Since I began writing this blog in 2012, one of the most visited and requested resources has been this lesson plan template. I find this template super helpful when I’m starting from scratch, especially when it comes to organizing my thoughts and mapping out how much time I should be spending on any given activity… and then how much time I’ll have left to cover other content after getting through any given activity.
While this lesson plan template helps keep my thoughts organized, it doesn’t save me a lot of time in the development of a lesson plan. If I (or someone on my team) wants to save some time, we’ll turn to Soapbox, which is an online tool that we created to basically map out a lesson plan for you in about 10 minutes.
Soapbox is a training presentation design tool that only has three main screens, so it’s pretty straight forward when it comes to designing your presentation for you.
Step 1: What kind of training presentation will you be facilitating?
One the first screen, you fill in a few blanks or select a few choices to let Soapbox know how long your session is, whether it’s in-person or virtual and how many people will attend.
If your session is in-person, it will ask you to describe your seating arrangement (boardroom-style, U-shape, classroom style, small tables) because Soapbox will give you different activity instructions based on your seating arrangement (at small tables, you might turn to the other people at your table; in a U-shape, you may want your participants to turn to the person next to them to discuss a key point).
If your session is virtual, it will ask you to select your virtual training platform because Soapbox doesn’t want to suggest that you use breakout rooms (for example) if your platform doesn’t support breakout rooms.
Step 2: What is it that your participants should be able to do by the end of your session?
On the middle screen, Soapbox needs to know what your participants should be able to do new or differently or better as a result of your presentation (basically, this is where you create your learning objectives).
In an effort to make this easier for you, Soapbox takes a look at the title of your presentation and tries to take a guess at what some of your learning objectives should be. (Sometimes Soapbox takes a good guess… sometimes you’ll need to skip over Soapbox’s guesses.)
The top items with the gold star to the right of each sentence are Soapbox’s guesses. If any of these fit, simply click on them. If they don’t fit, then scroll down below to create your own learning outcomes for the session.
Step 3: Review and modify the lesson plan as needed
If you spent some time to carefully consider your learning outcomes on the previous page, you’ll probably have spent about 10 minutes, in total, thinking through the entire presentation. Behind the scenes Soapbox has been working to come up with clusters of activities that will help you engage your participants and accomplish your learning outcomes.
On this screen you take see the overall sequence and flow of your activities, and then you can expand any activity on this page to take a closer look at the step-by-step activity instructions.
The activities that Soapbox generates are general enough to fit lots of different contexts (sales training, listening skills, software training, customer service, etc) but specific enough for you to figure out exactly how to facilitate each activity.
If you like the activity, you can edit the instructions to make the activity more specific to your topic and to add your talking points. If you don’t like the activity, you can swap it out for a handful of other suggested activities. On the back-end, Soapbox features more than 200 different activities and thousands of variations of those activities, depending on whether they are to be delivered in-person or virtually, the seating arrangement, the amount of time you have for your presentation and several other factors.
Once you’re happy with your presentation, Soapbox will generate slides (with instructions in the Notes section of the PowerPoint deck) and a facilitator guide (which is downloadable as a Word document).
Several ways to save time
Some people who use Soapbox have said that this saves them about 50%-60% of the time it’s typically taken them to generate a training plan because they no longer need to think of activities or write out all of the instructions. They simply add their own content and adjust some of the instructions to fit their context.
Other people who are more experienced instructional designers have said that they don’t necessarily use everything Soapbox generates, but they find it to be invaluable in coming up with new activities for a session they’re designing on their own.
Obviously, you can download a lesson plan template with the link in the first paragraph of this post. If you’d like to try Soapbox out for free, you can create an account (or sign up for a live demo) by clicking here.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll share actual lesson plans for several different topics that were created in minutes using Soapbox. (If you have suggestions on a specific topic for which you’d like to see a lesson plan, drop a note in the comment section!)