Crafting a Roadmap for Success: Planning Your Course

Establishing the training need

Essential to the success of a training event is that the training offered is actually required. It is all too easy to assume that there is a training need just because you want to organise a particular training event. You must first consult your potential audience. If training is to be a useful experience it should be meeting a definite need on the part of the commissioning organisation and/or the potential participants. However, it should be noted that there can be a significant difference between what a group / agency thinks it needs and what it actually needs both in level and nature of training. It should also be clear that training is the appropriate response to what is required. Otherwise you will be faced with either a group uninterested in the training or no participants at all.
Before you begin planning the training find out what training is needed and what those involved will want. If training is being commissioned have a thorough discussion with the commissioning organisation to establish that the focus and content of the training will meet the requirement. If you are planning your own training event ask colleagues and your potential participants what they want. Depending on the type of training you are considering, the consultation can range from full-scale market research including interviews and questionnaires to informal chats at professional meetings. The former would be suitable for a major training programme such as a distance learning course. Sometimes you can only assess the training need by drafting a training event programme, advertising it and seeing what response you receive.
It is important to remember that training is not only for those without any experience or expertise in the training area. It can also be aimed at established practitioners who need to update their knowledge and skills, for example when new standards or legislation have been introduced.

Checklist to assist in assessing and planning the training

  • Is training needed?
  • In what subject areas is training required?
  • What does the employing organisation want?
  • What do the potential trainees want?
  • What type of event will best meet the need?
  • What method of delivery is best suited to the event?
  • How long will the training take?
  • How long will it take to organise?
  • What facilities and materials will the trainer need?


To develop successful training courses you need a combination of skills and expertise. Good logistical planning is one of the most crucial aspects of training delivery. If your participants are not comfortable physically and at ease psychologically, they will not benefit fully from the training content. The first step in planning logistics for training is to develop a timetable. Set out what needs to happen by what date and assign responsibility for each task. Remember that there will always be occasions when you have little or no control over some or all of the logistics, in which case it is best to be flexible and work with your participants to make the best of the situation.

Sample checklist

  • Setting date for training
  • Specification of equipment needed
  • Identification of suitable venue
  • Booking of venue
  • Inviting speakers, including deadlines for handouts, summaries etc.
  • Confirming speakers
  • Draft programme
  • Advertising
  • Registration of participants
  • Confirmation to participants
  • Catering requirements and orders
  • Copying of handouts and other training material
  • Development of evaluation form
  • Production of certificates

Venues and classrooms

One of the most important factors in successful training is the venue or room in which the training is conducted. It is vital to choose your training venue well and, especially if you do not have much choice, to get the most out of the space you are working in. If there is no possibility of checking the venue in person beforehand, it is advisable to get to the venue early on the day of the training to sort out any problems.
Do not be afraid to reorganise furniture, open or shut windows and doors as necessary to ensure that participants are comfortable. If they are too hot or too cold, can hear outside noise, are sitting on hard chairs or chairs that are too soft their concentration may not be good.

Questions to ask

  1. How many rooms will you need?
  2. Do you need break out or syndicate rooms for small group work and discussions?
  3. What size should the rooms be?
  4. What is the furniture like — do participants have somewhere to rest to write? Are the chairs comfortable?
  5. What is the best way to arrange the furniture — lecture style, around a large table, a circle of chairs?

Factors which affect the participants’ comfort

  • Light — natural or artificial
  • Fresh air
  • Outside noise levels
  • Acoustics in the training room
  • Temperature

Training equipment

When planning training you need to make sure that you and your guest speakers have the necessary equipment to support your presentations. Check with the venue before booking and make sure that you have put your equipment requirements in writing.
Even if you have planned well and the venue is a reliable one, equipment can go wrong and let you down. Well in advance of the training day you should make sure your files are compatible with the hardware and software at the venue. Computer equipment is particularly prone to performance failure, so you need to check early on the day itself that the equipment works. It is a good idea to make sure you can reach a technician quickly to help solve any technical difficulties. It is important to have a back-up plan and to take along extra materials. If you have handouts you can speak to a handout instead of the OHPs. If the data projector equipment is not working, back-up overheads can be vital. If you are planning a video presentation you may need to talk through the programme and draw out the lesson that way.

