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?

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