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The Pitfalls of Locked Navigation in eLearning Courses

Posted on October 5th, 2023 in E-Learning.

In the realm of e-learning, navigation plays a pivotal role in guiding learners through the content and ensuring a smooth learning experience. However, the concept of locked navigation, where learners are constrained to follow a predetermined path through a course and are not able to progress without interacting with all features, has drawn considerable criticism from learning experts and the e-learning community in general. This article explores what locked navigation is, why it is deemed ineffective, and presents key reasons for its limitations. Additionally, it outlines best practices for navigation in e-learning to enhance learner engagement and effectiveness.

Understanding Locked Navigation

Locked navigation refers to a design in e-learning courses where learners are restricted to a specific sequence of content or forced to watch videos with no control over progress. They must complete each section before moving on to the next. This design approach often uses a linear structure, mandating learners to progress in a prescribed order. This lack of flexibility in course progression can hinder a learner’s ability to explore content at their own pace or revisit specific sections as needed.

The Ineffectiveness of Locked Navigation

 1. Lack of Personalisation 

One of the primary drawbacks of locked navigation is the absence of personalised learning paths. Learners have varied learning needs and preferences. Some might grasp certain concepts quickly and prefer to move forward swiftly, while others might need more time and practice. Locked navigation disregards these individual differences, potentially resulting in disengagement and frustration.

2. Reduced Engagement and Motivation 

Locked navigation can lead to reduced engagement levels as learners feel compelled to follow a predetermined route. The lack of choice and autonomy may diminish their motivation to complete the course. Engaged learners tend to absorb and retain information better, making a flexible and interactive navigation system crucial for sustained interest and enthusiasm.

3. A Disregard for Previous Knowledge and Experience

Locked navigation in e-learning disregards a learner’s previous knowledge and experience by enforcing a rigid, linear progression through course content. This approach assumes a uniform starting point for all learners, regardless of their existing understanding of the subject matter. Learners with prior knowledge may find themselves frustrated and disengaged, forced to revisit concepts they are already familiar with.

On the contrary, those with less background may feel overwhelmed or rushed, struggling to keep pace with the predetermined learning path. Consequently, this lack of consideration for a learner’s unique starting point hampers the potential for personalised learning and inhibits the effective utilisation of their prior experiences and expertise.

4. Impaired Learning Experience 

Learning is most effective when it is learner-centric and accommodates their unique needs. Locked navigation impedes this by forcing learners through a fixed sequence, potentially bypassing concepts they struggle with or rushing through important content. Consequently, the learning experience is compromised, impacting knowledge acquisition and retention negatively.

5. Stifled Exploration and Critical Thinking

In e-learning, exploration fosters critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Locked navigation limits a learner’s ability to explore related concepts or supplementary materials that could enhance their comprehension. By stifling this exploration, the opportunity for holistic learning diminishes.

Navigation Best Practices

To create an effective and engaging learning experience, e-learning designers should consider implementing the following best practices in navigation:

1.  Intuitive Navigation Design

Design the navigation system to be intuitive and user-friendly, allowing learners to easily understand how to progress through the course. Use clear labels, icons, and a logical flow that mirrors real-world processes. Include a menu system, so that learners can easily move between sections and find learning information when and where they need it.

2. Flexible Learning Paths 

Offer learners the freedom to choose their learning path based on their preferences, prior knowledge, or specific learning objectives. Providing multiple entry points and alternative routes through the content encourages a more personalised and engaging learning experience.

3. Create Modules for Larger Topics

Splitting a long e-learning course into modules is highly beneficial as it enhances the learning experience by breaking down complex content into manageable and digestible segments. Each module can focus on a specific topic or skill, allowing learners to concentrate on one aspect at a time. This division facilitates better comprehension and retention, reducing cognitive overload that might occur with a lengthy, uninterrupted course.

Additionally, modular design permits learners to pace themselves, enabling flexible scheduling and better adaptation to their individual learning preferences and time constraints. It also promotes easier tracking of progress and facilitates revisiting specific modules for reinforcement, fostering a more effective and efficient learning journey.

4. Clear Progress Tracking

Incorporate visible progress indicators to help learners track their advancement within the course. This not only motivates learners but also provides a sense of accomplishment and a clear understanding of their progress.

5. Assess Learning and Knowledge 

A flexible approach to content does not mean that you should ignore the learners gain in knowledge. It’s important to assess how much of the content they understand and so a robust assessment process is critical to gauge comprehension.

6. Responsive Design for Accessibility 

Ensure that the navigation system is accessible and responsive across various devices, making it easy for learners to navigate regardless of the platform they use, including desktops, tablets, or smartphones.

7. On-Demand Help and Support 

Where possible, include easily accessible help features, such as tooltips, pop-ups, or a dedicated help section, to provide learners with guidance and support whenever they need assistance during their learning journey.

In conclusion, the limitations of locked navigation in e-learning are evident when considering the diverse needs and preferences of learners. To enhance engagement, motivation, and the overall learning experience, e-learning designers should prioritise intuitive and flexible navigation designs that accommodate personalised learning paths. By implementing the best practices outlined above, e-learning courses can optimise navigation, leading to more effective and enjoyable learning experiences for learners.

Learner Bubble provide a range of e-learning courses, utilising the best methodology and principles available. Our design team have a wealth of experience in the development of learning content and put our energy and enthusiasm for great learning into each and every learning product we build.  Contact us today to find out how we can help you achieve your learning aims.