Views/ideas about adding instructions to courses

I'm sure this topic has been discussed before but more and more of my clients want me to include course instructions which spell out how to click the navigation buttons, use the video players, notes to make sure the sound is on etc.

I really don't like adding this type of instruction so typically avoid it whenever possible. I was surprised recently when my husband (who is about the smartest guy I know and is extremely tech savvy) was complaining about some horrible eLearning course he was forced to take. One of his complaints was that it was not easy to navigate and  lacked navigation instructions. I asked him if he thought instructions were important and he said they can be helpful especially the first time you go through a course. WOW.

So I am rethinking this a bit and am wondering what the rest of you think and if you have any creative/non intrusive ways for providing these instructions.

32 Replies
Jennifer St. George

Hey Nancy, 

Historically I've been thinking the same as you on the 'how to use the course' instructions and had the same experience with my husband (who is also very tech savy) this weekend.  I've been using the notes tab lately with other general information and was considering adding navigation instructions in the notes or as a .pdf in resources with just a reference at the beginning of the course 'if you need help navigating around, check out the resources area for help' or something like that.  What are your

Is that is enough though?  Some people want to be forced to go through those navigation instruction steps; others like to explore and find things on their own.  It's a tough call.

Michael Lacy

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Nancy,

 

I noticed the need to add instructions early on in my first course because unfortunately, all learners aren’t computer savvy. Things you think a learner will pick up onsometimes will go unnoticed. In my last course I created a button out of the left and right side of the screen. Some learners couldn’t pick up on what to do until I place a click here call out on both buttons.

 

Susan Johnson

We provide a pdf file as an attachment- "Course Navigation."   This way the learner can review the information if it is the first time they have taken any of our courses, or skip through to the next slide in the course if they are already familiar with the navigation.

Bruce Graham

Hi Nancy,

I would add an optional "Main Navigation" at the start, but then add voiceover and subtle (or obvious!) text "instructions" at any point where someone has to "do" something - especially in cases where the audience was not necessarily English first-language.

I think we need to tread the fine line between helping people who may not be as au fait with online learning as us, and treating them like idiots.

Bruce

 

Nicole Legault

Hey Nancy,

I experienced te same issue with an eLearning course I recently designed - do I need to include navigation instructions, or not? I *thought* that the navigation was pretty straight-forward (there's often only one button on the slide to click on ....) but when I did user testing and watched people complete the course, they would often be unsure of where to click, and be hesitant with their mouse.

At the same time, I didn't want to insult the more tech-savvy users who feel that they don't need instructions to figure out the course.

Solution: The very first slide of my course has my pretty course title and two clearly labelled buttons: "Navigation Tour" or "Launch Course". When you hover over Navigation Tour button, text appears saying something like: "If you'd like a detailed tour of how to navigate this course before you get started, click here." When a user hovers over "Launch Course" text appears saying "click here to get started without a navigation tour".  I find this has eliminated almost any issues users had up front about how to navigate.

I also indicate to users that there is a "Navigation Tour" link that is always available in the top-right corner of the Player (it opens up as a lightbox slide, and is the exact same tour they have access to at the start of the course). So if they don't take the nav tour when they launch the course, and later on are wondering how to do something, they can always reference the instructions.

Oh, and the navigation tour steps through all the different buttons and icons they will encounter and what their

functionality is. I also explain how to navigate forwards and backwards and how to use the Table of Contents.

=)

Phil Mayor

I try to add navigation instructions when it is not obvious.  Sometimes you cn have a bit of fun (if the client likes it).  

I recently worked on a project with an Instructional designer (who is not to far away from this post) where we created a phone that rang and you need to answer the phone, after a few rings it starts to nag you to answer the phone.

I try to be intuitive but sometimes need instructions and often they are forced on me by clients.

Recently had to add a Click next button to continue to a project that Nancy call my yeti project because the client felt it was not intuitive!

Bruce Graham

Phil Mayor said:

I try to add navigation instructions when it is not obvious.  Sometimes you cn have a bit of fun (if the client likes it).  

I recently worked on a project with an Instructional designer (who is not to far away from this post) where we created a phone that rang and you need to answer the phone, after a few rings it starts to nag you to answer the phone.

I try to be intuitive but sometimes need instructions and often they are forced on me by clients.

Recently had to add a Click next button to continue to a project that Nancy call my yeti project because the client felt it was not intuitive!

PMSL @ "...It is still ringing, it MUST be important...."

Todd Thornton

Great suggestions. There's currently a bias for having navigation buttons/player controls on the bottom of the screen. I don't think you can change those in most e-learning programs unless you get rid of them completely and do onscreen for everything.

If you use an app then the navigation can obviously change, but it's probably not a bad idea with the number of mobile/tablet devices to completely reconsider whether the player controls really need to be at the bottom of the screen. Even on computers, we've had people who opened up Presenter/Storyline stuff in a new window and it just happened based on their resolution and the size of the window the entire bottom player was cut off. Everybody reading this would likely look for a scroll bar immediately, but those can blend in and if somebody is not used to online training they can get stuck because if you say "To proceed click the play button at the bottom center of your screen" and they don't see one on their screen as it came up, it's potentially frustrating for them. 

