Fixed screen or scrollbar?

What is the view on whether e-learning should be presented in screens of fixed size or with a scrollbar?  Has anyone come across any evidence or research to show that one is a better method of delivery that the other?

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  • Hi Kate,

    We have been discussing a similar issue internally - but it is more on the accessibility of e-learning on various harware devices. We have authored e-learning that has been 800x600 and 900x700 and fixed the winodw on both occasions. Viewing these on a desktop PC or Macbook it viewes fine. However what happens when you have users wanting to use wide screen laptops and notebooks. We have found that the window (if unable to resize) is too big and so key navigational features as mentioned are cut off.

    So is there any way - to make e-learning browser compatible so that scroll bars can appear if the output is not fully viewable on screen? In such cases scroll bars do need to be avialable to the user.


  • Fixed size has always been the rule of thumb where ever I've worked.

    If you need to scroll then there is probably too much information on that screen for one 'slide'. As Nina states there is a danger that learners don't know to scroll down even if instructed to do so - people forget even the most basic of instructions, especially those who are not so tech-savvy.

    We also cater for the lowest screen resolution likely to be found in the organisation (800x600 in our case). It's as well to cater for the majority but if just a few in that minority are disengaged by the e-learning experience, that tends to be the message that spreads - not any positive ones from the majority.

    Technical Author
    • Thank you, all, for your feedback - it's much appreciated, and useful to hear practical examples and user reactions. Personally, I prefer a fixed screen for most situations, but I'm coming up against a lot of resistance from authors (who don't want to be constrained by a fixed screen size) and it can be difficult to find evidence/research to reinforce the point!
      Please keep your comments and views coming.
    • Fixed size used to be the normal setup, but I wonder now, if people have got used to websites to the point that scrolling down pages is the default thing to do. Like this site for example.
  • Kate
    We ran a small pilot study recently and asked for feedback on 4 modules that we developed. Repondents didn't complain about scrolling through feedback items, but they did complain when they had to scroll through content in order to complete a question or activity. They found it difficult to retain off-screen content long enough to be able to complete the activities set. So, I guess that it depends on the complexity of the content and what users need to do with the content that determines whether scrolling is OK or not.
    Good luck!
  • Hi Kate,

    Most of the e-learning designers will stick by the design principles that scrolling/scrollbar is bad and that e-learning screen should be devoid of any scrolling text. Thus, all the crisp, clear and concise writing guidelines.

    In my option, if we have loads of text on an e-learning screen, that requires a scrollbar, we are not using e-learning for its best. If we need to communicate text based information, in other words 'Tell mode' of instruction, we need to choose other mediums like web page, PDFs, etc. However, every now and then one comes on to screen that require few extra bit to get the message across, and in my option these few instances warrant for a scrollbar. But just those few odd times...

    Hope this helps.
    Kind regards,
  • Hi Kate, Always an interesting discussion. In our experience (Scandinavian retail bank approx. 23.000 employees) it is difficult to ensure that employees don't miss important information 'hidden' in the lower part of the screen. Often negative feedback on difficult navigation ('next' being located at the lower right hand corner of the screen) over shadows the actual learning experience.
    However, a start-up screen explaining that depending on screen resolution some of the material and/or navigation may be 'hidden' seem to have alieviated the problem.
    Using a fixed size can be a restraint for more creative e-learning development.
    Best regards
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