Teaching learners to click!

How do you teach participants to interact with the course?  Our employees are: 
--seasoned professionals (i.e., averaging about 50 years of age)
--educated towards a preference for reading text and ignoring images
--used to only needing to click next

We have found that simply placing a button or image on the slide is not enough to indicate that they need to click and investigate.  Locking the next button seems a little pejorative.  Any advice?

16 Replies
Bob S

Remember movement draws attention...  If they are really struggling, try this: After a reasonable amount of time for reading content, consider having an image/text box/etc inviting them to click to next slide animate up from the bottom slowly.  Do this for first several slides, then have one saying "You've got the hang of it now, remember to click the X button when you are ready to move on from your current slide. Enjoy the rest of the course"

Fred Volkman

I also want to echo what Walt mentioned which is consistency is key.  Having the same type of interaction throughout the course (i.e. click on picture launches something, click "here" to learn more, etc.) has helped me with the learners that I work with.  I also work with "seasoned" employees and this has been an issue in the past with courses that I have designed.

Another option is to create a "Legend" slide in the beginning of the course.  This can detail what each symbol means, how the interactions are triggered, what the various icons will do when clicked, etc.  I include this in all of my courses as a way to reinforce consistency.

Steve VE

I sometimes add a slide near the beginning which addresses the navigation of the course. Click this to do this, click this to do this etc.

On some slides they can't proceed without clicking other objects. In that case I add a caption above the disabled "next" button stating that they can't proceed without viewing all the material.

Conor Twomey

I had the same issue with a new course I created, it is a site map for new hires so that they could learn more about their site and department. I found myself having to explain to a new hire (in person) how to navigate it; so, I created a navigation help video. They are given a choice to launch the video at the start of the module, and they can also access it at any point during the module from the "Navigation Help" menu. I think it illustrates clicking nicely, see attached.

David Manning

To avoid letting learners just "next" their way through the course, I set up a "contentviewed" variable, and triggers on each layer. The "next" button only advances the slide when "contentviewed" is set to true. If it's false, the users get a popup with instructions. 

In general I try to design courses so that learners interact with the content on every slide. If there are too many pages of static content without interaction, we actually condition learners to just "next" their way through the course. 

Tristan Hunt

Any ideas on how to un-condition learners? I have come into a company where the elearning was very much page turners and there is a culture of just compete the modules to get the tick...

I am doing everything I can to make the modules more interesting and engaging but don't want to lock down the navigation as that goes against our learning principles.


Bob S

Hi Tristan,

Think: Carrot and Stick....   On the carrot side, sounds like you are already looking to make things more engaging and relevant for the learner, great!  

On the stick side, You don't have to completely lock things down by time on slide  or in a linear path. But consider doing things like requiring answers/input in order to access certain content areas for example. Could be a quizlet, could be an interaction they have to manipulate, etc... and make them fun. 

Combing both carrot and stick measures, and also letting them know up front this course is different and they will have to pay attention to even complete the course (not just pass the quiz after a dozen tries), is usually a winning strategy.

Hope this helps!

David Manning

I think it comes back to this: to maximize engagement, content has to be relevant, compelling, interactive, and delivered in an appealing way. Participants need to be engaged throughout the learning process, and given opportunities to interact with or apply the content in relevant situations. 

There's likely some kind of gap causing learners to click through the content without learning, so it's worth doing some program evaluation and soliciting learner feedback to understand the cause. Without further information I'm taking some shots in the dark, but here are some good general practices which can help:

  • Ensure your objectives are sound and relevant to learners
  • Develop a "what's in it for me" for the learner; show them the value of what they're learning
  • Create engaging interactions and compelling content, rather than make-work interactions (e.g. "click all the boxes to get your MacGuffin" is make-work; a well crafted exercise requiring learners to explore different domains to solve a problem is engaging)


Tristan Hunt

We have a large number of modules and the old ones were not engaging at all so they have a culture of get it in get it done as fast as possible and get the tick in the box so my manager stops hassling me to do the module.

I have had some great feedback on the changes but even before they open the new modules to see the difference they already have it in their head that this is going to be a chore.

I guess what I am looking for is ideas given my limited circle of influence (although almost full control over the content and system) how to help shift that culture.


Steve VE

Changing a workplace culture is a difficult thing to do. Does this apathetic attitude to training extend to the classroom as well?

If it does, would improving the classroom experience be an easier avenue? If they have a good experience in the classroom can you then transfer some of the enthusiasm for training to the e-learning?

If they are enthusiastic about in-class training are they enthusiastic because of the material or because they get a "day off" from work? If they are there for a day off you have another hill to climb. If they truly enjoy being there can you incorporate some e-learning into a classroom situation? Maybe a quiz? Or maybe create some good simulations that can be used by instructors or participants?

Just some thoughts. If there is culture problem with training in general you'll likely need to find allies to fix that first. If the problem is just apathy toward e-learning then you can probably get some help from the in-class instructors. Of course, this all assumes you have in-class training and instructors.

Scott Wiley

I would suggest looking into the CCAF model of instructional interactivity, proposed by Allen Interactions. They have some great examples on their website (http://www.alleninteractions.com/elearning-instructional-design-ccaf).

Context: What is the real-world situation that the learner would find themselves when using the knowledge. This can be as simple as using images that match a situation (office, sales counter, etc.)

Challenge: Convert "your" learning objectives into "their" perspective. Perhaps begin a scenario-driven story that sets the stage ("It was a dark and stormy night") and describes the upcoming activities that will have the learners make decisions with consequences.

Activity: Create the activities that mimic real-world activities.

Feedback: Can be in the form of "consequences" of what happened based on choices made in the activity. Can also be in the forms of immediate feedback or delayed feedback with recap of the steps they took.

Using this model can make it where guessing can actually take longer than paying attention to the material.

And while you may get some negative learner feedback from those used to the "Text and Next" courseware, the majority will love the interactivity and be able to more easily recall from long-term memory because they learned by doing.

Jiayu Dudderidge

Great topic, we have been discussing this at work recently.

So far, I have used

  • flashing buttons 
  • storyline default Marker
  • "how to use the interface" button to show overlay
  • "click here to continue/reveal" clickable text
  • Journey ( step by step, one interaction triggers another)

I agree with the earlier comments that continuity is key and movement always draw attention.

In addition, unless the interface or the interaction are very complex (which I always try to avoid anyway), I would try to find a solution that no instruction is required, the intuitive design is always the best.

Jack Schofield

I would highly suggest looking at your table/phones UI.  Most applications do not provide support for how their app works. But because of the UI design most user young and older understand how to navigate their mobile/tablet apps. Walt Hamilton post is spot on and I suggest keeping buttons location and look the same.