How to Train Effectively? Set and communicate learning objectives

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This is the second post in our mini-series on How to Train Effectively.  We began the series by discussing about the importance of priming your audience before a training—read about it here.

Imagine a foreign aid expert giving an incredibly designed, didactic training about new technology to a group of community leaders in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the training, the expert is sure that everyone will implement the new technology. But when he checks back in a few months, no one has.

Why? The training was about a new low-cost irrigation system for farms.  The community is largely comprised of fishermen. The few farmers who did attend the training were not given any practical follow-up steps on how to install the irrigation system afterwards.

Was the training effective?  Of course not! The expert was preaching a fascinating new product to the wrong audience. The few farmers who did attend had no idea how to start using the new technology, and no one in the fishing community knew how to help.

The foreign aid expert made common training mistakes.  He did not know his audience or their needs and wants before offering his training.  Additionally, he did not provide clear learning objectives before, during, and after the training.  The foreign aid expert would benefit from developing clear learning objectives for his future trainings, based on what his audience needs.

Learning objectives provide you with a clear guide to follow in the preparation, execution, and follow-up of the training. They also provide your audience with clear training expectations as well as what you expect they will learn and apply post-training.

So, how do you create learning objectives?

Know what your audience needs and wants

How often do we design a training without truly understanding our audience’s needs, wants, desires, and prior educational experiences? This is an essential pre-training step that should direct you as you develop your training and learning objectives.  At MoveUp, we use pre-training surveys, community and market research, and other resources to understand our audience and what they want to learn.  Then, we build our trainings and set clear objectives for them.

Write SMART Learning Objectives

Once you have identified your potential audience correctly, you are ready to write your outcomes.  To ensure learning objectives are appropriate for your audience, we recommend developing a maximum of 3 SMART learning objectives.  Less is more, especially if a training is just a few hours long. The SMART method (read more on Mind Tools) says that each objective should be:

  • Specific: The outcome should be simple and significant.Chess piece with crown
  • Measurable: There must be a way to measure if the participants have achieved the learning outcome. It may be asking a question, sending out a post-training quiz, or following up in a month.
  • Achievable: Make the objectives actually achievable for participants in the timeframe of the training. What is achievable for you as a subject expert may be different from that of your audience.
  • Relevant: The objective should be focused on your audience’s problems and motivations.
  • Time-Bound: Make sure to include a due date for accountability. 

Don’t fall into the expert trap

If you’ve taught a subject a number of times, it’s easy to feel like an expert and skip or rush through pre-training preparation. But don’t lose sight of the purpose of teaching:

We train so participants can learn.  Training is about participants learning, not about us teaching.

Take your time and think about what your audience needs to learn. Build your training about what they need to hear, and not around what you want to teach.

Stay on message

Before starting to plan a training, think about how it will fit into the mission, vision, and strategic plan of your organization. Perhaps the school leaders you work with desperately need training on teaching students with autism.  While incredibly important, if your organization’s mission is to help school leaders develop resiliency, this topic does not directly relate to your mission.

When organizations try to meet the needs and desires of their beneficiaries instead of staying true to who they are, this leads to mission drift, a common issue in the social sector.

Make sure participants know the training objectives!

Training objectives are just as important for participants as they are for educators. Learning objectives provide clear expectations and help participants set their own educational goals.

At MoveUp, we have found that providing training participants with learning objectives help them feel more supported as they learn. They leave with an achievable goal, like “finish the follow-up course within two weeks and prepare a list of all expenses before August 31.” They also know that in the first week of September we’ll be following up with them (via chat or a personal visit) to see how they’re doing.

Clear learning objectives are key for you as a trainer as well as for your participants.  With specific objectives, your training will be more effective and participants will be engaged and focused on implementing what they’ve learned.  Next week we’ll talk more about engaging your users by improving retention.

If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here.

Let’s continue the conversation about training effectiveness. Follow us on LinkedIn and reach out anytime to get in touch.

How to Train Effectively? It Starts with Priming your Audience

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All of us have participated in a training where the material went right over our head and we left without a single practical application.  There are many reasons a training might be ineffective.  Today we’re talking about one simple way to increase the effectiveness of your training, and it all happens before you start teaching!

Prime your Audience

Priming your brain involves exposing yourself to one stimuli before you are exposed to another type of stimuli.   For example, if I say “yellow” and then 10 to 30 seconds later say the word “fruit,” what comes to mind?


