The term emanual has been used recently to describe online manuals. To a certain extent this is true. However, because no criteria have ever been attached to the word, what appears online as an emanual can vary drastically. This in turn affects training decisions as the decision to not use an emanual to solve employee performance will likely be based on the poor “emanuals” currently available on the web.
What Emanuals ARE NOT
The way that the word emanual is used right now is essentially shorthand for “online manual”. Unlike elearning — which has more of an agreed upon definition — emanuals suffer from misinterpretation. While there is no standards body which will codify the definition, we hope to show the potential of the format and use that as the basis for a definition.
By examining what other people on the web are calling emanuals, we can get a sense of the confusion of the term.
In a lot of cases (like this example), emanuals are simply PDFs documents that have been made available to download from a website. PDF documents unto themselves do have some advantages as they are portable and unlike Word documents display the same on a variety of devices and platforms. However, despite the fact that it can be displayed on multiple devices, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll display optimally. Furthermore, the navigation could be limited to the previous and next pages.
The convenience of downloadable PDFs are definitely a plus but at the expense of advanced navigation and version control. Advanced navigation is critical in workplace situation where information needs to be found yesterday. In a case like this, it’s crucial to have a search function and a table of contents that allow to jump right to the section you need.
Version control is important in situations where a document is updated and all employees need to have the most recent version. Once PDFs are downloaded there is no longer a need to redownload it unless instructed to do so.
A step in the right direction is this example. It addresses some of the concerns from the previous example in that it deals with version control as the content is being displayed on the web as opposed to a downloadable file. It even contains a search function and navigation in the left hand column. What it doesn’t contain is a sensitivity to the platform. When testing this website on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and the iPad Mini at our office, we found it more difficult to navigate as the text was too small compared with viewing it on a desktop computer.
What Emanuals ARE
These considerations were what drove some of the design decisions behind the emanuals that we create. To see an example, click here.
One of the key differentiators in this example is that it both looks and works great on desktop, laptop and iPad. With a greater amount of employees bringing their own mobile devices to work, it is important to address these differences.
To maintain version control, each emanual is accessed from a Learning Management System (LMS). Not only does this make sure that the emanual is up to date, it also — in the case of emanuals with knowledge checks — allows training managers to assess how effective the training is.
Not all the content within an emanual needs to be text-based though. There will be some cases where the knowledge is best experiences via video or animation. Emanuals should exploit the multimedia capabilities of computers and iPads to give employees a much richer training experience.
Emanuals need to be much more than just simply one of many training methods available over the internet. They have the potential to provide employees with so much more in terms of ease-of-access to information and more robust content.