Scrolling in e-Learning Design: Best Practices?

Jan 10, 2013

Hey designers,

What are the thoughts out there on having to scroll (horizontal, maybe vertical) in an e-learning project?  I know web designers used to consider it a big big no-no, and I tend to equate web design principles = e-learning design principles. But it seems as though with the advent of tablets/iPads etc., people are becoming more and more used to scrolling.

What do you guys think about scrolling in e-learning? Good or bad practice?


8 Replies
Judy Nollet

As with so many design principles, "it depends." I think Storyline's scrolling panel is great for allowing one to explore a large image, instead of having to reduce the size so much it's of no use or having to break the image into multiple graphics.

For text, I generally write in chunks that don't need scrolling, because -- let's face it -- people seem to avoid long pieces of text and don't bother scrolling. Plus, I find it obnoxious if I have to scroll for just one or two extra lines; I'd rather have the text be a bit smaller and with no scrollbar. However, if certain information truly belongs as one big chunk, then, yes, scrolling is appropriate.

Years ago, writing on the topic of web writing, I created this acronym: KISS & TELL. It stands for Keep Intro Short and Simple & Then Expand Length Later. In other words, provide snippets that entice someone to read further. The more they follow a given path, the more interested they are, so the more text you can give them at a time. Of course, for many eLearning courses, they're supposed to read everything. But you can still provide a brief overview to get them ready for a big chunk of content.

Steve Flowers

Depends on your audience, I'd expect For me, I would prefer a scrolling article over a next-button chunked slide sequence for stuff that's just as easily read as a single piece. We tend to forget that people are adults

Slides have their place and *can* be excellent but not to break up a reading assignment. I think folks can get lost if connected elements are separated from the same view. In some (possibly many) cases, folks could benefit from having control over scroll. Even in a scrolling presentation, the participant still manages (has control over) the viewport that displays information and provides access to activities but it's within a single context. That single context connects concepts within a fluid view.

Here's another pattern to consider. Parallax scrollers have appeared over the last year that provide a pretty fluid experience. I think folks are less averse to the scroll than we assume they are. We've trained people to expect one thing, we can ease them into another if it makes more sense.

I have plans to make some single page contexts this year. These'll provide progressive disclosure for "digging and revealing" within the single context with opportunities to lightbox to other parts of the experience. A single topic / skill builder to a single page. These will scroll in the default mode.

Steve Flowers

Agree. Not as impressed with Soul Reaper except in that it's a little different representation of the pattern. Each of these uses scroll position / context to trigger different things. 

  • Transitions
  • Visuals
  • Audio
  • Appearance of video

It's almost as if the scrollbar can become a timeline controller. That's pretty cool It becomes a cue for time as well as space. Very few navigation controls on the computer are as fluid and connected as the scrolling mechanism.

Sara Kelly

I think scrolling works where the design is well thought through and is not just a screen of scrolling text.  I also think that using a scrolling design should be underpinned with knowledge of the user group and how they will access the learning. 

There are some great building tools out there that focus on a scrolling methodology eg, the work learning pool have done with the ADAPT tool which I have used for a client build.  

I haven't experimented much with using Storyline and scrolling designs, it is perhaps something worth exploring, or for putting forward for an ELH Challenge?


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