What Are Your eLearning Pet Peeves? Here Are Mine!

I spend a lot of time here on my blog, on my free webinars, in my books, at work, and at conferences talking about what makes good eLearning. However, I rarely “flip the script” and talk about what makes lousy eLearning. Over the years, I’ve realized I have a few pet peeves when it comes to eLearning design, and when I encounter them, they make my skin crawl!

So, I thought it would be interesting to share my top three eLearning pet peeves and ask you to share yours!

eLearning Pet Peeve #1: Forced Navigation Tutorials

eLearning pet peeves

My first eLearning pet peeve has to do with something that is usually designed to help learners, but ultimately, ends up annoying the heck out of them. And that thing is forced navigation tutorials. You know you what I’m talking about. It’s those endless explanations at the beginning of a course, telling you how to click the Next button and how to adjust the volume. The worst part about these forced navigation tutorials is when you can’t skip them, and they seem to contain more content than the course itself!

Why are forced navigation tutorials stupid?

Well, it’s simple. If you have to explain how to use your course, it must not be easy to use in the first place. Learners know how to click the Next button to continue and how to adjust the volume of the course audio. Do you really need to force them through an explanation? I don’t think so!

What to do instead?

If you absolutely must have a tutorial on how to use your course (which you shouldn’t if you design an intuitive and easy-to-use course), let the learner decide whether or not they need the tutorial. Make it available to them and let them know where to get help if they get stuck. If they need it, they’ll use it.

eLearning Pet Peeve #2: Locked Navigation

eLearning pet peeves

My second eLearning pet peeve is similar to my first one, in that it has to deal with course navigation, which is: locked navigation. I’ve always been fascinated with the obsession some eLearning designers have forcing their learners to consume every last bit of their course as if the content is “life and death.” And yes, I realize some courses might be that important, but most aren’t—there’s no reason to lock down the navigation of an ordinary eLearning course on how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings with your employees, etc.

Why is locked navigation terrible? 

Adult learners hate it, and frankly, it’s a little insulting too. By locking the navigation of your eLearning course, you’re essentially telling your learners that you don’t trust them. It also might be a sign that your content is so disengaging and irrelevant to the learner, that you have to force your learners through it.

What to do instead?

Well first, unlock the navigation of your course. Then, once you’ve done that, focus on making your content engaging, self-directed, and relevant to your adult learners. If you do those things, your learners will want to go through the whole course on their own—no locked navigation necessary!

eLearning Pet Peeve #3: The Endless Quiz Question

eLearning pet peeves

My third eLearning pet peeve has to do with quiz questions, specifically what happens when you answer a quiz question wrong. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re answering a multiple-choice question, and you select an answer, click Submit, and receive feedback that you got it wrong and to try again. You return to the question, choose a different answer, click Submit, and again, you receive feedback that you got it wrong and to try again. So, for the third time, you go back to the question, select and submit yet another answer, and still, you receive feedback that you got it wrong and to try again. So, what are you likely to do next? Well, let’s be honest. At this point, you’re frustrated and fully prepared to start guessing until you stumble across the right [insert colorful expletive here] answer so that you can get onto the next question.

Why are endless quiz questions a bad idea?

Endless quiz questions are bad because they frustrate your learners and encourage guessing. Additionally, if you’re learners can’t answer the question after two or three tries, that means they don’t know the answer. Any attempts after that are usually guesses. This could also be a sign that you have a poorly written quiz question.

What to do instead?

The fix for this one is simple. All you have to do is limit the number of incorrect attempts. When I’m designing a course, I typically limit the number of incorrect attempts to two. After that, the learner will be provided the correct answer and be given the chance to move on. If you want to get fancy, you can use this as an opportunity to have the learner go back and review the learning content again and try answering a similar, but different question.

So those are my top three eLearning pet peeves? What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What are some of your biggest eLearning pet peeves? Share them by commenting below!

Additional Resources

Tim Slade
Tim Slade is a speaker, author, and award-winning eLearning designer. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, Tim has been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for his creative and innovative design aesthetics. Tim is a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, is a recognized Articulate Super Hero, co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series, and author of the The eLearning Designer’s Handbook.

8 Responses to “What Are Your eLearning Pet Peeves? Here Are Mine!

  • Gemma CV
    6 months ago

    One of my pet peeves is when my subject matter expert wants a course, but there’s really no reason to have one. They insist that an e-learning course is the best option, but they don’t want to track their learners or include any assessments. What’s the point of having a course, then? A video or a PowerPoint would serve their needs just as well, if not better!

    • Great point, Gemma! And I totally agree! I often encounter SMEs who use buzzwords like eLearning, gamification, mobile responsive, or microlearning without knowing what any of those things really mean!

  • Tim and Gemma, I agree with all of your pet peeves.
    Here’s one I’d like to add:
    A course that looks and feels like a copy ‘n paste of a policy, manual, or PowerPoint.

    • Yes! For some reason, folks believe that if you take text and add a Next button, you can call it learning. I don’t get it.

  • My pet peeve is lack of any guided navigation – simply putting content online without giving users any path or guidance assumes (you know the old ass/u/me) everyone thinks like you do…

  • One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m learning new software and the training course has a “now try it yourself” feature that starts with the login screen. What do they think – that everyone is a complete idiot and needs to be trained “how to log in”? Start the “try it” part with the unique features people need to learn to use your software correctly, and skip the universal stuff.

  • Hi Tim,

    big fan, first time commenting on your blog.

    My pet peeve is design from 90ties. No matter how good the instructional design is, if the course looks like from 1995, it is hard for me to motivate myself to go through it. Locked navigation is bad too. I agree about endless quizzes, with multiple choice it is relatively ok, you can guess quite fast. However, having 8 object drag and drop exercise with locked navigation is a whole new story :). I usually give up on those ones.

    • Hey Karlis! Thanks for reading and commenting! I totally agree with your comment on a course looking like it’s from 1995. I’ve always believed that folks learn with their eyes first…and if the course is ugly (even when using good instructional design), the learner is far less likely to engage with the content.

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