat, did you get that, do you know how to push next?


Only ever give instructions in text and make sure it includes lots of detail, okay now you can read the next sentence.


Always put instructions in for the lowest common denominator, okay now you can read the next sentence.


Never take into account previous experiences with technology, websites and adult learning – assume everyone is a blank slate.


Ensure no content can be skipped (I mean missed). The assumption is if you didn’t read it, see it or hear it here then you won’t know or learn it. Never mind how disengaged you are if navigation’s locked then you must have learnt it.


To save you getting lost you can move forwards (next button) or backwards (back button) only.


Blatantly state when it is the end of the module and give precise instructions on how to exit it – after all you don’t want them stuck in your eLearning course forever!! They’ve got work to do.


Give pointless instructions – if you wish to read these points you can scroll back to the top of the page 😉


I know I’ve focused on the negative on this post, I’m still getting surprised as I keep seeing the above techniques again and again. Company set eLearning templates are the biggest culprit for continuing these bad navigation and instructional practices, most allow for very little creativity room.

In my next blog I’ll give some examples of making navigation and instructions more natural and interesting to change the tone of the eLearning being delivered.

Have you seen any other navigation and instructional techniques that didn’t work or treated the audience like idiots? Please share and comment below.

If you made it to the here, let me know by liking this post.

Thank you. The end.

2 thoughts on “Navigation and Instructions in eLearning

  1. Totally agree,I have done all the above in one eLearning and much to my horror, not only do I have a next button on the slides that are heavy with text, but I have to have the voice tell them to select it, OUCH!
    If that is not bad enough, when I do the summary of the topics learned, they want the heavy text slides re-read.
    Unfortunately I am at the mercy of the content expert who funny enough has become an eLearning expert overnight. Help! How do you handle these people?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That must hurt alright having them all! It keeps on surprising me how common it is when there are so many great examples of how to do engaging eLearning.

      I find it easier at the beginning of a project to set expectations with the content expert about what my and their role is and how we’ll work together. Then the content expert will understand that they are not storyboarding the content that it will be used as a base but what is produced will look different be visual and interactive. I explain and usually have a visual about what my role is and isn’t and that although we’ll have some base content I’ll need to come back to fill in some content gaps like scenario practices, and they’ll need to check content is technically correct. I talk about focusing on desired behaviours rather than information dumping. Also about engagement, the forgetting curve and how people learn.

      Sometimes showing good examples of eLearning can help set or reset expectations. If you have some from your organisation or previous work you could show those – otherwise there are great examples on Articulate Elearning Heroes. If you belong to eLearning Guild or ATD, they have a lot of information online you can use to back you up. I also rapid prototype – quickly build interactions and design concepts to show rather than tell or ask permission. I’ve never asked permission to do my coolest work, like using Twitter for social learning or learning resources from curated content (works for me, you’ll know if it works for you). Perhaps you could show (rather than tell) some more engaging ways to present the content.

      It might also be the case to pick your battles. Perhaps your organisation and content expert is risk aversive and resistant to different things from the written word. Then the next button might be the least offensive part and reworking the content being more targeted and digestable will have a bigger impact. You can work on the other things later down the track.

      This post focuses on building branching scenarios with your SME but you might find some other useful information in there:

      Hope this helps.


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