There are always great conversations and debates happening in the E-Learning Heroes community. One interesting topic was recently brought up by new community member Max Hilpert (welcome to the community, Max!). Max posted a question in the forums (Navigation explanation page?) about navigation instructions, their use, and how to include them in courses.

For starters, what are navigation instructions? Quite simply, it’s the part of the course that explains how to navigate the e-learning course. These types of instructions typically point out the Next and Back buttons, as well as other buttons or features that the learner has access to, and explains how, why, and when to use them.

There’s a bit of a debate among e-learning developers about if, in this day and age, navigation instructions are still needed in e-learning courses. Phil Mayor and Bruce Graham point out that if courses adhere to web and design standards, most of today’s learners, who are comfortable with smart phones and digital devices, probably won’t require instructions to navigate through a course.

On the other hand, Ralf Baum and Jerson Campos point out that, despite this, there’s often at least a handful of users who really struggle with technology and need the navigation instructions. They also make the valid point that most people don’t spend their days looking at e-learning courses and that, for some audiences, it could be their first time ever taking an online course.

So, when you’re deciding whether or not to include navigation instructions, you need to consider your audience and their level of experience with technology and e-learning. If you do choose to include navigation instructions, here are a few tips from community members to help you make sure they contribute to a pleasant and smooth user experience:

Incorporate optional instructions

Cary Glenn, Jackie Van Nice, and Jerson Campos all agree that it’s best not to force the learners to view the navigation instructions, but instead, make them optional. That way, they’re available for those who want to read them, but can be bypassed by learners who feel they’re unnecessary or a waste of time.

Make instructions accessible at any time

Jackie Van Nice suggests using a lightbox slide which is accessible at any time by clicking on the link in the player. Give the link a clear and descriptive name such as "How to Navigate", and point it out early on so learners know it’s there if they need it. Then, if they bypass instructions at the beginning, but need them later, they know where to find them.

Include time-delayed prompts

Matthew Bibby offers the great idea of having a hidden prompt or hint caption that only appears if after a certain amount of time the user hasn’t clicked in the right spot. This way, the instructions only appear when a certain amount of time lapses, indicating that the user doesn’t know where to click or isn’t sure what to do next. Creative idea, Matthew!

These three simple tips can help make sure your next navigation instructions are helpful for your learners. Thanks to our great community for sharing their tips and tricks. Do you have any tips of your own for including navigation instructions? If you do, leave a comment below or join this discussion. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for more e-learning advice every day!

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