5 Instructional Design Tips to Boost Learning

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Here’s a very common recipe for training in most organizations. Let me know if this looks familiar to you:

  • 1 PowerPoint presentation chock full of the trainer’s speaking notes. Discard images and videos.
  • 12 or so Employees
  • 1 Trainer who talks for hours on end without a break.

Mix them all together in a stuffy conference room and the end result is a sweaty, worn out, frustrated trainer, and twelve employees who retained very little of the information they heard. When you consider the fact that training time equals money and all of the consequences that accompany a poorly trained workforce, we can ill afford to get this wrong!

Now before you scrap all of the work you’ve put into designing your training, I want to share five simple instructional design tips that will boost employee learning, achieve that ROI your boss wants to see, and cause you to sweat a whole lot less. Ok, if you’re anything like this trainer— you’ll actually sweat just as much, if not more.

Visually Rich Slides

Your first step is to ditch PowerPoint presentations with slides loaded with the words you are going to read to your class. In his book, Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds refers to such slides as “slideuments.” If your slides amount to nothing more than documents, it likely time to go back to the drawing board.


Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix gives us a great guideline when he says, “true presentations focus on the presenter and the visionary ideas and concepts they want to communicate.” Wherever possible, I prefer to use powerful images that fuel my talking points. Many executives go so far as to present from one slide deck and then prepare a more text-heavy deck for folks to reference or read on their own after the presentation.

Handouts With Pre-written Notes

How many trainings have you completed where attendees left their handouts on the table at the end of the session? These handouts can serve a much greater purpose if done right.


A good handout is at its best when you list key points on it but then leave room for students to add their own notes. This takes some of the pressure off them to write down every word that is said. They can then underline, highlight, and annotate the parts that really stick out to them.


Fidgets or toys are one of my favorite things. We provide pages for coloring, pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, and Silly Putty. These only serve to distract everybody, right? Wrong! We’ve found that when you have something to do with your hands, your cognitive processes are much more open. In this article on bringing toys to meetings, Christopher M. Avery points out that, “Business conversations are typically very “left-brained.” But creative solutions require using the whole brain and the whole person. Toys release the whole person behind the heady intellect.”


Activity Breaks

Unless you have a full comedy bit built into your session, you’re going to need to build in regular activity breaks to keep everybody fresh. A great rule of thumb is to plan an activity break after every five to seven slides.

What constitutes an activity break? Here are a couple ideas:

  • Ask Questions – Ask a question of the room based on what you just taught and wait for someone to answer. Discuss their answers while you’re at it.
  • Pop Quiz – Do a quick, informal pop quiz on what they’ve learned so far. This is a great way to reiterate and really cement what you’ve already taught.


Interactive Lectures

Similar to regular activity breaks, interactive lectures are a great way to allow students to apply what they are learning to their work. A great way to do this is to break the team into groups of two or three and ask them to work on an activity based on the material. This requires movement and collaboration and allows them to talk for a change. You should aim to do this at least once per lecture.


As you read through these five instructional design tips, I hope you see just how simple these techniques are to implement. With a few small tweaks to your existing presentation, you will most certainly have a more engaged classroom equipped to do their job that much better.

An idea matters as much as it moves us. ~Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence


Sheri Kendall-duPont
Manager of Colleague & Leadership Development

Sheri Kendall-duPont’s passion for creating positive change within organizations led her to FCR. In her current role as the Manager of Colleague and Leadership Development she has developed programs that have inspired those in leadership to create a coaching culture.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Northwestern Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Training and Development from Roosevelt University. Her career in education began in 1999 and since then she has developed workplace learning opportunities for non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, government agencies, healthcare organizations and contact centers. Follow Sheri on Twitter and LinkedIn.

1 Comment. Leave new

FCR Solutions Spotlight: 8 Essential Features for your Contact Center LMS
10/08/2018 2:40 pm

[…] Instructional design- There’s an entire science around instructional design — and while it would be nice for every contact center to have someone with a masters degree in the topic (like FCR), that may not be practical. Many platforms will have templates and drag and drop designs for you to create robust courses that will engage your learners. Regarding instructional design, here are some design tips to help boost learning. […]


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