Killing the Next Button: Navigating eLearning Courses by Scrolling

You know the drill: open an eLearning course, interact with a screen’s worth of content, and then click Next. But is horizontal navigation really the best way for learners to progress through web-based training? Think about it: isn’t clicking Next an artifact from the days when PowerPoint slide packs were the most technologically advanced way to convey content? It gets the job done, but there’s another option.

Enter scrolling. It’s second nature for anyone who’s viewed a webpage, and integrating vertical navigation into your design allows you to make each content chunk as long as it needs to be, rather than as long as a fixed-height screen will allow. The interactions also feel fluid and elegant.

Want proof? Here are some recent examples of parallax scrolling, a graphics technique that enables background images to move at different speeds than foreground images. To see how this could be applied to online courses, check out Adapt Learning, an open source project dedicated to creating a scrolling-based eLearning-authoring tool. Here’s their demo.

Personally, I don’t think vertical navigation is a game changer—it’s not going to impact the substance of your content much. But it adds variety to your delivery, and makes it easier to design for multiple devices (since tablet and smartphone learners have to scroll more anyway).

And those are both good things.

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