Our department has been surveying students in Distance Learning courses during Spring term since 2011 about their preference regarding consistency in layout and navigation in online courses. This year, we worked with Institutional Effectiveness to update the survey and changed the wording slightly. The question asked in 2011 and 2012 was “I like having consistent navigation and layout in different courses.” In 2013, we got a little wordier: “When I go online to view and work on my distance learning classes, I would like the navigation, layout and general appearance to look the same from one distance learning class to another.”
The results are pretty clear: students want consistent layout, navigation and design.
This question did not come out of the blue though. We’ve been building consistency in to our course design and review process and have put together a new course template and created navigation in Desire2Learn that provides that consistency. And it has been intentional. We know this is a best practice.
However, we’ve also allowed instructors the flexibility to make changes to the navigation, layout and design of their courses. Some faculty have expressed concern that students will get bored of the same layout and design, but our results indicate the opposite. Consistent layout and design is good because it doesn’t hinder access to course materials and activities.
If you’d like to see how you can get a copy of our template in your course, contact an instructional technology specialist. The full results of the Spring 2013 survey will be available online in mid-September.