I'm working on an application for studying a course. Users will use it to augment their learning, and will read course information, as well as do some tests, etc.
The current design has a left-column on every page. It would need to take up about a quarter of the horizontal width, based on the current design.
While I feel that the current design, on a desktop, already has enough horizontal space for reading the course materials, I feel it would be easier to read if the left column was hidden when the user is in "reading mode". The body text would remain at the same font-size and line-length.
The left column contains two side-bar navs, each of which link to content which may be relevant to text being viewed, but they occur further up the hierarchy, so they aren't immediately relevant.
I was thinking having a handle for a slide-out behaviour might be the way to go.
The core navigation would still be usable through an interface along the top of the page. However, this is instinctive on my part, I don't have anything to show to my colleagues to give them confidence in the idea. I've shown them a rough draft, but they're academics and won't believe anything that hasn't been written down in impenetrable jargon by one of their peers.
Is there any support for the idea that a view that focuses solely on the materials to be read is easier to read for users?