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Giving Intention to the Sequence and Flow of Your Training Activities

In last week’s podcast I shared a 4-step training design model.

This week, I offer some examples of training activities for each step (anchor, content, application, future use) for both instructor-led training and elearning.


Welcome everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host. I’m also the Co-founder of Endurance Learning and I’m the author of a book called What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements For Impactful Training. Today’s podcast is the sequel to something that I talked about in our last episode, which was the four-step training design model – so the anchor, content, application, and future use. Today, we’re going to be talking about the concepts that I talked about last week and making them a little bit more practical by speaking about some different activities you can use during each of those steps in the model.

But first I do need to give props to our sponsor Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for about 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing live, instructor-led training. So basically you tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people will attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then Soapbox instantly generates a training plan for you with clusters of training activities that are designed to help you accomplish your learning outcomes. And if you’re using Soapbox, you won’t have to worry about what’s coming up in this podcast because Soapbox does it for you. If you want more information, go ahead and visit

4-Step Training Design Model: Overview

Now, if you’re going to go it on your own, let’s talk about this four-step design model. So the four steps in this model are again, the anchor step which is basically dipping your toes into the waters of your content without overwhelming your learners with a fire hose of information. Then we have content which is basically, what is your topic and how are you going to share that information? Then the next step is application: how are we sure that our learners get it? And then future use: how can we get learners thinking about ways they’ll use their newfound knowledge and skills in the real world? 

Your Training Activities Should Align with Your Learning Objectives

even if you have activities that are aligned with your learning objectives the sequence and flow to your activities really does matter.

Before we get into any activities, just a reminder that any activity that you have in your training really should align with your learning objectives. Episode 94, which was several podcasts ago, actually goes into more depth about learning objectives and how if you craft them in the right way, they can really help you write the rest of your lesson plan. That said, even if you have activities that are aligned with your learning objectives, the sequence and flow to your activities really does matter. So let’s take a look at some activities in the order you may want to use them. 

Why Are Anchor Activities Important?

So let’s start with those anchor activities. And before we get into the actual activities, why are anchor activities important? Well, you probably don’t want to just start talking about your topic. Maybe you think your topic is important, maybe you understand your topic well, but your audience may not be so sure about why your topic is important. And your audience definitely doesn’t know your topic as well as you do, or they wouldn’t be attending your session. So an anchor activity helps people connect your topic with their own experiences. 

It makes your presentation learner-center, not presenter-centered. You might think that you’re really important, but all of your learners also think that they are important. So you want to do them a service by making a learner-centered presentation. Put another way, inserting an anchor activity into your presentation, you demonstrate your respect for the learners. You’re saying, “I want you to love my topic as much as I do. So let’s put it in terms that you’re familiar with.” 

Examples of Anchor Activities

Some instructor-led examples of anchor activities as compared to eLearning– which I’ll talk about in a few minutes, but instructor-led examples of anchor activities could be something as simple as, you know, think of your best experience with this topic. So if you’re talking about customer service, for example, think of your best shopping experience. Or if you’re helping new supervisors – think of your best experience talking with your boss, right? You have them think about that, you might debrief that a little bit, then you can go into your content. 

Or you can do a poll or a pop quiz about your topic just to see how much people actually already know about your topic coming into your session. So have your learners pay particular attention to any questions they may have gotten wrong if you did some sort of poll or pop quiz, and see if they can find the right answers during your session. Maybe you want to share a quote with your learners and ask how they feel that quote relates to your topic. So all of those are examples for instructor-led training. 

Put in a story or a scenario that pauses before the conclusion and asks the learners to make a choice that could help bring that scenario to a successful conclusion.

With eLearning that’s self-guided, some examples might be like a welcome video of someone sharing how your content made a difference for them. Sometimes it’s a little bit helpful for somebody to actually see live video as opposed to just reading things on a screen. And sometimes, maybe what you want to do is put in a story or a scenario that pauses before the conclusion and asks the learners to make a choice that could help bring that scenario to a successful conclusion. But then here’s the trick for an anchor activity – you don’t actually tell the learner if they got the answer right or wrong. You challenge them to see if they can determine for themselves if they’re right or wrong as they navigate your content in your module. So those are some anchor activities. 

Why are Content Activities Important?

Let’s talk about content. Now, why is content important? Well, this is the heart of your learning experience. Hopefully, you have helped your learners understand why your content is important through a good anchor activity. And then you get into your content activities. 

