Add Sizzle to Training Using a Thematic Approach

Julee Travis
Posted: April 14, 2014

Have you ever taken training and wished you could ask the developer for the recipe? Or wished you could add more to spice it up? What ingredients can you toss in to make your training delight your learners’ taste buds?

Begin with Basics

Of course, you must include the basic ingredients for all sound training, such as learning objectives, robust content gathered from resources including subject matter experts (SMEs), and activities to gauge understanding along the way. However, few of us enjoy recipes made solely from basic ingredients. Instead, we clamor for dishes loaded full of “extras” — the star ingredients.

Remember the “Extras”

learning objectives, thematic approach, literary device, trainingimage source

Using a thematic approach allows you to mix in some star ingredients, creating a more memorable dish for your learners. This approach helps to brand a course and to keep it consistent. At ttcInnovations, we often employ a thematic approach. For example, I’ve used a cooking analogy in this article. The idea is to help you understand the concept being taught by drawing upon your real-life experiences.

[Tweet “Thematic approaches allow learners to relate to concepts based of real-life experiences. #elearning”]

Many types of themes can add sizzle to your training. Some common types include:

• Literary device (metaphor/analogy)

• Quotes

• Spokesperson or character

• Big picture

Literary device (metaphor/analogy)

Metaphors and analogies help explain your content by comparing it to something with which the learners are already familiar. You might carry out a metaphor or analogy visually through the use of graphics or through facilitator scripting. In this article, I used a few graphics to convey the comparison of cooking to training development.


Quotes can serve as a theme when you use them throughout the whole course — for example, at the beginning of each chapter. Using quotes adds interest while helping to illustrate something you need to teach. A quote also can gain the learner’s interest or trust if he or she admires who said it.

In the example here, a quote helps strengthen another theme — an analogy comparing the content to ocean navigation.


Big picture

Create a graphic to illustrate the big picture. This might identify stages or steps in some process or each topic to be covered, giving learners a snapshot view of what they will be learning. The graphic can be repeated or tweaked throughout the course to provide a map showing “you are here.” This helps to ground learners and give them a better awareness of their position within the course or process.

Spokesperson or character

Use a common character or spokesperson throughout a course to connect learners emotionally to the content. Furthermore, repeating the same character throughout the curriculum can tie courses together with a common thread. Instead of delivering content in a traditional way, you can deliver it through the spokesperson to add variety to your course.

[Tweet “Common characters used in #elearning courses help learners connect emotionally to the content.”]

In the example here, an animated character guides the learner through the course providing continuity.

Articulate, on-boarding, training, web-based training

Next time you develop training material, try using a thematic approach to add sizzle to your recipe. You’re sure to create an appetizing dish that stands out among the rest!

Tell us: What “extras” do you add to spice up your training? Share with us in the comments below or tweet us your thoughts.

featured image source

About the Author