IMG_20170403_142455617_HDRFive of seven students pulled, not pushed on this door to exit. This was an easy observation while watching the door as I chowed down on my lunch. If only we could easily observe the troubles students have navigating around online courses.

The best software and apps are intuitive, if you know one Microsoft product you can navigate pretty easily around all products. This should be a goal for us as instructional designers. The word intuitive is relative, but trying to make courses easy to navigate, or intuitive, for students should be a priority in instructional design.

When putting together an online course sit back and consider:

  • What will students need to know at the start of the course, i.e. Overview, rubrics, grading scheme, outcomes, objectives, contact info and introductions? Put this at the top of the menu.
  • What will they need to complete the course, i.e. readings and discussions? Do they flow in bite-sized modules that house topics together?
  • How will students be assessed? Are quizzes, tests and assignments located near the lesson’s content, or do students have to navigate to other folders to find related content?
  • What will students need on an ongoing basis? Open communications should always be easily accessible as should grades.

Granted, some students navigate by content, some search chronologically. Offering redundancies address both types of students. Redundancy is also a word to keep in mind when building. If you house your discussion boards in one large folder or content repository then make a link to it in the week’s or unit’s folder. Try keeping discussions separated so students don’t have to hunt one discussion, just use a link. For example, they can find a discussion in the context of their week’s readings in Week/Unit 4 module.

Refining an online course is a never ending process, so at the end of each semester take a walk through it and see if something seems disjointed. If it does for you, the creator, then it can be a big hurdle for students; intuitive designs leads to better learning outcomes when students can focus 100% of their grey matter on the course content, not navigation.


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