Navigation Aids for eLearning

In the modern corporate scenario, many companies are deploying online training courses for their employees to enhance their skill set. When it comes to corporate giants, it is almost impossible to customize e-learning courses keeping each employee in mind. The learner base may involve a range of employees, from first-time users to veterans. Therefore, it is important to design courses that answer all possible queries the learner might have about going about a course.

No matter how instructionally and aesthetically well designed a course is; giving too many navigation instructions would only make the users feel intimidated. Some may even opt out of actually going through the course at all. However, giving no instructions for the user to go about the course and explore other information like the menu, job aids or glossary section isn’t a solution to that. In elearning, it’s hard to predict who will view the course and how comfortable they would be while viewing one. Therefore, navigational instructions should be such that they provide the necessary information precisely and yet be user friendly.

Studies show that there is higher user satisfaction when navigational instructions/aids are available. A very basic solution is to lay out the course in a linear format, where there user has click on the next button to proceed further. This however, hampers the interactivity and gives the learner less control i.e. he may not be able to return to a topic he thinks he will need to revise. Therefore navigation aids are depicted and not written out, i.e. they are graphical representations. For example,

Arrows1. Use of a forward and back arrow to show direction of content. Likewise, using play button to prompt the user to play a video, instead of cluttering the page with the instruction to click on the play button to view the video.



menu_icon2. Using a list icon for showing the menu. This is a very important tab as it gives the learner an overview of the course structure and the ability to return to a topic for revision in case the learner feels so. Area indicators or breadcrumbs are also applied to this pop up i.e. it color of the visited topics should change indicating the learners progress through the course.


A few pointers to be kept in mind while employing navigation aids are as follows:

  • If buttons are being used, they should be clearly labeled. If signs are used on them, they should not be ambiguous.
  • Contrast is an important factor; navigation aids should be clearly visible.
  • Complimentary colors should be used to highlight button functionality.
  • Placement and use of navigation controls should be consistently throughout all page types in a course.
  • All navigation aids in the course should be tested before it is launched to see whether they are appropriately programmed/linked to the pages they point to and any glitches should be rectified.

Some instructional designers prefer a mix of textual and graphical representation of navigation aids. This is a good approach as it is a mid-way solution. However, one should be cognizant of the verbiage and that it doesn’t make the pages cluttery with unwanted or redundant information plonked on them. After all, ease of use is inextricably linked with the user/learner satisfaction gained from a well laid out elearning course.

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