How to get learners to navigate your course properly

I am relatively new at e-learning design, and kind of fell into it. I'm working on a massive project right now at work and need some guidance as I get started. What is the best way to get learners to interact properly with your course. i.e. to hover over something that has more information, to click on something that will take them somewhere else, to drop and drag...etc, etc., etc. Do you give voice commands? Or on screen directions? I've tried the on screen directions, but that doesn't seem to flow very well. Any advice, help, insight for this newbie would be greatly appreciated!!

Kathi Barden

9 Replies
Tim Danner

For course navigation, we normally have a slide inserted right before jumping into the content that allows the users to walk through the different aspects of the course navigation along with pointing out areas (like the Transcript) that we want them to be aware of. To present this, we use the Engage Label Graphic and place the points on top of a background screenshot of the interface.

In the past, we've also used a dedicated slide to explain (using text, audio, and visuals) to users how to interact with what they'll find on the next slide, be it a quiz or an Engage interaction.

You could go as far as having a short course (a couple of slides) dedicated to explaining the different navigation users will encounter and make it accessible to them no matter where they are in the course through some kind of control in the interface or on an individual landing slide. This will give them the option to go through it or bypass it altogether.

Zara Ogden

My best advice is to first determine the learner age group. Their experience and adaptability plays a very big role in how detailed you have to make your instructions on navigation.Myself our learner group is 50-60 and therefor require more help navigating or a less complex design. If however i was targeting 20-40 it would be safe to say that they will be ok with random clicks.

With respect to our take on how to inform learners on the navigation we typically include the following:

  • navigation video (LMS level)
  • dedicated slide to key navigation items (next, pause, previous...)
  • in the top tab menu a dedicated "help" slide
  • in audio prompts (select the correct response, drag the correct items to the box provided)
  • on screen after the question text (select the correct response, drag the correct items to the box provided)
  • giant arrows that direct navigation (these irritate me but are necessary)
  • Colour changes via states
Nicole Legault

Hi Kathi!

Thanks for posting your question. That's a great one! When it comes to getting your learners to "interact properly" with your course, you're probably looking to make sure your course has simple, easy-to-follow navigation. Here's an article with best practices for designing navigation in e-learning: The Secret to Clear and Simple Navigation that might help you out!

You might also want to consider looking into what's called "usability" and "user interface design" or UI Design. Usability and UI is all about how to create a great design that is intuitive and easy to navigate for the user (or learner). Getting a good grasp of those concepts might help you out with your e-learning designs!

I think the second link in particular has some great tips and techniques. Good luck with the project!!

Mary Freeman

Hi all,

I'm a newbie as well, and have struggled with this in the past, too. Thanks for all the great tips/links everyone!

One thing that I learned in a recent project is that it's sometimes best to minimize the interactivity on one slide, if possible. If there are too interactive elements on a slide, and/or they are unrelated, sometimes users forget about other interactions after having completed the first few. Depending on what software you are using, you might look into creative ways of limiting what the user can do until they've interacted with everything properly.

I also think using glow on the objects, or another highlighting method, is a great way to capture their attention. I tend to use both audio and on-screen text directions, as well.

Good luck!

David Anderson

Hi Kathi,

This is one of our most common questions. I have an upcoming weekly challenge based around this topic. For now, here are some more resources:

Tom Kuhlmann has some good posts on course instructions:

Articulate community discussions:

More resources

Phil Mayor

I lean very much in the camp of not adding ins ructions, I like to design my course so that it is intuitive. This means following UI guidelines so it is obvious what is interactive.

This doesn't mean I always succeed, and I have also worked with clients who want ins ructions for even the most obvious things onscreen.

Kathi Barden

Thank you all SO much for taking the time to respond to my question. You have all given me not just answers, but tools and standard practices that will help me hone my skills and become a better e-learning designer. One of the reasons I really pushed my company to purchase Articulate Storyline was because of t his community of people. Thanks again!


Bruce Graham

I always say this to clients when navigation comes up:

"Do these people own a cellphone, work a microwave, photocopy things, and / or search the Internet - because if they do, they can probably navigate what I'm going to produce for you".

I am not always successful, but usually they pause, and then say "Well...if you put it like that...". All I am doing is giving them a frame of reference, and they realise it is not really necessary in large % cases. Like Phil - design the requirement out, build simplicity in.

I created some modules for a client last year - with minimal navigation instructions. Their Pilot group LOVED the course. Somewhat ironically, the course was about a product delivered on a PC, and that product proved to be so confusing to the Pilot group, the client has gone back to a paper/pen product deployment.

Design is everything.