To Lock or Not to Lock? – Survey Results

To Lock or Not to Lock?

Learner lock is a hot topic—the reasons to lock or not vary based on whether you’re the learner or not.

In the Spring 2021 Learner Lock survey conducted by Dynamic Training Resources (DTR), we found interesting differences in what industry professionals prefer when sitting in the learner’s seat and their choices when they develop courses for their teams. What follows is a summary of the responses we received.

Survey Methodology

The Learner Lock in eLearning survey was conducted in May/June 2021 by Dynamic Training Resources (DTR). Responses were gathered from diverse professionals in the eLearning industry via email and social media. This summary is based on 15 responses DTR received by June 15, 2021

Who Participated

The business professionals who participated included:

  • Developer
  • eLearning Manager
  • Content Developer
  • Senior Program Leader
  • Software QA/Editor
  • Director of Learning Design
  • Learning Systems Coordinator
  • Manager, Tech Recruitment Program
  • Training Manager
  • Global Manager

Industry Experience Level

Survey respondents had a wide range of experience in learning and development.

Industry Experience Level

What industry professionals prefer

46% of L&D professionals want the option to skip ahead when they have to take mandatory training.

What Industry Professionals Prefer

The question we posed to respondents was: When training is mandatory, do you like having the ability to skip forward? Why or why not?

There was an interesting split in the answers to this question. The majority of industry respondents (46.7%) said they preferred to have the option to skip ahead when they take training that is boring, or they know the subject well.

They also mentioned that they usually read faster than the narration, so they are ready to move forward before the narration ends.

Here’s what some of your peers said:

When training is mandatory, do you like having the ability to skip forward? Why or why not?

“If there is a lot of text on screen and no audio, it becomes tedious quickly, and the only way you would keep me from zooming through a course to get completion would be to lock the screens for a certain length of time before I could continue.”

“It’s not something I notice. I completed the course as assigned.”

“As a learner, I like to be able to fast forward or hear at a faster rate. As a developer, I only use learner lock if it’s a regulatory training.”

“Skip out of boredom. Content needs a hook for engagement.”

“Sometimes. Because sometimes the content is something I already know and am familiar with.”

“As a manager, I do not want my students to have that ability or function.”

“Not a fan of having to listen to every word before I can advance.”

“No, I expect online courses to be compact nuggets of valuable information. I do not want to miss anything.”

“Yes – I read faster than the narrator speaks and can skip through the content I already know.”

“Yes, if I know the subject, I prefer to move quickly through the material.”

“No – I feel I should go through it all.”

“Yes, to save time if the course bores me. I know this is cheating!”

“Yes, but only after I viewed it the first time with it locked. Otherwise, I will skip it to get back to work.”

“Yes. Many mandatory trainings regurgitate known information and are only delivered to check a box.”

How do you decide whether or not to lock a course?

When asked what factors respondents consider when determining whether or not to lock an eLearning course, 34.2% selected “whether training is mandatory.” 31.6% also selected the “training level that must be achieved/mastered.”

Note: Respondents that added their own comments were categorized under “other.”

How to Decide

Here’s what some of your peers said:

“Complexity of the subject matter.”

“We typically lock all pages so that learners complete activities before moving on, so they don’t “miss” content. I feel that the unlock helps trigger page completion.”


“I don’t generally ‘lock down’ courses at a global level (i.e., all or nothing). I prefer to implement selective progression based on key ideas and important content to ensure students can demonstrate knowledge transfer.”

“I don’t have learner lock courses as such, but I do have course tests/evaluations with a pass and fail score system.”

Concerns about unlocking courses

When asked what happens when eLearning courses are unlocked, most respondents (36.7%) said learners might skip important information.

Note: Respondents that added their own comments were categorized under “other.”


Comments included:

“I selected more learners may fail the test because a user may jump directly to the test and “try it” prior to viewing the course.”

“Many learners start the course, ignore it, and do something else until the course stops, and they have to click ‘Next.'”

“Learners skip materials then take the test until a passing score is obtained. None of the content is learned or mastered.”

“Depending on the content and modality of the course, this can vary wildly. Dense, video-based training is usually completed faster, with users skipping ahead. Inactive training and those with various multimedia tend to be more engaging and naturally slow the users’ pace.”

