If you’re an e-learning developer, you’ve likely grappled with the following question at some point: Does my course need a menu? The e-learning menu is usually a sidebar or panel that displays a list of the lessons included in the course. It often appears on the left-hand side of the screen by default, just like the image below, and whether to add one is a question many e-learning developers ask themselves at some point during the course creation. 

This Rise 360 course displays a menu on the left-hand side.

Typically the menu can be used to navigate from one lesson to another; however, this is often a setting that can be controlled or turned off, if need be. Whether the menu is visible by default, or even if it’s used at all, are a few of the design considerations you’ll want to make. You can ask yourself the following questions to pinpoint whether you need a menu in your course. 

Is your course content-heavy?

If the course you’re creating has a lot of content, learners are more apt to benefit from a menu. Reason being, the menu helps learners feel in control of where they are in the learning experience, and lets them track how far they have left to go. If you’re designing a brief course that takes a few minutes to complete, the learners are less inclined to need updates on their progress. However, if the module is long and has many lessons, learners might appreciate the ability to check in with the menu, to see how things are advancing and how many lessons are left. 

Can learners navigate freely?

Depending on the type of course you’re creating, learners may or may not be able to freely navigate through your lessons and content in any order. In many situations, having free/unlocked navigation is a great way to go, as it encourages and allows learners to explore content in any order and doesn’t restrict them. 

However, if you’re building compliance training, you might be inclined to lock down your navigation, effectively making your learners view each lesson or each piece of content before they can move forward. Why? In certain situations, organizations are legally required to deliver compliance training and need to be able to prove that employees viewed all of the content. Controlling the menu by either hiding it completely or restricting its navigation is one step you can take to ensure compliance requirements are met. 

This Storyline 360 course displays a locked menu, meaning learners can’t navigate using the menu.

Can learners see lesson titles?

One more thing to consider when you’re deciding whether to include a course menu: is it okay for learners to see the titles of the lessons? In certain cases, you might find that the learner’s ability to see the names of lessons could give away critical information. For example, during a quiz, the learner might be able to look at the names of past lessons for clues about the answers. 

These are all considerations to keep in mind as you design your next learning experience. I’d love to hear any other thoughts or feedback you have about using a menu in your e-learning course. Please let me know in the comments! 

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