Planning to start designing a training program and need some help? Here are 7 tips that you should find useful to get started!

How to design training programs

1. Save Days or Weeks and Buy Pre-made Materials

If you are determined to spend a few days or weeks designing training materials or a program yourself, then you can jump to point number two below.

If, on the other hand, you are designing training because you have been asked to deliver training and you would rather save a few days or weeks (for longer training design), why not buy training that:

  • is already designed by someone who has taught at university level and is trained in pedagogy (teaching methods) and has years of experience in training design
  • can be customized (and is suitable already for U.S. and British English)
  • includes the PowerPoint PPT file, teacher’s teaching notes manual, and students’ handbook
  • and that can be downloaded immediately.
Classroom lesson plans

Designing a training program, if you are not used to it, can definitely be time-consuming!

Action: Take a look at the examples of predesigned training materials.

2. Know Your Audience and Design Accordingly

One of the very first things you will need to do and pay careful attention to is to make sure that you know clearly who your audience is.

Who is the training for?

What level of understanding do they already have on the subject you will be teaching them?

There is no point, for example, in teaching the basics of marketing and the marketing mix to marketing managers with 20 years of experience.

Understanding your audience

Likewise, you do not want to be teaching advanced Italian if the students will be beginners.

This point might seem obvious but I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the wrong type of training created for the students in question.

Get the level wrong and your students will fast lose interest and it’s downhill throughout the training.

Action: Think about or, if necessary, find out exactly who the training is being provided for. What level of expertise do they already have, will they have a range of knowledge on the topic being taught?

3. Use These Steps in Designing a Training Programme

There are certain stages that I recommend you follow in the training program design process or for creating employee training materials.

These stages though are affected by whether or not you are:

  • designing the training program in-house for a company you work for
  • designing the training for someone else such as if a company are paying you to go in and train their staff
  • or if you are designing training for workshops that you have decided you want to run (such as because you will do weekend workshops for an introduction to mindfulness).

Designing Training Inhouse or for Someone Else

Training program designer

If you are designing the training for a company, then follow these steps:

  • Assessment Stage – Spend as much time as it takes to truly understand the needs of the client you are providing the training for. This stage is essential. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to hit the right note at the beginning in terms of requirements before you start creating the training program.
  • Ensure you talk to everyone involved in the training including HR (if they are bringing you in) and anyone with an interest in the outcome of the training.
  • Be clear on timeframes such as the length of the course and number of days, location and how many people will be getting trained, and whether the training will be in a classroom or online.
  • Desired Outcome – in essence, you want to understand what the desired outcome of the training should be. What will your client see as a successful training program?
  • Equipment and Facilities – be clear on what facilities and tools you can design the course materials with if designing for a client. Will it be okay for you to use a PowerPoint presentation as part of the materials? Or if this is a computer-based course (such as because you are teaching computer programming) what software and hardware will be available for students?

Next, continue with the following steps:

Designing Your Own Training and Workshops

Set Objectives

Create a clear set of objectives that in essence are the outcome of the training.

If designing the training program for a client, then get the client to sign off on these objectives.

These objectives will form the basis of the actual training materials.

Start Designing the Training Materials

  • Work through each objective one at a time and in order as you work your way through the materials.
  • Proofread all materials. If designing for a client or in-house, you may need to have their SME (Subject Matter Expert) cross-check the materials.
  • If needed, get sign-off on the materials.

4. Ensure You Include Activities & Consider Pedagogy

In the training, make sure to include consideration for the different ways in which various participants learn.

Some people learn best, for example, by listening. Others learn best through activities or by touch. Some people learn best by self-studying.

These teaching and learning styles are all part of pedagogy and are important to consider as you design a training program or materials.

Free Training activities and ice breakers PDF

5. Evaluate the Training Program After Each Taught Session

Make sure, after the training takes place, to evaluate how effective the training program was, what can be improved and what went particularly well.

Providing training participants with a feedback form can be a very simple way to better understand how the training went.

Many training programs and materials are re-used and this evaluation stage can be incredibly useful for fine-tuning the training for future use.

Tip 1: Make sure to hand out feedback forms at least 10 minutes before the end of a training session. This will allow participants enough time to complete the feedback form properly.

Tip 2: Also make sure that the feedback form can be done anonymously so that you will likely get much more honest and accurate feedback.

6. Use High-Quality Images in Your Materials

It is essential to use high-quality images and graphics when designing a training program or set of course materials, to make the training appear appealing, interesting, and professional.

You need at the same time though, to make sure that you meet all copyright information.

The great news these days is that there are many great stock-free images and photo sites offering images you can use commercially for free.

There are also several sites and services where you can get great images at a very affordable subscription rate.

Some sites to look at for images include the following:

  • Pixabay – is one of the most well-known and popular stock-free photo sites online and they have over 2 million images available.
  • Burst – is another great site for free to use for commercial use images. Burst is owned by Shopify.
  • Pexels – is another of the key players if you need stock-free photos that you can use for commercial use.

7. Understand Timing When Designing Training Programs

Timing is essential when designing training as there is nothing worse than a trainer needing to rush through the last part of a course because of time constraints.

Likewise, it can be embarrassing if you are meant to be providing a full one-day course and you have already gone through all of the training materials an hour or two before you are meant to finish.

Understanding timing when designing training materials does come with experience.

You can though consider doing the following:

  • Make sure to spend time adding up the timings and be realistic (so consider things such as the time participants spend getting into groups and anything that adds on time)
  • You can, if you wish, include an extra activity for the end that is only used as a time-filler if needed. This activity can be designed as a reflective exercise to help participants reflect on everything they have learned during the session.
  • If the course is a fairly short one, you might want to consider doing a trial and using a friend or colleague to do a dummy run to test the materials (get feedback) and to test the timings.
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Dr Valeria Lo Iacono