For those occasions where you or your organization doesn't have the budget to hire a professional educator, trainer or consultant, you should know a number of things to be able organize a learning process, let it be a training session, team building weekend, workshop or seminar. The following article aims to give you the necessary basics to succeed.
Every learning process needs to be structured starting at the end. It might not be obvious for people working on other fields, but unfortunately educational techniques are not collected in a magazine that you can just open up on page 36 and pick one of the methods to teach something. There are many questions that need to be answered before you can even begin organizing and designing. Let's see what they are!
1. What is the topic of the training/seminar/workshop etc. ?
This for sure does sound obvious but it is not. Very few people can define their desired topic properly when organizing a learning process. Don't just know it in one sentence; know as much detail as possible. Know specifics, facts, structures, and models, whatever the case may be, and always adjust it to your audience.
2. Who do we organize for?
Knowing the age, gender, educational and professional background of your target group, (audience) gives you a great advantage at choosing the right timeframe, technique, setting etc. For a professional it can easily happen that we are not aware of some or any of this information, so it is doable to work your way around it, but find out as much as you can if possible. You should also consider the estimated level of your learners' motivation. Will they be forced to attend or they signed up out of pure interest in the topic?
3. What are the goals of the learning process?
No, it is not the same as #1. Here you are supposed to list the desired outcome for example in an "active" form such as: "the learners will be able to use the DBXC database search options". Be specific, be detailed and think of what the people who join in for your learning process will know by the end of it. It is also recommended to list the skills, skill-groups, competences you are planning to work on.
4. What is the time frame?
When thinking about the time frame there are several aspects you should consider. First of all of course decide how much time you have all together, and if it's going to be a one time thing or a series of events. Once you decided that you have to think of a structure. Younger learners need more frequent breaks because they lose focus faster. For adults you should rather have a longer session once a week opposed to a couple of hours 4 times a week. But of course all this depends on the rest of the settings such as the topic.
5. Methods and techniques
What you want to do and what you are able to do might be different. When choosing teaching-learning methodology you must consider every other aspect of your process. For different content & learning goals and for different audiences you can and should find specifically fitting solutions. My ultimate advice, and all together teaching philosophy is to always try to lift the content off of that paper! Use experiential learning, cross training, group activities and don't forget to take advantage of the available technology either. It can be in-class, blended or e-learning but either way you should include multimedia. The methods and techniques you choose to go with should always reflect your learning goals and your learners' needs.
6. Never forget to structure the content
Based on the specifics of your topic, audience, time frame and chosen methods you should always section your content. You can use deductive or inductive ways of processing the material, or you can figure out your own way, but you have to have a plan that's based on the specific features of your training.
7. What resources do you need?
You might need a room, computer(s), a website, tools, office supplies and/or another person to assist you. It - as everything else, I know - can differ. The easiest way not to forget anything from your list is to play through the whole process in your head. (Based on this answer you can also calculate a budget plan.)
8. Knowledge checks, exam, prerequisites
How do you plan to get feedback about the effectiveness of your learning process? You can decide that you don't need anything like this, but I would highly advice against that. Even if your creation is a harmless extra-curricular activity, you can always learn from mistakes, and from others' takes on things, which you can easily get through a simple questionnaire handed out, or organized online for your attendees (surveymonkey). In case you want to include knowledge checks you can have one at the beginning & one at the end that allow you to track everybody's development. You can have a test at the end of every module, or just one final "exam".
When thinking about knowledge check you should also decide if there are any prerequisites to ensure that everybody who attends will be able to successfully finish the course.
The better you can answer these questions, the more detailed your definitions are, the bigger your chance will become at organizing a successful learning process. Always think about the obvious differences. E.g.: For a team-building afternoon for your co-workers experiential techniques like simulations will work well. For teenagers who tend to be less comfortable contributing and speaking alone in front of a class, small group activities tend to work with case studies that they can relate to.
Even if you decide to just go with a presentation, always prepare some accompanying material such as a slide show, handout, some personal/funny example stories (when it's appropriate of course), and own the space, that room if you stick with a frontal setting. I personally always try to shake things up by demonstrating some aspects of any topic with a youtube video, an exercise with some volunteers, or at least throwing in some specifically made crossword puzzles with small prices involved.
As a conclusion I would just like to coldheartedly point out that training is not for bored businessmen who just like to have some attention. Reading from a piece of paper, or even from a beautifully made slideshow does not count as training, and there is one rule here: the more color, creativity and interactivity you include in any kind of learning process the more effective it'll become. I promise.