On Our Love-Hate Relationship with the Next Button

Anchal is the founder of Design Storm (www.designstorm.in), an e-learning company that provides innovative, simple and effective corporate learning solutions.

“Click Next to Continue.”—This seemingly harmless instruction describes e-learning in ways that nothing else does. It says that e-learning:

Continues to be Linear
Linearity has its benefits, and that is why we’ve loved the Next button.

However, adults learn non-linearly, from colleagues, from our own experiences, searching on Google, and referencing various resources. If you’re in the “adults don’t learn linearly” camp, chances are that you hate the Next button.

Is Pushed Top Down
Learning professionals are the creators and owners of content. The Next button is a crucial enabler here. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that we’ve given them all the information they need to do their job. Sometimes we even block the Next button to ensure that they go through everything.

On the other hand, haters of the Next button have been asking—Do they really take our content seriously? What about making the learning learner-centric? Learners should be the creators and curators of their own content. Break the Next button, only facilitate learning.

Is Following the Tried and Tested Navigation Methods
There used to be courses made in Flash with a neat GUI and instructions on how to use the GUI. We believed in the myth that a “scroll” is not user-friendly. A lot of e-learning still follows this tried and tested navigation method. The Next button is king.

When we, however, optimize the content for mobile devices, the Next button loses its charm. Responsive courseware lends itself very well to a more web-like experience. In mobile devices scrolls, swipes, hyperlinks etc. define our online experience. For courses to be linear, do we really need the Next button? Are there other, content dependent, navigation methods we need to incorporate even in linear e-learning?

Is Instructivist to an Extent
We like to inform, provide knowledge and carry our learners through the courses with instructions that will prevent them from feeling lost. The Next button enables this journey.

We ask—What happens to the Next button when we move away from instruction? How does Next button based e-learning adapt when we look at learning by doing, or learning through constructing our own meaning within the context of formal online learning?

Is a One-Way Stream
Online learning can enable a few different types of interactions, such as:

  • Learner to content interaction
  • Learner to learner interaction
  • Learner to expert interaction

Next button enabled e-learning definitely allows “learner to content” interaction. It can be engaging, entertaining, and gripping. Sometimes this content allows learners to comment and rate too.

However, this approach is mostly a one way stream. It’s great for content consumption. Many haters of the Next button feel that by allowing only one type of interaction, e-learning misses out on a lot more that the online medium can do.

I personally feel there are certain topics that should be taught linearly. However, it’s time we started choosing that content carefully. E-learning needs to break some moulds. It does need to utilize the online medium better by allowing people to learn in the way we work—through chaos, through human interaction, and through a collision of several ideas.

Is there a balance we can strike between linear learning and the chaos of the real world? How can that be achieved?

Recap of FocusOn Learning Conference: Interview with Candelario Lopez

Today’s blog post brought to you by crew-member Meg Bertapelle, Sr. Instructional Designer of Clinical & Product Education at Intuitive Surgical.

The FocusOn Learning Conference, formerly known as the Mobile Learning Conference, was held in Austin, TX last week. My team member, Candelario Lopez, a fellow Sr. Instructional Designer of Clinical & Product Education at Intuitive Surgical, attended and brought back some great insights for our organization. He’s happy to share his impressions and takeaways with us today:

What tech were you most excited about?

Augmented reality – bringing the user interface and display out of the monitor & into the real world. Keynote from Wired Magazine’s Editor in Chief, looking at companies’ roadmaps for future technologies – lots of investments in augmented reality, virtual reality & mixed reality. (Mixed reality is sort of like some combination of realities.)

Interactive video – branching and assessment/scenarios in video format, allowing the user to dictate their learning path & allowing assessment/evaluation at the time of consumption. Provides more user control and engagement. Study: interactive video provides engagement opportunities through a delivery method that is easier to access and consume (vs. e-learning) and the study saw positive results in terms of retention.

Performance support – access to the right content at the time of need. Make sure that you evaluate the end-users’ process to make sure the performance support content is delivered effectively & is the right amount for that task/need. Case study: threw stuff together to be performance support, but was wrong medium, so couldn’t access it when they needed it.

The Good, The Bad, the Ugly & Beyond

The Good:

Path-based conference organization strategy:

  • Video
  • Mobile
  • Performance support

This allowed you to attend sessions geared toward what you want to accomplish in your organization.

Quality of speakers & sessions was very good. The speakers had real-life experience, sharing case studies and real experience or research & planning for future implementations. This allowed you to take away lessons learned from their experience to implement in your own organization. Both keynote speakers were well-respected in their industry: Scott Dadich, Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, and Big Data analyst Soraya Darabi. They provides insights into their respective fields & where the industry is going in the near & distant future, helping to future-proof your training strategy at your organization.

Case studies that directly applied to our organization. Specifically, the Nature Conservancy laid out their strategy for learning materials, talked about the strategy as a whole, as well as planning and implementation, the tools and training delivery methods they used. They were also able to share evaluation outcome data: higher use of performance support materials, users’ knowledge of topic increased, reduced troubleshooting calls from users, have been asked to use same structure for other applications & topics.

The Bad:

If you have experience with these topics, getting to the real meat of what you’re looking for – like more advanced topics – was more difficult, have to outline your own agenda using the session details.

The Ugly:

Couple of sessions that focused on the “clicky-clicky bling-bling” aspect of the technologies, but no meaningful applications.

Couple of sessions that were all theory & research with no real-world application discussions.

The Beyond:

The way we consume content is leaning more and more towards performance support, and just-in-time content. Augmented reality looks to be a leader in supporting this transformation.


Performance support is the right way to go, assuming you evaluate the users’ job processes & support them effectively.

Augmented reality is real. Companies are investing resources into creating real, serious approaches to learning solutions.


Did any of you attend the FocusOn Learning Conference? What would your answers to these questions be?  Please share during #chat2lrn on Thursday, June 16 at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern, 4pm BST.  See you there!