The Basics of Controlling Learner Navigation

Most of us take pride in designing e-learning courses that give our learners some freedom to explore. But there are times when we need to exert a little control over how they interact with training content. For example, compliance training often needs to be consumed by learners in a specific order, to ensure they don’t miss important information. And try as we might, the requirement that all content must be viewed, in order, is sometimes a necessity for your organization to meet its legal or regulatory requirements.

Thankfully, Articulate Presenter ’13 gives you plenty of options for controlling slide navigation behavior. To access the slide-level options, click on the Slide Properties tab on the Articulate ribbon.

Slide Properties in Presenter

From here, you can control slide branching, the visibility of the course player controls (Prev and Next buttons), how slides are advanced (auto or by user), how the slide is navigated (free or locked), and other slide properties.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these options—along with a few pro tips for choosing the right approach for your project.

Slide Branching

One way to strike a balance between freedom and control is to use branching scenarios. Such nonlinear interactions give learners a sense of freedom compared to a click-and-read experience, but you can still maintain some control over their overall progress. By default, Presenter assumes you want the Prev and Next buttons to jump to the previous and next screens, but you can easily adjust these settings to branch to any slide in your course. Here’s how:

  1. Select a slide thumbnail and then click on the Branching hyperlinks in the Properties panel.
    Branching hyperlinks in Presenter
  2. Then, choose the slide you want to branch to from the drop-down menu.

Hiding the Player Controls

Another way to control navigation is to flat-out hide the Next and Previous buttons. You can do this on a slide-by-slide basis or for all slides.

Hiding the default navigation buttons gives you the flexibility to create custom navigation using hyperlinked button shapes, text, or images, or to keep learners from clicking the Next button to skip past slide content like audio narration or animations.

Hiding one or both navigation buttons in Presenter ’13 takes just a quick click of a checkbox:

First, click on the Controls hyperlink (to the right of the slide thumbnail image in Slide Properties) and then uncheck the Prev and Next button boxes accordingly.

Controls hyperlink in Presenter

Another way to do this is to select the slide you want to change, and then uncheck the Prev and Next button checkboxes under branching, as seen below.

Branching in Presenter

Pro Tip: The steps for controlling the navigation buttons work on a slide-by-slide basis, but you can also hide the Previous and Next buttons for all slides, consecutive slides, and nonconsecutive slides. Here’s how:

  • All slides: Use Ctrl+A to select all of the slides, then uncheck one or both boxes in the Properties panel, under Branching.
  • Consecutive slides: Select the first slide and then hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click the last slide. This should automatically select all of the consecutive slides in between. Simply uncheck one or both boxes in the Properties panel, under Branching.
  • Nonconsecutive slides: Select the first slide and then hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and click the other slides to select them. With the chosen slides selection, just uncheck one or both boxes in the the Properties panel, under Branching.

Changing How Slides Advance

By default, Presenter ’13 sets slides to advance automatically upon completion of any media on that slide. In other words, slide duration is determined by the slide’s audio, video, or animations. While that is the default behavior, you can specify timing by clicking on Options on the Articulate Tools ribbon.


If you want to learn more about Publish Options, check out this handy how-to article.

To change the default slide advance setting from automatic to “by user,” simply click the Advance hyperlink.

Advancing Slides in Presenter

This hyperlink is a toggle with only two settings: auto or by user, so if you change your mind, just click the hyperlink again to change it.

Pro Tip: You can change the advance settings on multiple slides following the same basic tips we reviewed above to select all, consecutive, or nonconsecutive slides. Then, click the Advance hyperlink in the Properties panel to apply your chosen setting to the selected slides.

Locked and Restricted Navigation

Concerned that your learners will be confused if the Prev or Next buttons aren’t there? By default, Presenter ’13 lets learners navigate slides freely, but you also have the option to lock the player controls for a slide (or slides) or for the entire course. This leaves the controls in place on the course player, but deactivates them for certain slides or the entire course if you choose.

Let’s take a closer look at these options.

Locking a Slide

Locking a slide makes it impossible for learners to advance by clicking the player controls OR via the course menu. Here’s how to do it:

Click the lock icon just to the left of the slide thumbnail image in the Slide Properties panel.

Lock icon in Presenter

Now you’ve locked that slide. You can also toggle between free and locked navigation by clicking on the hyperlink next to Navigation in the Properties panel.

Locking slides in Presenter

You can also follow the Pro Tips we covered, above, for selecting multiple slides at once, and then change the Navigation setting in the Properties panel.

Locking an Entire Course

Building a linear course and want learners to move through it in a defined order, from beginning to end? You can implement this behavior by restricting or locking down navigation for your entire course. Here's the low-down on how to access this setting—and how to decide which navigation method to choose for your project.

On the Properties panel, click the gear icon at the bottom right of the Menu tab. When the Menu Settings window appears, click on the Navigation Restriction drop-down to choose from Free, Restricted, or Locked. Click OK.

Here’s a quick explanation of each of these options:

Locking Slides in Presenter

  • Free: Learners can click slide titles in the menu to navigate to any part of the course at any time. They can also view slides in any order, unless you’ve specified slide-level settings that restrict access.
  • Restricted: Learners can view the current slide and any slide they viewed previously, but they can't use the menu to jump ahead or skip over slides.
  • Locked: Learners can only view slides in the order you've designated. In other words, they can't use the menu to jump ahead or skip over slides, nor can they use it to go back to any previously viewed slides.

When to Use Which

Locking or restricting your course’s navigation means that learners must view each slide, in its entirety, all the way through before moving forward. These requirements may be a bit tedious and overly rigid for learners who are accustomed to more freedom in their e-learning.

Ultimately, the needs of your project, your organization, and your learners should guide your decision about which options to choose. There are pros and cons with every option. Keep in mind that Presenter gives you the flexibility to control slide-level navigation behavior, so you may not need to make your entire course a linear, locked-down learning experience. If possible, try to use locked or restricted navigation sparingly—just for the most critical information.

More Resources

Looking for more ideas or how-to tips for working with high-risk, high-profile training content? Be sure to check out these related articles.

What design challenges does your e-learning present? Share your story in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

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Will Findlay
Rebecca Patton
Dave Mendoza

We purchased the Articulate Studio 13 Pro in March of 2014. Our organization provides on-line compliance training. Our students are not allowed to fast forward through the courses (i.e. at 2 hour course must be timed and not allow pre-advancement of slides). I have developed classes with Studio 13 for online course offerings but, I was not able to use the program because it doesn't provide a "timed" approach through the software that would make the "Next" button appear when the developer of the training deems necessary. There is a "work around" (like you mentioned in this blog) which required the developer (me) to install the timings and a "Next" and "Previous" button in the presentation itself and disable the "Next" button in articulate. The work around looks unprofessional as it is... Expand

Trina Rimmer