Various Ideas for Learning Activities

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.

There are numerous types of activities which learners can conduct to reach their learning objectives -- arguably the best activity is life itself. The learner can conduct one type of activity below or several. The list actually comprises what might be called types, modes and methods of learning and even some learning aids.

Note that conducting any of the following activities (or types of activities) will not by themselves necessarily generate learning. Ideally, the following are selecting during the systematic design of a training and development experience, whether self-directed or other-directed.

Sections of This Topic Include

Some Typical Ways of Learning
Miscellaneous Other Ways
Some Tangible Results that Can Be Used to "Document" Learning

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Activities for Learning and Development

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Various Ideas for Learning Activities. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Career Management Blog
Library's Human Resources Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Training and Development Blog

Some Typical Ways of Learning

Training methods are either on-the-job, implemented outside the organization or a combination of both.The following is a brief overview of rather typical methods of development (in alphabetical order):


For centuries, apprenticeships were the major approach to learning a craft. The apprentice worked with a recognized master craftsperson. Particularly during times of low unemployment, businesses are eager to get any kind of help they can find. Seeking an apprenticeship may be a very useful and effective way to eventually develop a new skill.

Career Counseling

Hopefully, learners have the opportunity to work with their supervisors to develop career plans which identify areas for improvement or advancement, how those areas can be addressed and when.


Coaching is becoming a very popular means of development, and often includes working one-on-one with the learner to conduct a needs assessment, set major goals to accomplish, develop an action plan, and support the learner to accomplish the plan. The learner drives these activities and the coach provides continuing feedback and support. See Coaching.

Continuing Professional Development

Many professions require verification of ongoing training to retain certification, e.g., social workers, some fields of law, nurses, etc. Professionals must stay up-to-date in the views and practices necessary to lead and manage in today's organizations. There seems to be an increasing number of universities, colleges and training centers associating continuing education units (CEU's) with their courses and workshops.

Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is learning how to learn. Typically, this involves developing skills in reflection, which is the ability to continually inquire and think about experience to draw conclusions and insights. It also involves the ability to conceptualize the learning process. Continuous learning is often associated with the concepts of systems thinking and organizational learning. Continuous learning is NOT about continually taking courses -- it's about developing skills in reflection and inquiry -- it's about learning how to learn so that your life and work experiences become your own learning lab. Organizations and other environments are changing rapidly. Therefore, it's extremely important to continually be aware of those changes, and to be reflecting on them and learning from them, as well.

A Basic Definition
How Many Steps to Continuous Learning? None


Universities, colleges and training centers often have a large number of courses in management, professional and personal development. If the learner is looking to build a skill, then he or she must actually apply new information from these courses -- otherwise, the learner is collecting information (hopefully, knowledge), rather than building skills.

Distance Learning (eLearning, Virtual Learning)

Distance learning has become a mainstream approach in training and development. This typically includes learning by getting information and / or guidance from people who are not face-to-face with the learner, e.g., learning via satellite broadcast, broadcast over the Internet, e-mail or postal mail correspondence, etc. Some people consider online learning or elearning (e.g., information, tutorials, etc., available on diskette, CD-ROM, over the Internet, etc.) to be distance learning, as well.

Distance Education: An Overview
Glossary of Distance Education
Statistical Analysis Report: Distance Education in Higher Education Institutions
E-Learning and Distance Learning Pros and Cons
How to Design An Elearning Course on a Budget
10 Steps to Award-Winning E-Learning Design Process
Teleseminars, Stage Fright and More
Training Blogs – Using the Web to Train the World
Is Classroom Training Dying?
Using Mobile Technologies in Education and Training
Are Hybrid Online/Classroom Programs the Answer?
Flipping Classrooms: New Look for Experiential Training
Making Digital Training “An Affair to Remember”


Internships are offered usually by organizations to college students wanting to find work experience during the summer months. The internships offer precious, real-life job experience and the organizations often get skilled, highly dedicated service. Many times, interns go on to be hired by the organizations, as well.

