How-To: Preparing Sessions Using ADIDS

Credits CC Last Updated 2016-03

How can trainers build LevelUp training sessions into their agendas, or even begin to create new session modules using ADIDS that are based on their own experience? This resource explains how ADIDS lends itself to a more flexible agenda design experience.

This How-To resource expands on the individual ADIDS session Elements and their distinct purposes, with guidance on using them to plan the individual sessions within your event agenda.

Core to LevelUp and its created by trainers, for trainers curriculum is fostering an environment for our events and workshops that is open and participatory for our audiences. For those who support others with training on digital security, the audiences and learners we engage with the most consistently are adults.

LevelUp uses the Activity-Discussion-Inputs-Deepening-Synthesis, or ADIDS approach, to adult learning and has organized its curriculum for training sessions according to this design. ADIDS has been used effectively in advocacy and skills training on human rights issues, and we have found it to be useful in helping participants with minimal technical knowledge better understand the complexities of digital security and online safety. For trainers, it can also provide a useful framework when creating lesson plans.

A Tiered Approach

When considering where to begin when planning a digital security training or workshop, think about the overall structure as a set of tiers, starting from the very general and becoming gradually more specific:

At the first level tier…

You have the main training context - for many of us this will be “Digital Security” or also in many cases “Holistic (or Integrated) Security” which includes the digital, physical and well-being aspects of trainees’ security.

At the second level tier…

You have the specific themes within the larger context. For Digital Security, this could be Safer Communication, Protecting Data, Malware Protection and so forth. Another way of looking at these is to think of them as the reasons that training is required - what are participants trying to protect themselves from or improve?

At the third level tier…

You have the individual Topics, which are the specific tools or practices that will need to be covered in order to address the Themes of the event’s content. These could be Creating and Managing Strong Passwords, using PGP/GPG Email Encryption, or how to browse more safely using browsers for Anonymity and Circumvention.

LevelUp’s Trainers’ Curriculum is organized to simulate the above structure, starting from the second-level tier.

It begins with a series of Themes, each of which refer to a broader digital security and safety concern - these are organized on the initial Trainers’ Curriculum page.

Within each each Theme are its Topics, which are the individual, ADIDS-structured training modules that address relevant tools or practices - these are organized into individual pages, like this one.

Finally, each ADIDS structured Topic is composed of ADIDS Elements, which are the individual sessions within each module that allow it to be delivered in a way that supports the adult learning process - these are listed out on their respective Topic pages.


The overall structure and plan for all the sessions within a training or workshop event are typically referred to as your event/workshop/training agenda - you will see this term used very frequently throughout LevelUp. Sessions will make up the bulk of the training workshop, so you might think of each session plan as a puzzle piece that creates larger picture of Topics that make up the main training agenda.

For more guidance on broader agenda planning, read our guide on Planning Your Training Agenda.

Looking at Individual Sessions

When it comes to planning for these individual Topic-level sessions, LevelUp’s Trainer’s Curriculum includes the following planning considerations and parameters for each:


For each session, its important to weigh how important its Topic is against the Topics of other sessions, and how difficult that Topic will be for the participants to understand. This will affect how much time you ultimately choose to allot to the session overall, to the components within each session, and to the interspersed energizers and icebreakers, lunch and coffee breaks, etc.

Learning Goals

Clearly define what you want your participants to learn by the end of each session, and be able to articulate clearly and succinctly to your participants what these goals are at the beginning of each session.

ADIDS Elements

Each Session Topic in LevelUp is made up of individual Session Elements, which are the distinct ADIDS components within the Session: What exercised must be led and then discussed? How will you present the technical background and lead the hands-on deepening? How will you close the session and handle any lingering questions?

Materials to Prepare

What are the materials (flipchart paper, projector, post-it notes, markers, etc.) that you will need to have prepared in order to lead a session? What resources (videos, handouts, presentations, readings etc.) must also be prepared for both your and participant’s use?

For a sample, please visit our Trainers’ Curriculum, or download our sample planning template.

Preparing Sessions with ADIDS

Next to figuring out your individual Topics, overall session agenda planning is the probably the most important activity you can spend time on before you get into the classroom. Since many events will require trainers to tweak agendas based on unknown or unforeseen circumstances, thoughtful and thorough pre-event preparation will help you make last-minute adjustments, especially if you’re prepared for a second set of potential training sessions.

ADIDS stands for Activity & Discussion, Input, Deepening, and Synthesis

The assumption behind LevelUp’s Approach to Adult Learning is that learning and awareness-raising happens in stages, and we cannot expect a person to learn everything about an issue in one go, or in one lecture.

LevelUp refers to each of Activity & Discussion, Input, Deepening, and Synthesis as Session, or ADIDS, Elements, or the individual stages of a session covering a specific Topic. Each Element fulfills a distinct purpose within a session that is critical to clearly articulating the concepts and fundamentals of a Topic.


The session begins with an activity that is connected to the topic of the session. This is meant to introduce the topic to the participants using interactive exercises. Trainers design this beforehand to illustrate some of the issues that they want the participants to start thinking about.


