If you are looking for courseware to use in instructor-led training for end-user applications, customizable courses in an electronic format can combine the best of two worlds.

Writing your own materials from scratch is time consuming, with prep time ranging from five to 10 hours for every one hour of instructional time. On the other hand, preprinted materials may not fit your curriculum design. Customizable courseware allows you take the best that both methods have to offer. You can take prewritten materials and cut, copy, and add important information while significantly reducing preparation time.

To help get you started on your search for these materials, I’ve compiled information on nine customizable courseware vendors. Each vendor provides an electronic format in Microsoft Word and allows for unlimited reproduction and customization. At a minimum, each of the vendors provides courseware covering the four main Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access), plus a general Windows course. Other available applications of note are mentioned specifically with each vendor. While most of these vendors specialize in the Microsoft products, several also offer training materials for Lotus and Corel products. Many of these vendors also offer preprinted training guides for purchase.

EZ-REF‘s package is one of the largest available and includes applications from the Corel and Lotus office suites. The entire library costs a one-time fee of $5,000. The Microsoft Office package retails for a one-time fee of $3,000. Besides the standard applications, Project, Outlook, FrontPage, and Office Suite integration are also available.

CCT Global
CCT Global also provides a wide variety of titles, including FrontPage, Publisher, Outlook, and Internet Explorer. Besides the Word-formatted manual, CCT includes PowerPoint slides to compliment the presentation. Many newer titles are provided in HTML format and can be published on a secure Internet or intranet site. Pricing (which includes all available titles) starts at $708 for a noncommercial organization and is $1,073 for commercial training providers.

Besides the common applications, FrontPage, Project, and Outlook are also available from CompTutor. Instead of Microsoft Word, CompTutor materials are provided in PowerPoint format and utilize the notes area to add detailed directions and screen shots. Retail pricing for all materials is $3,750.

ComputerPREP offers a wide selection of titles, includingHTML 4.0 and Web Page Design, PhotoDraw, Project, and an Office Integration and Web features course. One additional perk of this package is the customizing software that allows the user to select specific lessons and objectives. The results are then generated in Microsoft Word format. Retail pricing for the package is $3,995 and is renewable annually.

CustomGuide materials include Outlook and FrontPage, along with the standard selections. Besides complete training materials, CustomGuide also publishes handy quick reference guides that are likely to be popular with all users. Retail pricing for all manuals and quick reference guides is $2,495.

Computer Confidence
Computer Confidence materials include Outlook, Internet Explorer, and an introduction to hardware and software, in addition to the standard Office 2000 courses. Titles for Lotus and Corel products are also available. The Microsoft Office 2000 package retails at $3,900 for a one-year license.

SVi training courses include Project, FrontPage, and Outlook, in addition to the standard programs. SVi offers a unique customization product with its materials. Tightly integrated with Microsoft Word through an additional menu, users can select the objectives desired and generate a custom document based on their selections. Pricing for the entire line is $5,000, renewable annually. Other pricing arrangements for individual or selected titles are also available.

DuoSoft is an Australian-based company that includes Publisher, Outlook, and FrontPage, in addition to the standard programs. Many of the Microsoft Office courses offered by DuoSoft are considered two-day classes and cover a large range of topics. Site license pricing for DuoSoft courses are per course and are $426 for a one-day course and $767 for a two-day course.

Global Knowledge
Global Knowledge purchased PTS Learning Systems and the CustomDOC product. CustomDOC allows the user to select which lessons, objectives, and components to include and then builds a Microsoft Word document to allow further customization. In addition to all of the essential Office products, it has classes covering Lotus and Corel suites, Internet applications, and much more. Pricing is based on a classic tier structure based on the number of titles (applications) and length of contract.

Ready to buy? Consider these licensing issues
One of the key issues with this type of courseware is licensing. When evaluating customizable courseware, it is important to ask several questions regarding licensing, including the following:

  • Is the license a one-time fee or annual cost?
  • Is there a limit on the number of people/copies/sites that can be used?
  • What vendor copyright information must remain on the materials when printed?
  • Are updates provided when new software versions are released or do updates cost extra?
  • Are there any limits on the use of courseware in commercial training programs?
  • Can you publish any of the documents in electronic format on an intranet site?

Customizable courseware offers options
For those who provide instructor-led training on standard end-user applications, products such as these should considerably reduce the amount of preparation time required. If you have experience with these or other similar products, post your comments below or drop us a note.