Training manuals are an essential tool for learners to be able to refer to information throughout the training process and review information after the training. It also allows the learner to focus less on note taking and more on the presentation. A training manual is also a helpful tool for the trainer as it serves as a visual reminder of what they are teaching and helps them to maintain a consistent program for each group they instruct.

I often receive inquiries from trainers and educators who have a great deal of content they would like to deliver, but need direction on how to organize and display their content into a more effective training manual to compliment their instruction. The following process can be applied to any sort of classroom or online training that requires a training manual.

Step 1: Analysis

Determine what the training is intended to teach and use this as a basis for developing a list of learning and/or performance objectives. Learning objectives are statements that define the expected goal of a curriculum, course, lesson or activity in terms of demonstrable skills or knowledge that will be acquired by a student as a result of instruction. Learning objectives help define which tasks the instructor should focus on throughout the course. Learning objectives should be appropriate to the level and skill-set of the learner and also be organized to build on one another, in that, often one learning objective will need to be accomplished prior to moving on to the next. After completing this analysis, you should have a general course outline that will help to guide you in writing the rest of your content.

Step 2: Break content into modules

A module is one section of content of an entire course. All content in a module is related in topic and is focused on the specific set of learning objectives that are presented at the beginning. Modules generally begin with a brief introduction, followed by a list of learning objective for the module.

After the content is broken into modules, from that a Table of Contents can be developed to introduce how the rest of the book will be organized.

Step 3: Writing the content

Content should be well-written and the language/style of writing should be appropriate to the level of the learner. It is also important to keep the tone active and the style and terminology consistent. Several different methods of presenting the content should be used such as: step-by-step instruction, anecdotes, quotes, lists, terms and definitions, etc. And of course, the spelling and grammar should always be free of mistakes.

After the content is written, a Table of Contents, Further Reading List, as well as an Index or list of Terms and Definitions may be added to provide further resources and enhance usability of the training manual.

Step 4: Design

A successful design should be attractive, appropriate to the subject matter and be easy to read. There are several important principles to consider when designing the training manual such as:

Text and Layout – The layout of the text an graphics allows the reader to easily read the content and identify important information. Another important consideration is font size and style to maximize readability. Consistently sized page and section headings should be used to break each module up into smaller sections in order to improve readability.

Cover – A successful cover design should capture the subject and style of the course

Graphics – Photos, illustrations, charts, models, etc. should all serve the purpose of informing the learner and providing a visual representation of the content in order to enhance understanding. As with the writing, all graphics should also be visually consistent and maintain a similar style.

Printing and binding – The printing process and binding should provide a sturdy and functional book that allows it to be written on and holds up under multiple uses. Binding style depends mainly on the book’s intended use during and after the training.

Step 5: Create supplementary materials

Often, materials such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio, handouts, posters, etc. will be required to supplement the training guide. The needs for these vary by course, but it is helpful to consider that there are other options available to a trainer to help provide reference materials.

Step 6: Test and revise the training materials

The final step is to test the training manual with a sample group. The purpose of this is to ask a group use, analyze and offer suggestions for improvement. People unaffiliated with the design process generally find areas for improvement that those closely involved with the design sometimes miss.