The Topic Safer Browsing - HTTPS and SSL includes an activity called We Are The Internet where each trainee represents a single link on the chain of communication between a user, their ISP, and a website. They are first asked to arrange themselves in the order they believe these links to be in, with the trainer guiding them into the correct order if incorrect. Following this, trainees pass a message between each other, to simulate the flow of information down this chain, with the trainer asking each person about what data is potentially visible at their “link” and by whom.


The point of this activity is to illustrate how the internet functions when users access websites and perform other activities online, and trainees have the opportunity to fully realize just how many different parties have access to data about them and their activity online, through their direct participation in the process.


In this part of your session, everyone talks about what they thought of the activity they just completed. The trainer should prepare questions to guide the activity along and get participants thinking.


Using the same Topic of Safer Browsing - HTTPS and SSL as our example, discussion questions might include:

Did the activity you just participated in show you anything you didn’t know about the Internet?

In your work, what kinds or categories of information should be kept private when you use the Internet to visit websites?

Would we ever care about someone knowing what search terms we type into a search engine, what websites we visit, what we post in a blog or social network?

Have you heard of surveillance in other countries? Have you followed these stories and what lessons have you drawn from them?

Have you ever changed your online habits because of what you heard about online monitoring and surveillance?


Though the activity associated with this discussion may have been quite illustrative of the overall session Topic, its helpful to have a group moment to process the outcomes and lessons learned from the activity. This may help clear up questions before the more technical portions of the session, and otherwise sets the tone for the next stages.


This is usually the lecture part of the session, where the trainer presents on issues, sub-topics and more advanced concepts related to the focus of the session.


Continuing with the Topic of Safer Browsing - HTTPS and SSL, during the Input is where we may want to take time to define some of the more common concepts associated with HTTPS, SSL, and how they work. This might include defining specific terms like “HTTP”, “HTTP[S]”, “SSL Certificate”, “Man in the Middle attack”, etc.

In this example, the Input might then continue on to address some of the practical safety and privacy considerations of using, or not using, HTTPS connections. This might take the form of answering commonly asked questions, such as:

  • What happens when a connection is not confidential?
  • What happens when the website you’re visiting is not authenticated?
  • So what’s the worst that could happen in either of these scenarios?

This could then be followed up with real-world scenarios that your participants might regularly encounter, or reasonably expect to encounter, in their own daily activity online.


This is where trainers will have the best opportunity to impart any particular technical knowledge they might have on the topic, giving participants the technical context they’ll need in order to best navigate the next stage of the session (which is generally the most technical and hands-on). Perhaps most crucially, this is a chance to present the session content with contextualized, localized examples and real-world scenarios (if possible) that are relevant to participants. This sets the stage for trainees to begin processing content as it related to themselves personally.


In technical training, this is usually the hands-on segment of a session, where participants have the opportunity to setup and begin using a particular tool or application, or practice a skill or habit. The trainer may frequently be facilitating a setup or configuration walkthrough, answering questions along the way, with a co-trainer on-call for one-on-one assistance to individual trainees as needed.


Returning again to the Topic of Safer Browsing - HTTPS and SSL, this Input session could involve guiding participants through the process of installing and configuring the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in for Chrome or Firefox.

The trainer will demonstrate the plug-in for the group via a projector, showing them the difference between sites where the plug-in forces a connection versus provides a warning against access. Then, the session moves on to walk participants through the process of installing one of the supported browsers (if they haven’t already done so), installing the plug-in, and then getting a sense of how it works and how it can support their daily activity.


Participants in many cases will be exposed to a tool or skill for the first time during a Deepening session; however, even for those who might have encountered the particular tool or skill in the past, this is a chance to have first-hand experience working with the subject hands-on in a facilitated environment. Crucially, it allows participants to have questions that emerge about the use of a tool or practice of a skill answered while they are actively using it and experiencing it themselves.


A good training habit is to always summarize the session - the Synthesis provides for just such an opportunity, to review the session’s content and address any remaining questions or doubts.


Ask participants if they have questions before completing the session. If time allows, refer to the essential questions listed in the Input section to see if the information has been understood. In the example of Safer Browsing with HTTPS & SSL, some questions might include:

  • Which is secure: HTTP or HTTPS?
  • Why is HTTPS important?
  • If a connection isn’t protected, what could someone in the middle see?
  • If I use a secure connection, does it make me anonymous?
  • If I use a secure connection, can a website see what I’m doing on their site?


Talk about what happened in the session, some of the results of the discussion, what issues were discussed, what solutions were made, and give some more time for participants to ask more questions before the session is closed.

Questions for Trainers Preparing ADIDS Sessions

  • What are the learning goals of this session?
  • What topic(s) will this session cover? Can you outline the flow of the topics based on the easiest to the most complex?
  • Can you think of an activity that will introduce the main topic to the participants?
  • Can you appropriate any of the interactive exercises you’ve seen in past trainings to fit your session?
  • How will you debrief on this activity? What questions will you ask the participants to get them to connect the activity with the main topic of your session?
  • How will you deepen the participants’ understanding on the topic? What’s the outline of your lecture / input?
  • What are the steps in your hands-on exercise in the deepening?