Blog Date: 
Friday, September 27, 2013

At Desire2Learn, we really want to make it so that your focus is on taking your classes and learning the material you're in school for, not having to figure out how in the heck you're supposed to use the thing that's standing between you and those materials. So, we've tried to make navigating our stuff as consistent as we can. Here are some tips that should apply across the board to help make getting around our system a breeze.

Headings and Landmarks are Your Best Buddies

We've tried to provide lots of headings at logical places throughout, so you can skip from area to area. Something that we try to keep standard is only using one heading at level 1, and positioning that heading where the main stuff starts. So, if you want to get straight to the new content, just find the heading level 1 on the page, and you're off to the races. But if you did want to get up to the top of the nav bar, there is a heading for that too. We also try to make our heading levels make sense. So, in discussions, the forums are always heading 2, and the topics are heading 3. So you know by the heading levels which topics belong under which forums.

Another navigational tool we use is something called ARIA landmarks. We put them around areas that we think have a special role, such as a search box, the navigation bar, or the main area where the main content is. Most screen readers have a navigation quick key to move by landmark, so feel free to use them to help you move through the system quickly.

Links That Stand On Their Own

We try to make our links make sense on their own, so if you know the link you're looking for, it should be easy to locate using the links list.

Hey! Where Did Content/Discussions/Insert Missing Link Here Go?

In newer versions of our system, we have added the ability for instructors to lump groups of links together in link groups that look like little menus. This was done in the hopes of making the page less cluttered with links, but if you don't know what you're looking for, these could be frustrating. These can be found if you navigate by button. Press enter on the button, and the links in that group will appear.

The MiniBar: No, It's Not Where The Drinks Live

One more tip for quickly finding valuable information is to be familiar with that little set of buttons at the top of the page. We call these the MiniBar. These are the select a course button, the buttons to indicate if you have any messages or updates to find, and the button to manipulate stuff to do with your account. They are the first things that you will find on the page, and they let you do things throughout the system that you used to have to go back home to do. Try finishing an assignment in one course and then zapping straight to another course using select a course. How about editing your settings or profile from anywhere in the system. How about doing a quick check to see if there have been any news updates or email messages?

That should at least get you started, and are good things to fall back on if you're ever confused. For more tips and tricks, consult our screen reader accessibility guide. We try to update it as our system is updated, and as things change with screen readers.

I hope this helps to make navigating our learning environment a more predictable experience. Good luck with whatever you're studying!