Great!  The word “yellow” helped your brain associate with a banana when I mentioned the second word, “fruit.”  If you mentioned pineapple or mango, or any other yellow fruit, your brain was also primed.  (Psychologists study this in depth — read more here on Very Well Mind or Psychology Today).

At MoveUp, we know and celebrate the value of priming in providing effective digital and in-person education.

Megan’s Personal Finance Class

Megan signed up last week for a training on personal finances. The day of the training, a typical Tuesday, she woke up at 5:30 that morning to do a quick workout and drop her kids off at school, spent 9 hours at work, and raced to the training, arriving 10 minutes late…and ready to learn about personal finance?! Megan happens to be a marketing manager at a large company; it’s probable she didn’t think about personal finance all day.  As the training facilitator launches into an explanation on how to build a family budget, Megan’s mind wanders to the dirty laundry awaiting her when she gets home. Slowly, her head begins to droop.  She jolts back awake, and spends the next 15 minutes frustrated by her inability to understand what the facilitator is writing on the whiteboard.  This is a completely normal and common occurrence when individuals participate in a training event if they haven’t been prepared for the training before attending.  Unprimed brains plus our busy lives and constant distractions can lead to very low retention.

To learn something new effectively, our brains must be prepared first. It’s not enough to simply say, “Okay, time to learn the quadratic formula!”  Priming is not complicated, but it is intentional.  Here a couple of best practices to help you prime your participants for upcoming trainings. These practices can be applied across a wide range of trainings and events, virtual or in-person, for all different learning styles and levels.

Prime the learner before they sign-up for the event

Event invitations should prime participants for the material covered in the event.  Let’s continue with the personal finance training as an example.  Perhaps after the in-person training, you upload a post promoting a webinar on personal finance to your organization’s social media.  In the post’s description, you provide a sentence or two about what the training is about.  Then, when individuals click to sign up, they are automatically directed to a page to sign up for the webinar that has much more information. Be sure to use bullet points, graphics, and other visual aids to encourage participants to read this information and internalize it.  Be sure it is NOT just a paragraph of text written in small print.  This text “primes” the participants for the content that will be discussed in the webinar.

Prime the learner before the training

After signing up for the webinar, your participants return to life as normal, and probably forget most of the information mentioned in the invitation and sign-up page. It’s important to prime participants again before they arrive to the training.  At MoveUp, we do this with a pre-training quiz on our mobile application.  These quizzes, which are normally 1 to 4 questions and take less than 2 minutes to complete, serve to wake up the participant’s mind to the topic we’ll be discussing.  A quiz is much more effective than a paragraph of text, as participants are forced to engage with the topic.  It’s up to you whether to provide the answers.  We like to not tell the user if they got the answer correct to add a bit of suspense. Making the quiz a pre-training requirement is another good strategy to help participants understand the importance of the material and the training itself.

Start the training by…yep you guessed it! Priming!

You cannot assume participants arrive to a training ready to engage in whatever you’re talking about, be it personal finance or how to use Photoshop.  This is true regardless if the training is physical, virtual, or even in an individually paced course.  Our minds are complicated and wild, and prone to wander to whatever is most pleasurable or interesting.  If that’s not personal finance or Photoshop, then you’ve lost your audience. If you had users complete the quiz, you can quickly ask individuals to volunteer their answers.  You can make the activity more participatory, having everyone who responded “true” stand up when you say true (if physical) or sending out the quiz again on a webinar platform to gather and show the survey results.  There are many other ways to prime learners when starting a training. What is important is that you do it, and that hopefully, this is the third time the user has been primed to think about the topic you’re going to teach.

Now you, and your participants, are truly ready to learn! Priming does not ensure participants will be engaged, but it is an important first step to ensure they are set-up to do so. Next week we’ll continue our series on how to train effectively by talking about setting and communicating learning objectives.


Are you interested in how MoveUp primes users for learning on our mobile learning platform? Contact us today!

Pros and Cons of Digital Education


Digital learning has been a hot topic since long before the year 2020. COVID-19 and the resulting widespread social distancing simply encouraged all those who didn’t use digital mediums to learn to do so; if you want to keep learning or teaching today, you have few other options.