Job Assignments

Job assignments are wonderful opportunities from which to learn. We just aren't used to thinking of them that way. To cultivate learning, consider having employees write short reports, including an overview of what they did, why they did it, what areas of knowledge and skills were used, how the job might have been done better, and what areas of knowledge and skills would be needed to improve the job.

Job Rotations

This can be one of the most powerful forms of development, allowing learners to experience a broad range of managerial settings, cultures and challenges.


Lectures, or focused presentations by experts on subject matter, are held in a wide variety of locations, not just in classrooms. Professional associations often bring in speakers. Guest lectures are often sponsored by local universities, colleges and training centers, and announced to the public. Many times, the lectures are repeated over local radio and television.

Management Development Programs

Local universities, colleges and training centers usually offer these programs. Carefully review their program content and design to ensure that training includes real-life learning activities during which learners can develop skills for the workplace. See Management Development.


Hopefully, learners find experienced managers in the workplace who are willing to take learners "under their wing" and provide ongoing coaching and mentoring. See Mentoring.

Off-the-Job Training

Off the job training occurs when an employee works after hours to learn. See Training Methods: On Job Training and off the Job Training Methods.

Online Training

There are an increasing number of approaches to online learning. See Online Learning. Sources of online training include learning from computer diskette, CD-ROM, the Internet or Web-based training, etc.

Effective Use of Mobile Apps – New Technology in Training
A Day in the Life – Hybrid Education
Hybrid or “Blended” Education – After Week One

On-the-Job Training

This form helps particularly to develop the occupational skills necessary to manage an organization, e.g., to fully understand the organization's products and services and how they are developed and carried out. Also see

On the Job Training (Definition)
What is On the Job Training?
On the Job Training
Coaching Skills for On-the-Job Trainers

Other-Directed Learning

This includes having someone other than the learner identify the training goal, methods to achieve the goal, and approaches to evaluating the training and progress toward achieving the training goal.

Orientation to New Jobs or Roles

A carefully developed procedure for orienting new employees is very helpful for getting employees "off on the right foot" when starting their jobs.

Peer-Based Methods

This includes formats where peers focus on helping each other learn, e.g., by exchanging ongoing feedback, questions, supportive challenges, materials, etc. Perhaps the best example is the action learning process, originated by Reginald Revans. See Action Learning.


Portfolios are a collection of various results from a learning and development experience, for example, essays, presentations, art work and journals that effectively convey the nature and extent of learning from the experience. See Portfolios -- and Learning and Development Tool.

Professional Organizations

A wide variety of professional organizations often offer courses, seminars, workshops and sessions from conventions.

Self-Directed Learning

Highly motivated learners can usually gain a great deal of knowledge and skills by identifying their own learning objectives, how to meet those objectives and how to verify they've met the objectives, as well. See Strong Value of Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace.


Storytelling used to be viewed only as means for entertainment. However, we coming to understand that it also is very powerful means for enlightenment, when listeners are guided to reflect on the stories and to identify themes and patterns that emerge -- and tell us about ourselves, our lives and our work. See Storytelling in Business


Various television networks often have a wide variety of very enlightening shows about basic job skills, such as computer basics, business writing, etc.


Tutorials includes guidance to proceed through learning some technique or procedure, e.g., a tutorial on using a computer software package. There are an increasing number of online tutorials (tutorials available on diskette, CD-ROM, over the Internet, etc.).

Training Courses and Workshops

Workshops, seminars, convention sessions, etc. are useful, in particular, for highly focused overviews of a particular subject or training about particular procedures.

University and College Programs

It seems there is an exponential number of management development programs in universities and colleges.


Workshops typically include some hands-on practice by the learner, and can be very practical means to learn a certain technique or procedure.

Miscellaneous Other Ways

Training Using Life Simulations
52 Free Development Opportunities for Nonprofit Staff

Some Tangible Results that Can Be Used to "Document" Learning

If you or others are seeking to verify results from your training and development, it helps to produce tangible items that can be evaluated to discern if you've achieved your training goals and objectives. The Sample Learner's Results comes courtesy of The Union Institute, which suggests the list to learners when developing their own learning agreements.

Go to main Training and Development page.

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