You can set for full screen and make adjustments, but I can only assume there will be more "cutoff" screens since the device sizes/resolutions are all over the place. 

P.S. If you add navigation instructions to the audio, make sure you don't forget to adjust the audio when you change the player like yours truly has done in the past.  

Todd

Audrey Kumi

In my previous job, I always did include navigation instructions but I included it as a player tab and directed the learner to it. But in my current role, it has to be part of the course slides and this is because of our audience. Most of them are not technically savvy so we have the navigation instructions as a reminder and in a way make its easier for a new broker / member taking our course for the first time.

Judith Blackbourn

Even though my audience is not highly tech-savvy, they have all used software in their work.  

On my first Storyline project, the lack of control Storyline gives me over the menu was a bit frustrating. So I designed a graphic navigation panel combined with custom Previous and Next buttons, putting a slide at the beginning of the first course to explain how to use it.

However, following the sage advice of Nigel Ribeiro, I simplified the screen by going back to the standard Storyline menu. Don't feel that this menu needs explanation, so just added an animated arrow pointing down to the Next button on the first two screens of each lesson.

No complaints so far!

Nancy Woinoski

@Phil I'm still waiting to see that yeti project.

@Nicole, I am going to do something similar in this project but I'm posing it as a question with 2 radio buttons - one will take them to the nav overview and the other will advance them directly to the learning.

I am still having a hard time trying to figure out the level of detail I need to include - the interface is really basic so do I really have to tell them how to click a button?

I can't wait for all the tech savvy kids to grow up and join the workforce so that I no longer have to do this type of thing.

Steve Flowers

Another way to deal with this is with a help overlay. This is pretty easy to add to the master slide and could be varied depending on the type of help you want to provide. See the example attached below.

See the player / menu for the trigger on the help tab. This uses JavaScript since there isn't a tab trigger for modifying a variable. I could have used a single variable for this but like the loose coupling. Making another master for a specific activity would give you a different overlay for specific instructions.

Steve Flowers

A few cool things about this method:

  • It's there whenever it's needed but doesn't get in the way if folks don't need help.
  • It's simple and fast to build additional callouts.
  • You can dress it up with graphic elements that provide polish and depth. 

It's my favorite, nonintrusive way to provide instructions.

john faulkes

I once answered a support call from a corporate guy who was stuck on a particular screen. When i explained that (something like) 'you need to put your name into the box...you know the one which has some text near it saying put your name in here' , he replied 'Oh yeah. I see now. Sorry for being dense. I work in IT' !!

John.a.

Nancy Woinoski

john faulkes said:

I once answered a support call from a corporate guy who was stuck on a particular screen. When i explained that (something like) 'you need to put your name into the box...you know the one which has some text near it saying put your name in here' , he replied 'Oh yeah. I see now. Sorry for being dense. I work in IT' !!

John.a.


Too funny John. 

Todd Thornton

Nancy,

I'm referring to audio instructions that would need changing if you published to a different player. For instance, if you refer to the left side menu in your instructions and then later on you also publish without a menu. In reality, if you are using html5 the menu just takes up way too much valuable space on a phone so in some cases, you might publish two versions (menu and no menu) and let people select, but if you don't re-record the audio instructions they wouldn't match up.  Taken a step further if you are using apps the instructions would also need to apply regardless of how they are accessing the course. 

In the past when I adjust the player in some way,  I've sometimes forgotten how I described navigation in the audio file. Another example would be on the last slide if you say "Congrats. Please close out the window to continue forward in the course". You might have said that if you were initially planning on opening everything in a new window, but if you then change to embedding the presentation or your SCORM player changes, then it might no longer match. 

Maybe everyone else is not as forgetful as I am, but I've mostly moved away from adding audio specific navigation instructions at all on the first slide or on the last. I just create a page/resource right before the students access the first Storyline/Presenter player with an embedded Screencast explaining navigation, tips, keyboard shortcuts, etc.  I'd rather change one html (or PDF) page than redo multiple audio files and republish. 

Todd

Alicia Pennington

I like instructions, and it comes from the opposite point of view of many in this forum.  Instructions can be good for those that are "too" tech savy.  I asked my husband to test something for me one day.  He was not able to do it, because his expectations on how the learning should run, based on his knowledge and experience, was opposite of how it actually ran.  He over-thought the course. 

Phil Mayor

Alicia Pennington said:

I like instructions, and it comes from the opposite point of view of many in this forum.  Instructions can be good for those that are "too" tech savy.  I asked my husband to test something for me one day.  He was not able to do it, because his expectations on how the learning should run, based on his knowledge and experience, was opposite of how it actually ran.  He over-thought the course. 


There is an important point here, the course we build should conform to user interface guidelines.  Users expect certain conventions, look at how GUIs work.  If we contradict this we make our lives difficult and the users gt confused. 

We can all use Windows, why because it has common interface guidelines.  Mac OS X is the same follow these conventions and make your life easier.