Matthew Bibby
Matthew Bibby

Don't Disable That Next Button, Do This Instead...

In this series, we will look at a different way to make sure that your learners engage with the essential parts of your course, without restricting the navigation.

Matthew BibbyMatthew Bibby

While the idea of disabling the Next button until an activity has been completed might seem like a good idea. The person completing your course disagrees.


It is incredibly frustrating when an eLearning course forces one to view all of the information on each slide before they can progress. It doesn't just insult our learners, but actively discourages them from ever dipping back into a course to quickly double check some information.

Now, you and I both know that there are better ways of handling this.

We'd love to make every course so engaging that our learners would be so deeply hooked that they would be on the edge of their seat almost salivating. We'd love for them to be so invested in the outcome of a scenario that they wouldn't dream of skipping ahead... but then reality sets in.

The workload, the budget, the lack of resources, the project team who doesn't believe that scenarios could possibly work, The Big Boss Person who insists that we just "Get it done™".

So we give into The Big Boss and we build a traditional course.

Then, before we know it, we are being asked to disable the Next button until the learner has viewed every bit of text on a page or listened to every word of audio. Because clearly, that's the only way that the legal department will ever be satisfied that everyone has really learned everything they need to know about {topic}!

But really, this one is on us.

We are the ones who haven't been able to demonstrate more effective ways of engaging the learner. We are the ones who haven't been able to sell the benefits of scenario based learning. We are the ones who haven't come to the table with a better way of handling this.

That means that ultimately, we are the ones who are making the decision to restrict the navigation.

Sure, we've been told by The Big Boss, but really, our learners deserve better than this. Don't leave them frustrated, clicking wildly around a slide hoping to find that thing they need to click that'll make the Next button appear. That's not fun for anyone.

We need a better solution.

Something that'll allow the learner to freely navigate through a course. Something that will keep The Big Boss happy. Something that'll help the legal department sleep easy knowing everyone has learnt the essentials, while still allowing us to "Get it done™" despite the workload, budget and lack of resources.

This is that solution.

That's a Pretty Big Claim™

Yes, but it is one that I'm quite comfortable making. This technique has been used in over a hundred courses with a bunch of different clients. Many of these courses have been completed by thousands of learners and I know that this solution has made their lives a little bit nicer, even if only for a moment.

Now, I haven't quite figured out how to measure the amount of frustration saved, but I suspect it would be equal to at least 3 empty swear jars, 17 unkicked cats and 23 fewer cigarette butts on the pavement.

(If you have ideas on other ways we could measure frustration saved, let me know in the comments).

This solution has also been shared privately with a number of other developers, who have successfully implemented this in their courses as well.

Of course, it is not necessarily the right solution for every course, but I think it is something that you will find to be really beneficial.

So, How Does This Work?

Well, it takes a little while to explain! It's not hard to build once you understand the process, but explaining that process is a bit involved.

So instead of providing complete details in this article like I normally do, I'll send you a series of emails that will look closely at each step of this process.

This will allow you to become comfortable with each step as we go and allow me to go into the detail necessary to explain this properly.

So, let's look at what we will be covering in this series!

Getting our Storyline course ready:

Setting up our final slides:

Customising our interactions:

How Can I Get These Details?

If you have previously subscribed to email updates from my site, these details will be sent to you over the next week. You don't need to do anything else to make this happen.

If you aren't currently subscribed, you can do so via the form below. Once that's done, you'll get the first email immediately and I'll also let you know when I publish new tutorials in the future.

If you'd rather not subscribe to email updates, that's cool, I get it. Just drop me an email and I'll manually send you one email that contains all of these details in a week or so, but I won't contact you again in the future about new tutorials unless you ask me to.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. You mentioned creating really engaging scenarios at the beginning of this article. How can I do that?
A. Spend some time learning about scenario development from Cathy Moore. And if you really want to go deep and look at evidence-based guidelines for scenario-based eLearning, grab a copy of Ruth Clark's Scenario Based e-Learning book. This is a brilliant book, it takes years of instructional design research and translates it into practical advice on how to craft effective eLearning scenarios.

Q. Surely it is possible to create a brilliant course regardless of the workload, budget, lack of resources, etc?
A. Yes, of course. Here is a great activity-based course that was developed by Learnnovators and Clark Quinn under exactly these kind of constraints. That being said, I think we both know that this isn't always possible, so it is good to have options!

Q. What's up with all the ™?
A. I get bored easily. Things like the random trademarking of Very Important Things™ makes me smile. You should try it, it's fun!

Q. You're silly.
A. Yes, and that is still not a question.

Q. Why haven't you provided the full tutorial here? You normally do...
A. As mentioned earlier, this process takes a while to explain thoroughly. I don't want to short-change you by trying to condense it down into one article, so instead I'll send you more detailed information in a series of emails over the next week or so. This will allow you to become comfortable with each step as we go and will also allow me to go into the detail necessary to explain this properly. Don't worry, we'll return to our normal complete-tutorial-in-one-post programming next week!

Q. My question isn't listed here, what should I do?
A. As always, you can leave a comment below or contact me. But as your question will probably be answered by the detailed emails that I'll be sending you, you may want to sit tight. Oh, and if you aren't already subscribed, you should do so so you don't miss out on those details!

Finally, if you think others in your network might be interested in learning about this approach, please share using the share buttons below. Thanks!

Matthew Bibby

Matthew Bibby

I'm Matt. I'm an eLearning Consultant. I help people like you develop memorable, engaging and profitable training programs. What do you need a hand with?