Familiarity vs. Novelty in e-Learning Design

Nov 27, 2012

Hi folks!

I'm curious as to the thoughts in the practicing community here regarding familiarity vs. novelty in e-learning design -- Specifically in terms of layout and navigation between learning objects/activities. I'm not writing anything or looking to publish... just looking to soak up whatever wisdom is out there.


7 Replies
El Burgaluva

Hi, Jedidiah

It's not my express intention to be rude, but...

If -- as you claim -- you don't have any real purpose for asking the question other than to quell a pondering thirst for knowledge, what kind of answer to you expect to get?

The phrasing of your question sounds very much like a question on a college paper to me.

Jedidiah Esposito

Hi, El

I included the disclaimer for the very reason that I didn't go into a lot of detail (as I'm interested in varied discussion.) Other than my guarantee that I'm simply curious as to the thoughts of the professional, practicing community, I can offer:

- I've already got a Masters degree and all the loans that come with it. 

- I'm very happily employed doing instructional design and like the idea of partaking in professional discourse. 

In terms of what I expect to get... How about any thoughts or ideas that the practitioners who patronize these forums might care to offer?

Jedidiah Esposito

Sayuj Ravindran said:

I think Novelty is welcome if its intuituve and interesting...it helps to break the monotony... for e.g. the Windows 8 / Windows mobile tile interface. I love the look and feel and its very intuitive too..

A very novel design where the user does not know where to click next and proceed is obviously not useful.

You make a good point. Novelty should be intuitive if it is to avoid distracting the learner. I'd agree that the mobile tile interface is intuitive, but have heard/read many complaints about it. Of course, there are those who will complain about anything. I'm curious of the process by which a customer/consumer base might be gradually broken from familiarity with out-of-date designs with minimal discomfort. As an early-adopter I expected Windows 8 to be different and have the tenacity to go at it. For many, however, that isn't the norm. 

Sayuj Ravindran

Even I have heard a lot of complaints about it...and I agree that there are lot more things to improve (atleast in the mobiles). But in terms of design, the very idea of having big squares as icons which acts as live tiles was very novel and interesting for me as a user. It was a welcome change from the small rounded rectangles in the Android phones.

Leaving the example and coming back to our topic, we have had conversations earlier in this forum about the need of having  'Navigation Instructions' in eLearning courses. I agree with many other users when they say, if the interface is quite intuitive (like the one Articulate Presenter has) there is probably no need for the instructions. But there might be people who are not good at being intuitive and are sceptical about clicking on a pause button.

The point is, if you have a novel layout and navigation in your course, give an optional link which explains how to navigate.

El Burgaluva

Hi, Jedidiah

As I said, I wasn't going out of my way to be rude -- although I concede my comment was fairly blunt. I'll have another shot...

Sayuj makes a fantastic point regarding balancing the "engagement reset" factor and the "hurting my brain because I now I'm not sure what I should do" factor.

I've seen a lot of "novelty" in various lessons over the years and I've never much cared for novelty-for-the-sake-of-novelty; it can often detract from -- or even derail -- the educational point of a task/activity. Kids may remember that Mickey Mouse was riding a skateboard with a bag full of mangoes, but fail to recall the learning point re: centre of gravity.

But you asked about layout and nav in online lessons...

I think certain conventions have built up and endured for good reasons. (Not all, obviously, but many.) For example, having the nav in a prominent position somewhere at the top (regardless of whether it's all to the left, across the top-top, in one row or two, etc.). At the very least, above the fold. For instance, if the only site nav were at the bottom of the page, people would work it out pretty quickly, but there's a reason the "nav at the top" familiarity/convention endures.

Re: layout between objects...

A point that can be applied to many other things on this topic, I think, is that when the location of objects across slides/screens is inconsistent, this "novelty" should be meaningful. That's to say, the change in location should denote some kind of readily discernible and relevant difference re: the "qualities" (used loosely) associated with said object.

Is this the kind of gear you were looking for?


El Burgaluva

An example on this very forum of what I consider poor usability -- because it "breaks the rules" based on our expectations from years and years of forum participation, etc. rather than being non-functional -- and offers no valuable "novelty" factor whatsoever... is the "Logout" link right at the bottom.

While it's "novel" insofar as it's different to 99.9% of forums I've ever participated in, I can never remember that it's there. I always go for the top-right, get stuck and realise I then have to scroll to the bottom. Thus the "novelty" does nothing to make the difference stick.

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