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Training Manuals. Hard Copy or Intranet?

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We are currently evaluating the use of on-line Intranet based user manuals as opposed to printed material. One of the main reasons (other than cost) being that the systems involved change as often as 3 or 4 times a year according to outside influences and it was thought to be time consuming and inpractical to keep updating hardcopy as you can never gurantee that existing manuals would be updated by their owners.

Has anyone else tried this road and how did it progress? All thoughts and conclusions welcome.

Ian Cunningham
Ian Cunningham

5 Responses

  1. have used both – both have advantages
    I have worked with and designed both styles and formats. There is, in my opinion, no one best answer, except to find the medium that best suits your situation.
    You mention a valid point about pace of change and the question about whether people change the hard copy inserts. Out of date material is potentially dangerous – legal, food safety etc.

    You need to consider the IT competency of the people who will use the system if you go down that avenue, as well as the availability of access. Next the content needs to be designed to excite, captivate, motivate,inspire, instruct etc. Use a system that allows for ease of change for content and does not rely on IT programmers etc.

    Can a pc be accessed in all areas where the manuals will be needed for reference of do you end up with a hard copy and pc…..?

    Of course there are £ costs to consider for both systems – as well as efficiency costs.

    No answers I am afraid, but maybe a few points to think about. Call me if you want to talk – I have a system that you may find interesting for demo of Intranet based package.

    My personal choice – On Line (in most cases!)
    Antony Dyson 0161 875 0100.

  2. Find out what the poeple using it want, you may be surprised…
    Ian,

    We went through the same about a year ago. Within the IT Training department we looked at the pros and cons of both and couldn’t come up with a definite answer. So, we asked the users what it was that they wanted. Over 70% of users said that they wanted hard copy manuals, but that they wanted the information in a short snappy way.

    What we came up with are quick reference guides, printed in colour on A4 landscape, folded to produce a small leaflet. It takes up minimal space on desks and gives them just the info that they need. I can forward you copies of these if you would like to see them.

    After the first couple we produced, they became so popular that we now produce about thirty different reference guides on a variety of subjects.

    However, to keep the other thirty percent happy I have produced the same information in a newsletter style sheet, which sits on the compnay intranet.

    I would be happy to discuss this further, so please feel free to contact me on 020 7901 5613.

  3. Training Manuals and the Intranet
    In my previous position I originally opted to develop a looseleaf binder training manual with a number of sections including for example standard policies and procedures, proformas for course booking and evaluation, a section for inserting information on external courses and a section to insert the quarterly fliers and information about the work of my team. There were also sections for information from departments and from our IT training section.

    I am now developing an Intranet model for this process and for simple largely text based e-learning that I and a colleague will launch at a conference in Chorley, Lancs on the Ist of November 2000. If you want to know more about this please email me.

    I would have to agree with another contributor that, at the present time, many people like a hard copy to be available for ready reference as they are more used to this than delving onto the intranet. I think this will change over time as people gain experience and confidence.

  4. Printing on demand is a good route
    Ian,

    I have experience in both graphics/printing and training, and what I think works best is to have the manuals available online, and produce hard copies on demand. Depending on the volume of manuals you might produce on demand, you could use a color laser (we use a Tektronix 850 for our on-demand printing) or outsource to a local printer to whom you could electronically transfer the latest version of the manual for on-demand printing.

    This option keeps your manuals being viewed in the latest version and keeps your stock of hard copies to a bare minimum (we typically keep 5 copies on the shelf).

    Scott Stein,
    Booher Consultants, Inc. Texas, USA

  5. Training Manuals – Hard copy or Intranet?
    Ian
    I have also used an electronic format for publishing a wide variety of manuals (mainly for tutorials, but over the last few years have been developing on line products for technological machinery. The machine specifications changed monthly during the first two years, and the online method was the quickest and most effective way of publishing to a large UK based audience. (This included getting up to date engineering specifications to local engineers for maintenance and routines management).
    Version Control became crucial, as did the need to register holders and notify individuals of new documents or versions (Simple email group and standard change messages). Some individuals will want printed copies, and I provided this at launch events, with a caveat on all printed documents around the changes to versions. I also included an on line version summary at the front end of the database with all documents and their current version references listed as a checking mechanism for users.

    Hope this helps

    Lesley

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