Examples of Content Activities

With instructor-led, the most typical would be lecture accompanied by PowerPoint. But you also can modify that lecture a little bit. Maybe you can present your content through a story, or you can give your lecture some structure and turn it into a Letterman-style top 10 list or top 5 list or top 7 list. You know, “The top 7 ways to find your customer’s needs” or “The top 3 questions your direct reports will probably ask you about the new policy that you’re talking to them about.” So those are some examples of content. 

Also, you can turn your training room into a museum, and ask your participants to engage in a gallery walk. That’s another way to present your content in person. You can place artifacts around the room or words or terms or content. You can post around the walls in your room and have people visit different stations around the room, pick up a little bit of information without you even talking to them about the content, without having to lecture. 

Now, when it comes to eLearning some examples that you might jump into– the most common that you would see is really read through the information on the screen and click next, or maybe click an image to reveal some more information. Sometimes people think that that is interactivity. You know, something else that you can do for content is instead of giving people a bunch of information, ask a series of question. And they don’t even have to be graded like a quiz, but the questions, or, you know, putting a scenario in there can force the learner to engage a little bit more as opposed to mindlessly clicking through your screens. So if they have to engage and read and think a little bit more critically about the information that you’re sharing and then make a choice, then give them feedback. And give them a reason to read that feedback a little bit more closely to see if they made the right choice. And that’s another way to present content.

Why are Application Activities  Important?

Application activities. Step number three. Now application is really important because we want to see if our learners are getting it before we move on. It’s a chance for our learners to practice what they’ve learned in an environment without consequences. It’s so much better to make mistakes in the training environment than in the real world. 

Examples of Application Activities 

So, some instructor-led examples of application could be role play or small group discussions. For a session in which you’re training people on how to develop training, task them to actually create a lesson plan or an eLearning module. For a session on facilitation skills, have your learners facilitate something. For a session on filling out a new form, have them practice filling out the form. You get the point. With application, you want your learner just doing something more than just listening to you. 

Some of the application opportunities that you have in eLearning might even be more powerful and realistic than anything you can do in person.

When it comes to eLearning application activities, this can be kind of cool, actually. You can get really creative. And in fact, some of the application opportunities that you have in eLearning might even be more powerful and realistic than anything you can do in person. So things like branching scenarios or choose your own adventure-style scenarios and simulations. The advantage to doing that in an eLearning– now it is a little bit more complex, time-consuming, probably expensive to create, but unlike in-person role plays, with eLearning you don’t need to rely on someone’s acting ability. With eLearning, the scenario and the feedback will be exactly the same scenario for every single learner, and it will be exactly the feedback that you want to give them every single time. And if you’re creating eLearning on using a computer system, then take screenshots of the computer system and have your learners, you know, identify fields that they need to use, or fill in some dummy information and have them using the system kind of in a practice environment that way too. 

Why are Future Use Activities Important?

Future use activities, our final step. Why is it important? Well, if you want people to use your information outside of the training environment, they need to see how it can be used in their context. 

Examples of Future Use Activities

And examples for in-person and eLearning future use activities often intersect. So I’ll talk about them both kind of in the same cluster here. With future use activities, you can do something like an individual reflection or journaling about how they can see themselves using information or skills, maybe an action plan, job aids, whether it’s in-person that you can distribute or eLearning that they can download. Checklists – things like that they can use to remind themselves of what they learned, especially if they’re not going to use it for two weeks or a month or something like that. Something they can refer back to. Or a call to action in a challenge to discuss their post-training goals with their supervisors

4-Step Training Design Model Activities: A Review

So in sum, we have anchor, content, application, and future use activities. Anchor activities are there so that you can get started without overwhelming your learners with lots of information. Content activities – remember you don’t always need to rely on lecture. There are other ways to deliver that content. With application activities, you can create simpler, complex challenges to see if your learners are getting it based upon the amount of time you have and the level of mastery that’s expected. And then future use activities, you’re looking for ways to help your learners see themselves using your content outside of the training environment. Just keep in mind that the order in which you introduce your activities does matter. 

Thank you once again, for listening to Train Like You Listen. If you need help on your own training programs, whether they’re instructor-led or eLearning, you want to try to put some of these activities in there, drop me a line at And I’d love to talk to you about it. If you know someone who might find today’s topic on the activities that you can get into these four design steps, please do pass along the link to this podcast. If you want to make sure that you’re notified of a new podcast when it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe at Apple or Spotify, wherever you listen to your podcasts. Even better would be if you’re able to give a review of the podcast. It’ll take you a minute, but it would mean a lot to me. That’s all I have for you this week. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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