Using non-linear navigation and avatars in eLearning

As an eLearning developer, there are certain ways in which I build courses that can become stagnated and habitual rather than thinking purely about the learner every time I design the screen that they will be interacting with. For example, it’s very easy to repeatedly end up with courses where the framework revolves around the user clicking ‘Next’ to view the next piece of information, or clicking a button to reveal further information about something they’ve just read.

There’s been a small ‘Get Rid of the Next Button!’ movement in the eLearning development community for a while. I’ve been a keen follower of any method that prise developers away from creating glorified PowerPoints and calling them eLearning. Our profession deserves better than this, and I’ve always been certain that creative people can think of more interesting ways of persuading a person to learn.

Interestingly, though, it’s easy to remove the next button and then almost end up adding it back in manually. Where does the user go next? To the next screen, of course. We can find ourselves drifting back on to that garden path very easily if we don’t keep trying to push away our bad habits and thinking outside of the box.

This is where non-linear navigation comes in. Imagine you have a topic, such as creating a Lean office. A Lean office is one that is efficient and devoid of wasteful processes and procedures. Everything happens in a way that doesn’t involve spending time, money and resources on unnecessary (and usually historical) ways of doing things.

The obvious way to present this information would be to tell the user some of it, and then progress on to the next part. Then the next. But, look out! It’s that sneaky Next button again.

To stop this happening, it’s best to think of this information as a ‘pool’ of information, rather than pages of text that needs to be broken down. If the information is in a pool, it means that the user can access it in any order they wish. They might find some of it useful, and not worry about the rest of it until perhaps later, when it becomes relevant.

In this example, I’ve tried to show how information can be accessed in a non-linear fashion. I’ve also added a gamification element of using ‘avatars’. The user gets to pick which office manager they want to hang out with. This example was created in Storyline 2.leanoffice

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