Results when courses are locked

When asked what respondents find when their courses are locked, 35.5% said that learners don’t skip important information, and 25.8% said that more learners might pass the test.

Note: Respondents that added their own comments were categorized under “other.”


Comments included:

“When courses are locked down for all content, users often are frustrated by the process and are less engaged. As a result, they tend to put it off until the last minute, which adds to their frustration.”

“I don’t have any courses that are locked like this.”

Does locking produce better results?

When we asked respondents if they think locking courses produces better results for training goals and what they thought the pros and cons were, the results were mixed.

“We typically lock all pages so that learners complete activities before moving on, so they don’t ‘miss’ content. I feel that the unlock helps trigger page completion.”

“Courses with locked slides where there are activities that provide key content are a must — learners who skip interactions or video content are less likely to pass knowledge checks on a first attempt and are less likely to retain information from the course — slides that are TELL only are not as important, but can be timed to unlock to audio track if there is one present.”

“I believe that locking courses can be frustrating for the learner. I prefer to keep courses unlocked unless it is related to completely new information, safety-related, or a process (step by step) procedure. It may be beneficial to “mix-up” the activities, and if there are a number of modules, some could be locked while others are unlocked.”

“With our courses, we feel this is information they need to know, so they should not be skipping. This can be information that a tech would need to fix a machine, and it could reflect in their warranty times and things like that, so, they should look at everything.”

“Unlocked. They are in charge of their learning and are adults and hope they will do what’s right. Sometimes they may already know the topic.”

“As a rule, we lock all our courses.”

“My preferred method is to lock the course for the first pass and then give the student the option of reviewing course content he may want to view again. Once the student has completed the whole course (and before the test), the learner lock is removed, and he is free to navigate/review any sections.”

“Based on user behavior, locking is the best option to engage learners in the content.”

“I believe that locking it the first time is important if there is a way to keep the learner lock off after.”

“This all depends on the content and intent of the training, but I generally prefer UNLOCKED courses. This puts the onus on the learner without ‘holding their hand’ throughout, which gives a more realistic metric of success.”

“Unlocked, generally – I think training is just training, locked or unlocked doesn’t result in a competent person, it results in someone with the knowledge to become competent with practice, supervision and subsequent validation. If someone skips a section, then it’s down to them, they are (unless they are already knowledgeable in the skipped content already) unlikely to achieve competence, and that may be to their professional detriment in the short and medium term.”

“Locking is better for the manager. We do not ask for a lot of training, so it’s important they complete what we do give them.”

“Unlocked. But certain courses where licensing or meeting standards required for the learner to gain PE credits may require locking.”

“I think LOCKING in combination with micro-trainings is far more effective.”

Mini modules or one long module?

Most respondents (60%) said they prefer to complete topics in one course rather than have the information chunked into several shorter modules.

Note: Comments that did not choose/include “chunked smaller sections” or “complete topics in one course,” were categorized as “other.”

Mini or Long Modules

Here’s what some of your peers said:

“If chunking is intuitive, I’m all for smaller, more digestible training; however, if the content is arbitrarily broken up, it can be confusing and frustrating.”

“If it is clear, it doesn’t matter. But if I have to hunt for microlearning OR are unable to bookmark in a longer learning course, it is a deal-breaker.”

“Depends on the content.”

“I prefer a variety; I also think the decision is related to the content rather than my preference.”

Training Audience

The majority of respondents (28.6%) reported that their training audience is between the ages of 21-29.

Training Audience

Learning Preference

When respondents were asked how they most effectively learn new information, the majority were kinesthetic (39.3%) or visual learners (32.1%).

  • Kinesthetic (39.3%)
  • Visual (32.1%)
  • Auditory (14.3%)
  • Verbal (14.3%)

Navigation: Branching or linear?

57.1% of respondents prefer branching when navigating through an eLearning course.



The consensus from our experts is that locking courses is the best way to ensure that organizational goals are met which requires learners to see, hear and complete all of the information in the training.

We appreciate the participation from all the eLearning professionals and hope you found some useful information to apply to future training!

We want to hear from YOU too!

What is your opinion on Learner Lock? Let us know in the comments below.

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