At MoveUp, we provide actionable digital education through a simple mobile application for young adults & adults.  In this post, we refer to digital learning as learning on a digital platform where learners take classes and engage with one another and their teachers.  Let’s dive into the pros and cons of adult digital education, especially during these unprecedented times.

Pros of Digital Learning


For the average adult, taking the time to attend a physical class is incredibly difficult.  While juggling work, family responsibilities, managing a home and so much more, it is much easier to take a course at home on your phone, tablet, or computer and listen, read, or engage with material whenever is best for you. Now, in the age of COVID-19, millions of us cannot even safely leave our homes or engage in safe physical training, so digital is the way to go. Additionally, digital education is frequently much more affordable, even free in some cases, which makes it accessible to a wider market than its in-person counterpart.

Personalized Learning

Not everyone is interested in the same course material. Digital education provides adult students with the freedom to choose exactly what they want to learn.  Digital education courses are generally more available to students as well. In a physical training center or university, courses may be offered less frequently, or only when there is enough demand. With digital education, students can build their own personalized learning tracks based on personal and professional goals.

Accommodating to Different Learning Styles

We all learn differently. In a classroom, excellent teachers will craft lessons that incorporate activities catering to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles, but time is limited, and not all learning environments permit this type of education.  Digital education can easily be catered to the unique learning styles of each student, while also incorporating all three styles for best results. For example, MoveUp’s classes include lessons with narration for auditory or non-literate users. Those who prefer visual learning enjoy reading text and seeing pictures and graphics in their lessons. Kinesthetic learners engage with dynamic games in the app, such as matching pictures with their descriptions or solving crosswords.

Digitally Adaptive for Difficulty

AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology allows digital learning lessons & courses to be digitally adaptive, meaning the better you do on a lesson, the more difficult content you receive in the future. If a learner struggles with a specific topic, the platform may send simpler material or reinforcement questions to help with topic mastery. All learners are challenged appropriately based on their strengths and weaknesses, unlike classroom learning where a teacher can only teach one level of material at a time.


Anyone who has used Duolingo, a popular app for learning a language, can attest to the powers of gamification.  Gamification is a concept in digital education where game design elements and principles are applied to learning material.  Instead of simply learning a new language, you are trying to win “lingots” to buy a new suit for your owl avatar by correctly completing activities.  Gamification makes learning addictive and fun for users, increasing the time users spend on the app and helping them engage and retain more information.

 A Global Mindset

Depending on the digital education, learning digitally can expand our global perspectives. Students in an online class may be from different places and cultures. The material can be expanded far beyond the knowledge of a single professor. Communication tools in digital education can facilitate the development of long-distance friendships and networking.

Cons of Digital Learning

Lack of Personal Feedback

Feedback on a digital platform may be limited to an automatic score received, or a chat message from an instructor. Some digital learning facilitates video calls or other more direct methods of feedback, but regardless, they lack personal face-to-face contact.

Socially Isolating

Many students want to feel like part of a learning community.  Learning digitally can feel isolating, especially if learners are studying at their own pace alone. To overcome this challenge, many digital platforms encourage virtual classes or cohorts for students to study at the same time.  At MoveUp, we find that discussion boards are incredibly encouraging for users and teachers alike to feel a sense of connection.

Potentially Exclusive

The number of cellphones in the world is rising at an unprecedented rate. According to Bank My Cell, 3.5 billion people today have smartphones, which is 44% of the world’s population.  However, individuals without a smartphone or digital device are excluded from most digital education. If digital learning requires data or a wifi connection, many others, even if they have smartphones, are also excluded.  Additionally, in order to properly use digital education, users must be somewhat digitally literate, meaning they understand how to do more than simply make phone calls or send basic text messages on their phone.  Continued physical and digital education is necessary to bridge the gap between the number of people with smartphones and those who are technologically literate enough to use them to learn.

Educational Quality

Given the extent of information online, learners must carefully evaluate digital education sources.  While this also applies to in-person education, it can be especially challenging to do this digitally, especially if the learner has limited technological literacy or prior education. Just because something is digital doesn’t mean it’s correct or superior to in-person training.

In conclusion, digital learning provides many new benefits and features to traditional learning methods. However, it’s not a magic bullet to topic mastery. Like physical learning, it requires careful consideration of quality, learning environment, and accessibility to achieve great results.