Reimaging a University Onboarding Manual

Reimaging a University Onboarding Manual
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My first career job after graduating from undergrad was as the merchandise manager and office marketing coordinator at the Terry College of Business at UGA. Half of my team, including our senior director, were new to the institution. Therefore, my first big project was to create a cohesive, engaging, and concise Onboarding Manual. My boss at the time wanted a physical bound booklet to give to new employees on their first day at Terry College. Thus when choosing a remediation approach for this project, being able to reimagine my first technical writing document was a perfect opportunity.

The Mediums of Information

I created a small portion of this manual into a digital format as the first medium was a curation of a year interviewing my co-workers. When considering the traditional and now digital formats of my manual, they presented as the perfect examples of immediacy and hypermediacy principles articulated by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding in New Media.

  • The physical printed version of the manual is the definition of immediacy: the desire to erase or transcend the medium to make the user forget the medium to solely concentrate on the content. Research has shown that readers obtain more information from physical reading due to being more focused and immersed in reading without distractions.
  • I chose a Canva Presentation, though I would've preferred a more multimodal presentation, as my new medium. Through this medium, I used infographics, links, and QR codes to transcend the previous text to a more interactive experience. This highlights hypermediacy as the medium of the presentation is to enhance the experience and make the presence known through the components of the presentation.

Here is my full video. The link to the Canva presentation is here:

Real-Life Implications

Funnily enough, once I had a real first draft of this manual, the first new employee member I was going to give it to was scheduled to start on March 16, 2020. For my institution, that was officially the first day we worked remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, my well-constructed physical manual collected dust for six months on her desk. While I was able to send over the PDF file, in retrospect, being able to offer her a digital format for my Canva presentation would have been ideal.

The video is linked above, but I will also give the website which is mobile-friendly as well.

The Art of Digital and Visual Grammar

The best explanation I have for why digital format enhances content's effectiveness and audience engagement comes from our reading: "Design is an integral aspect of technical writing in the digital age. It shapes the effectiveness and accessibility of digital documents." Additionally, the information from The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Borman emphasizes how the design of a digital format emphasizes user-centered designs, emotional design, and conceptual models.

Utilizing the knowledge from my career and these readings, I created graphics that included whitespaces, consistently used branded fonts, and colors approved by UGA, and technical writing for digital platforms to elevate this traditional document into an effective digital document.

I also deeply considered the multimodal approaches for technical writing and wanted to apply Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen's groundwork for all visual elements having their own grammar since they are able to simply, clarify and enhance comprehension of intricate concepts. For concepts such as creating a VPN or logging a timesheet, visually explaining effectively will work better through a digital design than traditional writing.

So Why A User Manual?

I wrote this manual before I even knew what technical writing was so that was the main motivation for choosing this assignment. However, user manuals and technical documentation rely on effective design to make complex information and procedures accessible and user-friendly. We see these in everyday life whether we consciously think about it or not.

Jewel Caruso

Jewel Caruso

Jewel is a higher education professional, freelance editor, writer, and avid reader.
Athens, Georgia