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Training Course Design and The Art of Session Planning

Updated on December 13, 2017
Susana S profile image

Susana has spent many years creating and delivering training programs around personal development, self esteem and confidence

How to Get Course Design and Training Facilitation Right

So you've got a training seminar, course or session to design and you're not sure where to begin? There are many elements to consider when creating a professional training session or learning opportunity for your staff, volunteers or clients, so let's go step by step through the process of training course design and how to get training facilitation right. It doesn't matter what type of training course you want to create, the fundamentals of course design and training facilitation are the same. You can use these techniques for:

  • Sales Training
  • Presentation Skills Training
  • IT Training
  • Management Training
  • Self Development Training
  • Team Building
  • Customer Service Training

Planning A Training Course

I have been designing and delivering training seminars and courses for the last 10 years both in the course of my day to day work and on a self employed basis, and I can say with complete confidence that the success or failure of your seminar will be dependent on how thorough your planning has been.

Don't think you can just go in with a few bullet points written on a scrap of paper! If you do, the session will be disjointed, lack flow, and be pretty much useless to the people hoping to learn something from you. So plan, plan and plan some more! If you are a beginner in designing and delivering training, you will need to spend at least 3-4 hours planning for a 2 hour session. Full length courses will take many more hours to plan.

A Training Course
A Training Course

First Points to Consider in Training Course Design

An effective trainer will design the course around his/her participants so you will want to spend quite a bit of time thinking about who are you delivering the training to.

  • How many people? A workshop for 6 people will need to be different to a workshop for 50 and one-to-one training will be different again. The content may be very similar but how you deliver it will need to be altered for the size of the group. Below I'll talk more about the types of interactions you may want to build into your workshop.
  • What is the age range, gender mix, ethnic mix of the group? If your group is made up of under 25's for instance, it's a good idea to leave out the powerpoint presentations and use more interactive teaching methods. Think about your group and the kinds of learning that are going to engage them.
  • Do the participants already know each other? Whether the group members are familiar with one another or not will greatly affect the dynamics of the group and your place within it. When there are close sub groups in a team you may decide to mix them up so that people have a chance to move out of their comfort zone and get to know other group members better. If people don't know each other then exercises that help with introductions and trust building may be more suitable.
  • What professional backgrounds are they from? If your participants are from a variety of disciplines, then be careful not to use acronyms and jargon - many people will not know what they mean and may be too afraid to ask.
  • If you are delivering training in the community you will also have to consider whether your participants have basic skills needs, mental health issues, or any other social disadvantages that you need to take account of.
  • Equal Opportunities - make sure that your seminar or course is accessible to everyone attending. Use language that your group will understand easily and consider how you will present written information. Depending on the group you may need an interpreter or ensure that the venue is accessible for people with a disability.

More Points to Consider in Course Design

  • How long is the session? Have you been given a certain amount of time to deliver the session in, or can you choose how long it is? How long does this session need to be to get across all the relevant information? If you can't fit it all into one seminar, then think about splitting the work up into two or more sessions.
  • Where will the seminar be held? Ideally you will go to the venue beforehand so that you know how you are going to layout the room. Find out where the facilities are, where participants can park, and get maps to the venue to send out beforehand if need be.
  • Refreshments & Food - This factor is really important so don't under-estimate it. There needs to be plenty of water available and tea and coffee. If your budget allows and depending on the time of day, provide breakfast and/or lunch and snacks during break times. Think about dietary requirements
  • What time of day is the seminar going to be held? Sessions delivered in the afternoon will need to be active as people are usually sluggish after lunch and need some help to get going. Sessions in the morning should not start too early as people will want to arrive and have a chance to settle down after their journey.

Getting Creative with Your Training Design

Once you have identified all these points you can move onto thinking about designing the actual seminar with your learning group in mind at every stage of your planning.

The most important thing with any kind of training whether it be in a classroom or work based, is identifying your aims for the session. Now this may sound a bit obvious but believe me I've been to quite a few that didn't seem to have any clear focus.

  • So first off write down up to 5 aims for your training seminar. These will reflect the learning outcomes you want your training group to achieve.

Now for the creative bit! Start brainstorming. Think of everything you could include in the session that will help the group meet the aims of the session. Use books, internet resources and any other learning materials you can get your hands on to get ideas.

  • How will you make the seminar interactive?

  • Will you use ice-breakers and games?

  • How will people introduce themselves?

  • How will you make sure that everyone is involved in learning?

  • Think about how you learnt about the topic you are going to teach. What process did you go through to learn this knowledge. What kinds of questions did you have to ask yourself?

  • What kinds of things do you like to do when you are learning?

  • Do you enjoy powerpoint presentations or do you like something where you can move around a bit?


Your Training Seminar Plan

To start with get yourself a good training session plan template.

Once you have got a good range of ideas for your training seminar you are ready to start filling in your plan. At the beginnning of a training session there are some things you will always have to do, so make sure these are in your plan. Some of these essential elements could be - groundrules, house rules (fire exits, where the toilets are), introductions, sign in, name badges, clarifying start and end times.

Have a look to see whether the material you brain stormed before covers the different learning styles below and add elements of whatever is missing if you need to.

Learning Styles - There are 4 main learning styles and each one should be included in your training seminar to maximise the learning potential of each individual in the group. These are:

  • Aural - learning by hearing or listening. This is the group that like to be lectured to.
  • Visual - learning through seeing. They like information given pictorally and often like to doodle when listening.
  • Verbal - learning by communicating with others.
  • Kinesthetic - learning by doing. These people need to be hands on.

How will the participants interact? This is a really important aspect to think about. Will you use whole group exercises, work individually or small groups? A variety of interactions is usually best. You may need to go back to thinking about the environment that you will be in and how you will arrange the seating layout to maximise interaction. You will also need to think back to how well your group know each other and factor that in. If the group are unknown to each other you might consider more whole group exercises at the beginning of the seminar so that people have an opportunity to get to know each other. If the seminar is task based then lots of small group work will enable people to focus and brianstorm together.

Timing - Each main part of session should be no longer than 40 - 50 minutes. This is the maximum amount of time someone can concentrate well for. So break up the seminar into sections with breaks at least every 90 minutes. Think about how long each section will take in minutes and bear in mind that in general, the larger the group the longer each section will take. This will be your guide to make sure that you don't run out of time.

Timeframe - Going back to the length of the session, consider whether you can achieve all the aims within this timeframe or do you have to pare down and prioritise your aims, or cover the material over more than one session?

Flow - Make sure that each segment of the training builds on the previous learning so that it is in a logical sequence.

Evaluation - Design an evaluation of your session for participants to give you their feedback. It's usually best if this is anonymous so that you get honest answers. Evaluation is really important because it will help you tweek your session so that it's even better next time.

Resources - Remember to write down in your plan any resources you need such as paper, pens, flip chart, marker pens, post it notes, laptop, memory stick, projector, sticky labels, hand outs.

And finally....

You will probably need to keep referring back to the points at the beginning of this article to ensure that your seminar or course is covering every element fully, but designing training is a back and forward process that you will get used to with practice.

I hope this Hub gives you a good deal of the information you need to start designing your training seminar, whether it be in a corporate, education or community environment. I will be following on from this with more in depth articles on presentation skills, group dynamics and group management, so keep an eye out for them!

Please leave comments or questions if there's anything I have missed out - I will help if I can.

For now, good luck!


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