An official website of the United States government

On the Why, Who, and What of Training Design and Delivery
August 24, 2016

This is a guest blog post from Marcella Simon, a featured instructor in the YALI Network Online Course Workforce Collaboration and Development. 

Screenshot of video course, including instructor and the text “What your learners need to know”
Want to learn more? Take the full course, including Marcella’s lesson on designing and delivering training.

The first question to ask when designing a training course is, “Why are we doing this training?” Training is usually a solution to a problem such as improving performance, introducing something new, or changing people’s attitudes toward something. You need to know the purpose of the training in order to effectively design the training.

  • If you want to improve performance, the key is to allow time for people to practice those skills that need to be improved. For example, a customer service representative needs practice greeting customers. In training, learners can participate in role plays, where one person is the customer and the other the clerk. Then they switch roles. After the role plays, learners can give and receive feedback from members of the group.
  • If you are introducing something new, for example, a new software program, it helps to start with the end in mind. Show what the software will enable you to do once you have learned it, then go to the beginning and lead the learners through the process step by step, showing them how it is done and letting them try each step to gain confidence along the way.
  • If you want to change attitudes, such as helping people learn to work well with people of different cultural backgrounds, then a panel of people relating their experiences or videos of people from different cultures are helpful. Also, discussions in small groups or pairs is less threatening when the subject is sensitive.

The second question to ask is,“Who is the audience for this training?” To effectively design training, you need to know your learners. If they have less education, you may have to consider less reading and lecture and more graphics and hands-on activities. If they are not skilled with using computers, you may have to use videos, flip charts and in-class demonstrations. If they are from rival groups, then you want to mix them up in teams so they get to know each other on a personal basis.

Remember, when training adults, certain principles apply:

  1. Adults need to know how they are going to benefit from what they are learning.
  2. Adults need to be able to contribute their knowledge and experience to the discussion.

The third question to ask is,“What do your learners need to take away from the course?” It helps to make a list of what participants must know or be able to do after they complete the course. Be as action-oriented as possible.

For example, if you are training on how to build a house, learners must be able to read a blueprint, lay the foundation, measure materials, etc. You could also write a second list on what is “nice to know” — areas of knowledge or skill that you can add in if you have enough time. These lists will help you organize your content into a learning plan.

Asking these three questions will help you design training courses that will optimize your participants’ engagement in the learning process and produce the best results.

Review these basics of setting up a training in the slideshow below (or download the PDF 578 kb):

Learn more about the author:

Marcella Simon​ has over 20 years of experience in adult learning strategies and human capital development, including teaching and training, curriculum and instructional design, and project management. She is well versed in classroom, blended and e-learning solutions and has designed and analyzed assessments and evaluations. She has also written scripts and directed video clips, podcasts and webinars. Simon has worked as an employee and contractor in the private, public and academic sectors. She has taught university courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in career development, workplace diversity, leadership, marketing, international management, cross-cultural communication and organizational dynamics. Simon has delivered courses for a worldwide audience, including learners in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Costa Rica and Panama. She is fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French.

This is a guest blog post from Marcella Simon, a featured instructor in the YALI Network Online Course Workforce Collaboration and Development. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.