Designing a Training Course

Here is how to design a training course:

Select Training Topic

Get out a piece of paper. Brainstorm topics for a training course. After a 5 minute brainstorming session, start crossing out topics you find less favorable such as ones you find unpractical, of low demand or those you find you are not very capable of delivering. This step would be even better of you do it together with someone else. He or she can provide you with an additional perspective in which topics can be of interest.

After narrowing down the brainstormed topics to a list of 2 or 3 topics, select one of them to design a training course around.

Set Training Objectives

After selecting a topic for your training course, write down a list of objectives you want participants of such future training course to be able to accomplish. To help you out, write 3 subheadings to group the objectives under. These 3 subheadings are as follows:

  1. Information: List essential pieces of information that you would like participants to learn.
  2. Skills: List the various skills you would like participants to gain or improve.
  3. Behavior/Beliefs: List the behaviors you would like to change in participants and which beliefs you would attempt to change in order for such behavioral patterns to change.

For more information on coming up with training objectives check out Developing Training Objectives. When setting training objectives, make sure also to keep in mind The 3 Core Objectives of Training. If you are designing a training course for a specific corporate client you may also like to learn how to uncover training needs.

Develop Training Elements

After writing down a list of training objectives, be they informational, skills based or a set of behavioral changes you would like to make in participants, now you would have to decide on how to accomplish each of those objectives through the training.

  1. Information objectives can be achieved through storytelling, slides, direct instruction, as well as group activities.
  2. Skills based objectives can usually best be achieved by solo exercises, pair work and group activities.
  3. As for behavior changes, they can be made by changing participant beliefs through storytelling, reflection, showing a video as well as group activities.
designing a training course

Designing a training course

For each training objective, it is a good idea to list one or more elements to accomplish it. It is also worth mentioning that every training element (video, group activities, storytelling …) may have more than one function at the same time and help achieve more than one training objective simultaneously.


By deciding on a training topic for your training course, setting objectives that cover the 3 categories of information, skills and behavior related to the topic of your training course then deciding on one or more training elements to achieve each of those training objectives you have listed, you now have a training program designed to achieve specific results. Make sure you also achieve The 3 Core Objectives of Training through icebreakers, recap, breaks and other activities.

After completing the design of a training course with all its objectives and training elements, give the training course a spin by actually delivering it and getting feedback from participants. The feedback and your own reflection on the training course after delivering it will help you further hone the training program by adding new elements, removing other elements and modifying yet others. The loop keeps repeating as you go ahead in deliver your training course and rising in a continuous upward spiral towards a better designed training program that has real impact on participants and is fun to attend at the same time.


Design Thinking

Yesterday I attended an introductory session about design thinking at icecairo facilitated by Daniela Marzavan from Design Thinking at HTW-Berlin. The session was incredibly amazing! It blew my mind away. I realized how deeply experienced and competent the facilitator was and how amazing design thinking was within the first few minutes of the session.

Shuffled Name Tags

As we entered the training room we were given name tags. The interesting part is that name tags were shuffled on purpose and each participant taped a name tag of another colleague on his/her shirt! I was puzzled by this at the beginning but only realized the reason behind it when later during the training each participant was asked to speak to the person who has his/her name tag glued to his/her shirt.

Equilateral Triangles

Another interesting activity was when Daniela asked each of us to mentally pick to other colleagues. She then asked us to all stand up and try to silently form an equilateral triangle with those two other participants we had silently picked. We kept moving and moving without being able to achieve this. Reflecting upon this experiential exercise we discovered that the reasons behind its not working were: lack of communication and hidden goals among others. We were not working together as a harmonious orchestra but rather as isolated entities. It was also interesting to find out that one of the participants admittedly changed the two participants he had silently picked during the activity in an attempt to make the equilateral triage goal achievable!

Participatory Approach

Daniela also pointed out that design thinking favors a participatory approach where participants get to speak and participate rather than having a public speaker taking charge of the session and controlling it as that would lead to a loss of most of the talent of participants. Daniela kept relating interesting stories she experienced herself about this and other principles she was relating.

Materials Fostering Creativity

Another interesting concept Daniela mentioned was how the use of new materials can foster creative thinking and help us think out of the box. For instance, participants can be given Plasticine, Lego or other fun material to use in order to help them think in more creative ways. This helps them tap into their childhood creativity and is quite fun at the same time.

Team, Place and Process

Daniela mentioned that in order to undergo successful design thinking there are 3 elements to it, namely: an amazing team, the place and artifacts and the process. She spoke about each of these 3 elements in some detail.


As for the place, Daniela gave two interesting examples. She said that a productive meeting can take place while walking! Another interesting example she gave was holding a meeting while lying down! This arrangement would make participants not able to see one another and therefore listen more attentively to each other as we generally tend not to listen to one another well.

Idea Ownership?

I really liked the concept of “no individual ownership of ideas” that Daniela mentioned. This is a really tough concept to implement as we have been brought up in our traditional competitive education to try and hold tight to our own ideas and ask for credit for such ideas. In design thinking, ideas are owned by the whole group and not by a single individual. Ideas are continually built upon by team members.

Ask “Why?”

A really interesting concept Daniela mentioned was that in design thinking we ask “why” rather than just asking “what”. For instance, if I client asks us to design a shelter, we don’t just go about asking him what type of shelter he wants but rather ask him why he wants to build such a shelter. I really appreciated such a concept as at resonates with my idea about designing training programs where I find it much more effective to ask the client on why he wants that particular training program rather than just asking him about what wants to have in the training.

Feasible, Viable and Desirable

As a reality check, Daniela mentioned that what we aim to achieve through design thinking should be feasible, viable and desirable. A ‘solution’ that is not technically feasible is certainly not one we should be pursuing. A prohibitively expensive solution that is way over budget is also not one to go for. And of course the solution we come up with must be one that is desirable by the client.

Development of Design Thinking

Daniela told us that design thinking went through 3 phases. During the first phase design was concerned with designing a better product such as for instance a better mouse that would be more usable. The second phase was more comprehensive and advanced and was concerned with the design of total experience. Designing a museum for instance lent itself nicely to such kind of total experience design. As for the third even more advanced and more comprehensive phase it is transformation design. In transnational design one focuses on changing mindset to effect change in a large ecosystem such as a supermarket chain or a whole city by placing interventions at specific points. Such change would take long to materialize and should be sought in small steps.

Desired Outcome

Another activity we did was pairing up with a partner, exchanging introductions to know more about our partners and then listening to one thing our partner is not happy about and the desired outcome he or she wishes for. Each pair were then asked to stand up ‘on stage’ and introduce one another and the mention the problem and desired outcome of each other.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Process

The session yesterday was just amazing. It made me really appreciate what design thinking has to offer for us. It sounded like a practical down to earth system for finding solutions and coming up with effective practical designs.