Equipment checklist

  • Overhead projector and acetate slides
    This is the most common machine for supporting visual aids to lectures and presentations. It uses mirrors, light and magnifying glass to project an image on a screen or wall. The slides used to carry the image are clear acetate and can either be hand written/drawn, printed from a computer or photocopied. The disadvantage of overhead slides is that they are expensive to produce and cannot be revised without creating a new slide. They can be more original and visually interesting than PowerPoint presentations. Overhead projectors are more reliable and common than computers in developing countries and organisations with fewer resources.
  • Flipchart
    Flipcharts are similar to white boards in that the presenter can write on them in a spontaneous way to support the presentation. They can also be used for material that has been prepared in advance. It can be useful to give sheets of flipchart paper to break-out groups for their feedback sessions. As with whiteboards, you need to make sure you have special flipchart pens (which are different from those used for writing on whiteboards).
  • Whiteboard
    This is the modern equivalent of a blackboard, having a smooth shiny surface that can be written on and wiped clean. You will need to ensure you have several special whiteboard pens as they are designed to wipe off easily. You’ll also want to make sure they are not running out.
  • Video visualizer
    This is a piece of equipment which acts like an overhead projector but can project images of anything placed in its view. It is possible to use conventional acetates, but you can use paper print-outs, magazine illustrations, objects etc. This is a very flexible option to support presentations but it can be hard to focus the equipment. It is very expensive (over $1,000) and requires additional computer equipment including a data projector to work.
  • Data projector and computer set-up for PowerPoint or other presentation software
    PowerPoint is a Microsoft computer programme which allows you to organise text in brief bullets and illustrations as a support to your presentation. Its advantage is that it is easier and cheaper to revise than overhead slides but, if not used well, it can be visually boring.
  • Projection screen
    This is an essential piece of equipment for all of the visual aid machines mentioned above. The screen can be mounted on the wall like a roller blind or it can be free-standing. Whilst it is possible to use an even white wall for projection, a screen will ensure a clear and even image.
  • Video cassette player (VCR)
    There are several ways of playing videos in a classroom. The first is with a large television and a conventional video player. This usually requires some reorganisation of the classroom to ensure all participants can see well. The other way to screen a video is with computer equipment via a data projector.
  • DVD player
    Like a video player but uses digital technology (Digital Versatile Disks) to record and play films etc.
  • Internet link
    If you are going to do any presentation involving viewing Websites, an Internet link (usually via a telephone) is required.

Breaks and catering

Scheduling and timing breaks and making sure that the catering and other facilities are adequate is essential for successful training. Whilst it is possible to serve lunch in the training room, it is usually better to have lunch in a different space — particularly as delivery of the food and crockery can be distracting and if the remains are not promptly cleared away, this can add unpleasant odours to the training room.
Choice of food can also be very important to the participants’experience. You will need to assess in some way (perhaps with a tick box on the application form) whether there are any special dietary needs. You may want to select some vegetarian food as a matter of course but if you have participants that require kosher, vegan or glutan-free food you will want to cater for them too. There are some other important choices to make about catering.

Questions to ask

  1. Do you want a formal sit-down meal?
  2. Do you want a buffet meal?
  3. Will you serve alcohol?
  4. Will the food be hot or cold?
  5. Will the food be light or heavy?
  6. When do you want tea and coffee served — in particular do you want tea and coffee as people arrive?

You will need to work out where the men’s and women’s toilets are and let the class know at the beginning of the course. Similarly, you should tell them where they may smoke in the breaks. It is also good practice to tell the class where the fire escapes are and the drill in the event of an emergency such as fire including the assembly point.

Aims, objectives and learning outcomes


Aims, objectives and learning outcomes provide a clear indication of the goals and purpose of the training. Trainers use them to focus the training and to assess performance and success of participants. Participants can use them to evaluate the training from their own perspective.
Aims are overall statements of what you hope the training event will achieve. For example:

“The aim of this training is to give an introduction to archives, records management and preservation.”

Objectives are more specific statements of what you will present to the participants, for example:

“To present current methods of cataloguing and providing access to records.”

Learning outcomes are a set of statements setting out what the participants should be able to do or understand by the end of the training event. For example:

“By the end of this course you will be able to use the International Standard on Archive Description to create descriptions of archive material.”

We develop and use all three of these so that learners are clear about what the aims of the training are and what they will have learned by the end of it. They can also be used to feed into learners’ evaluation of the training. Response to questions gauging levels of achievement of aims, objectives and learning outcomes can provide useful information on the success of the training.
Writing aims and objectives is fairly straightforward. Keep your language clear and try not to have too many little aims and objectives. Learning outcomes need to be more detailed. They also need to be more carefully crafted to ensure that the outcome as stated is achievable in the context of the training you are developing.

