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Mastering Conversations About Locked eLearning Navigation with Stakeholders

We’ve all had difficult conversations with subject matter experts (SMEs) and project stakeholders. No matter how much we plan, there’s still a high likelihood of risk that causes a difficult conversation.

Even though every instructional designer is familiar with difficult conversations, perhaps none of them is as difficult as when someone asks for eLearning navigation to be locked. There are few instances where it’s okay to force employees to follow a rigid path and watch everything.

Locking eLearning navigation is a mistake, but we must communicate that properly with project owners and experts. Forcing employees to watch everything is aggravating at best and causes employees to miss out on important information because they tune out from boredom.

This post will help you navigate a difficult conversation on why the navigation shouldn’t be locked. With a bit of reasoning and not simply trying to force your way, you’ll have a higher likelihood of keeping eLearning navigations free and unlocked.

Having difficult conversations is part of the job of an eLearning developer and instructional designer.

These strategies will ensure you’re advocating for employee autonomy while respecting the concerns of your subject matter experts. Approaching learning as an experience that should be relevant and useful is more productive than approaching it as a required dump of information.

So, how do you have the right conversation and make your point while respecting where they’re coming from? How do you present your case without undermining their authority? This post will help you by providing a roadmap to articulate the benefits of keeping the navigation unlocked.

Understanding Stakeholder Concerns

You must understand where they’re coming from to make a case that helps them see alternate methods to locking the navigation. Stakeholders often advocate for locked navigation to ensure employees don’t miss critical content. They may worry that important information will be skipped or missed.

There’s also the perspective that an eLearning course would overwhelm employees with choices. That’s a very valid concern with a poor instructional design process. That’s not something you’ll do to employees, though, right?

Acknowledging these concerns can demonstrate empathy and build trust with stakeholders. Listening actively and asking questions is essential to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective. This will help you address their concerns more effectively when presenting your case for autonomy.

How To Approach The Conversation

As an instructional designer, there’s nothing more important than not being an order taker. In other words, don’t take orders just to reduce friction. At the same time, you must respect those you’re working with and pick your battles.

These are some of the things you can focus on to approach the conversation with tact and impact. The answer isn’t to simply say, “No, I’m not doing that.” The conversation must be approached with empathy and compassion.

Articulate the Case for Autonomy

Putting employees in control is one of the key benefits of eLearning. It’s nice that employees can take it when and where they want, but letting them make decisions is essential. If they are already familiar enough with a topic, they should be able to skip it.

Yes, that does mean they could skip other content, but that’s better than the alternative. What’s the alternative? They must go through all the content and tune out because they already know something. That leads to them missing the rest of the content, much more than allowing them to make the decision in the first place.

Treating employees like adults helps them want to learn from eLearning that benefits them.

Explain how allowing people to choose their path can enhance engagement and motivation. You likely have some examples of courses you’ve created that were successful without locked navigation; use those and share them. You likely also have feedback and analytics showing at least a bit of the story of their effectiveness.

Communicate Effectively

There’s nothing more effective than communicating with understanding and compassion rather than forcefulness. Don’t simply tell them no to locking the timeline. Tell them you can do it, but give them the reasons why it’s not beneficial for their content.

Communicate effectively with stakeholders by establishing a collaborative mindset from the beginning. Approach conversations with an open mind and a willingness to listen to their concerns.

Share Limitations of a Locked Timeline

eLearning courses with a locked timeline have more limited interactivity. They can’t always be as flexible in what content is presented and when. That means there are more limitations to branching scenarios that get complex and don’t always work well with a locked timeline.

Designing an eLearning course with a locked timeline will limit your ability to create effective and interactive eLearning. This will likely lead to a more boring course being developed, and nobody ever learns much from a boring course.

Address Concerns About Completion and Mastery

A common concern among stakeholders is whether employees will complete all the required content if given too much freedom. Address this concern by explaining how you will design the course in a way that ensures essential content is covered regardless of navigational freedom.

There’s a better chance that locked navigation will lead to less mastery while maintaining the same completion. Take away a person’s autonomy, and you take away their desire to thrive and grow. With locked navigation, a course suddenly becomes about minutes and completion rather than learning and mastery.

Address Misconceptions about Autonomy

One common misconception among some SMEs and stakeholders is that employee autonomy leads to a lack of structure and accountability. Counter this by explaining how quality eLearning courses ensure accountability and empowerment with well-developed learning objectives, relevant content, and assessments.

Address concerns about content consistency by highlighting how the course design will ensure that everyone receives the necessary foundational knowledge in an effective way that makes people want to learn rather than simply click through gated content after spacing out.

Wrap Up

Difficult conversations are, well… difficult. However, as instructional designers, we must learn to have them rather than avoid them. Don’t simply do what you’re asked without at least attempting to help employees.

You need to advocate for employees, and part of that is having a difficult conversation about why locking an eLearning course navigation should be avoided. Mastering conversations about locked eLearning navigation with stakeholders requires a thoughtful and collaborative approach.

By understanding your SMEs and other stakeholders’ concerns, articulating the benefits of employee autonomy, and effectively communicating the value of flexibility, you can transform potential conflicts into opportunities for innovation and mutual understanding.

Sharing success stories is a helpful approach. It helps you strike the right balance between structure and autonomy in eLearning design. You can create courses that empower employees while ensuring more mastery of essential content rather than less because of locked navigation.

Schedule a free consultation if you’re looking for a good eLearning development company that doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations but approaches them in a friendly manner. We specialize in building custom eLearning for technical training that helps employees use company technology.

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