Documentation of Outcomes items and action in a User Guide is one of the best and quickest ways to provide support and direction for the end-users of the Outcomes product on your campus. If you put the time into making your documentation user friendly and full of helpful information, then it will pay off in the long run.
Why is a User Guide(s) a good idea?
- It is helpful to faculty and staff: A user guide is often the first place your users will look when they have questions. If they can easily search documentation and find an immediate answer to their question, rather than calling someone or sending off an email and waiting for a response, they will be more quickly satisfied and likely to participate in assessment practices.
- It is less work for you: A good guide can answer users' questions before they come to the assessment professionals, so you spend less time answering questions and troubleshooting on users' behalf and more time on closing the loop.
- It can be customized: You can create a comprehensive guide for any and all actions and items in the Outcomes platform but you can also create shorter, customized guides for each type of user or subsection of the targeted audience. This really helps to avoid user confusion and make the process efficient. Short Quick-Start Guides can be customized and sent to each target audience.
- It creates standard operating procedures: The user guide will also help develop a fixed, step-by-step sequence of activities or course of action that must be followed in the same order to correctly perform a task. When shared across campus or shared across different sub-groups, this creates the standard operating procedure for these tasks across campus. The documentation helps to prevent missing or incorrect data entries thus improving the quality of results.
User Guide Examples
Kennesaw State University has recently created several excellent user guides to help with the launching and adoption of Outcomes on campus. They created two different guides, you can look at these examples by using the following links embedded as titles or by clicking the links on the bottom of the support page.
- Kennesaw State University: Getting Started provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for users on how to accomplish assessment related tasks in the Outcomes platform. Users can search for the appropriate action and follow the step-by-step directions. This is a general guide created for any user.
- Kennesaw State University: Managing Outcomes is a targeted user guide directed at program coordinators or department chairs. It provides detailed directions and recommendations to manage the learning outcomes for a specific department or program.
How to Write User Guides
- Know your audience: You will have a good indication the culture of assessment on campus, how tech-savvy your audience is, and how much they will interact with the platform. You can create guides to address these issues. You can also make customized guides for different user groups on campus to provide more direction.
- In KSU's user manual, note that there are two different end user guides. Each one contains information geared towards different audiences.
- Use Annotated Screenshots: The majority of end user documentation should have screenshots that capture the exact screens your audience will be working with. These screenshots should have annotation or notes to directly reference the directions or processes your are describing.
- In KSU's user manual, notice how each field is highlighted, labeled, and described. They also fill in the fields with real data to make the guide more relatable and helpful.
- Properly number any processes or sequences steps: Numbered sequences, process arrows, and other indicators will help avoid user confusion and data mistakes. Be as detailed as possible. Never assume your audience will fill in the gaps correctly. Nymber and describe every step.
- In KSU's user manual, see how easy it is to follow the process as each step is numbered and described.
- In KSU's user manual, see how the process arrow replicates the directions to drag and drop a document.
- Write Descriptive Titles: This might not seem important but it can have a big affect on if people actually use the guide. People will accessing the guide to find out how to do something. don't make them struggle to find it. Write clear, descriptive titles for the guides, sections, and sub-sections that are specific and in the form of performing a task. If the guide is long, provide a table of contents.
- In KSU's user manual, they created a table of contents with direct titles. For example, if a user wanted to find directions on the process for adding results to an assessment, they would be able to find that information very quickly without reading the entire document.
- Include links to related articles and any material you reference: When you reference another action, product, workflow, or term, it always helps to include a link to the related article. If you reference another user manual, provide a link. If you have a manual working program coordinators on how to enter their program learning outcomes into the platform, it might be helpful to have a link to the program learning outcomes documentation so they can find those outcomes easily. Otherwise, end users waste time searching for what was just referenced. It always helps to include links to the Outcomes documentation on the Campus Labs Outcomes Support pages.