Writing learning outcomes

Learning outcomes can be difficult to write well. It is good to begin with a statement addressed directly to the participant, such as:

“When you have completed this course you should be able to:”

Tips for writing learning outcomes

Learning outcomes must be:

  • Be clear and precise
  • Be learner-centred
  • Specify an outcome that can be observed or measured
  • Be realistic and achievable

Use words describing activities which can be observed such as:

  • State
  • Describe
  • Explain
  • Identify
  • Analyse
  • Compare
  • Demonstrate
  • Plan
  • Develop
  • Use

Avoid words such as:

  • Appreciate
  • Know
  • Be aware of

An example of learning aims, objectives and outcomes

Here is an example of a set of aims, objectives and outcomes for some training in providing reference and user services (also known as access to archives).

Provision of reference and user services


To provide a framework for developing and delivering reference and user services in a variety of record-keeping environments.


  • To discuss professional issues relating to the provision of reference and user services
  • To examine the different sectors of users and their differing needs
  • To review the range of services which may be provided
  • To establish the means of providing them effectively in the workplace
  • To consider the possibilities for developing user services and the awareness of them

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course you will be able to:

  1. Explain the professional issues relevant to the provision of reference and user services
  2. Describe and evaluate local policy on provision of reference and user services
  3. Distinguish between the different types of users
  4. Identify the service needs of different types of users
  5. Identify the appropriate reference and user services for your workplace
  6. Demonstrate effective responses to a variety of research requests
  7. Explain the procedures for providing secure access to records and archives
  8. Describe the essential attributes of a searchroom
  9. Explain the functions of searchroom personnel
  10. Describe the searchroom finding aids
  11. Demonstrate effective use of the different finding aids
  12. Explain the issues relevant to providing copies of documents
  13. Describe the procedures for providing surrogate copies and a reprography service

Content design

Once you have established a need for training and undertaken research and analysis to profile your learners, you need to plan the course content. This usually needs to be undertaken in conjunction with the logistical planning and budgeting as these three areas are inter-related and have an impact on each other.
The first task is to identify the main subject areas that need to be covered. Remember to take into consideration the existing level of knowledge of your participants. Begin with the broad areas that need to be included and refine down into development of detailed sections or sessions.
Remember to take into account the learning outcomes, although sometimes these will develop along with the course, depending on how it has been commissioned or market researched. You also need to consider the participants and what they may perceive as important or less important content. Another consideration that affects course design is the time available for the training.
If you are using “external” speakers you will need to balance knowledge and expertise against teaching skills. Not all practitioners are good speakers. Sometimes the the person is more suitable for a good workshop than a lecture that might not be so well-organised or presented.
In designing the course, draw on your experience of what skills, techniques and knowledge practitioners in the field need to have at every level. Begin with the length of the course and think about the aims and objectives, even the broad learning outcomes to identify the main elements you want the course to include. For example, the aims, objectives and learning outcomes for a training course on the provision of reference and user services might be used as a guide to break the main elements into:

  • Context and reason for reference services
  • The range of different types of reference services
  • Delivery methods
  • Reference service users and non-users
  • Policy and procedures
  • Practical aspects to provision of user/reference services
  • “Customer management”

Once you have your basic list of main areas, you can begin to map out each one in more detail, but it is best to start to think about timings at this point as well. It can be helpful to tabulate this as follows:

Main subject area Points to cover Delivery method Time required Teaching aids etc
Different types of reference services Face-to-face
Written via mail
Written via email
Resources needed
Group brainstorm 20 minutes Flip chart or whiteboard to record results
Policy and procedures for reference services Access policies content and style
Reading room regulations
Document request procedures
Security issues
Presentation and workshop (form design) 1 hour 20 minutes OHPs or powerpoint and workshop space and resources

You obviously need enough time to cover the subject matter for each session — and that may vary so don’t feel all sessions have to be of equal length. However, if you really don’t have enough time to cover everything as thoroughly as possible, you might adjust the level of detail and/or choose a delivery method that allows you to point at sources and examples that the participants can explore for themselves after the training is finished. Choosing delivery methods in any case is very important. You will want to have a mix of lectures, presentations and more participative sessions such as workshops and discussions, but you need to think carefully about which delivery suits which subject matter the best.
When designing the training content and programme you also need to take resources, equipment and venue into consideration. Think about the following:

  • Is there space for break-out groups?
  • Will meals be served in a separate room? If so you can get away with a shorter break but if not you should leave some time for participants to go out for a breath of air and a change of scene.
  • Is there a data projector and/or OHP equipment?
  • What kind of chair and table layout is possible and how will this affect group dynamics?

Finally you should draw up your programme. Don’t forget to allow time for a midday meal and refreshment breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon. You also want an introductory session at the very beginning so you can introduce yourself to the class and go over the programme and the learning outcomes, and so participants can introduce themselves too. It can also be very helpful to go over basic terminology so that everyone has the same understanding of what the technical terms mean. At the end of the day you should allow time for final questions, a quick participant evaluation form and certificates, if you give them out.