Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

This content was published: September 9, 2013. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Our students prefer consistent navigation and layout in online courses

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Our department has been surveying students in online 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.

Student preference for consistent navigation and layout in online courses.
Preference 2011 2012 2013
strongly disagree 4.3% 3.3% 1%
disagree 2.1% 2.1% 1.2%
neutral 11.5% 9.1% 8%
agree 35.2% 35.1% 20.6%
strongly agree 46.9% 50.4% 69.3%

Chart represents data located in preceding table

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.

About Andy Freed

I'm the Director of Learning Technology & Innovation (LTI!), where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services teams. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in several positions, from tech... more »

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