How To: Using the LevelUp Trainers' Curriculum

Credits Carol Waters, Nick Sera-Leyva Last Updated 2016-03

Each of LevelUp's curriculum modules is designed around a topic-based training session, which is in turn composed of a number of distinct parts - this resource explains the basic structure of a session module, and the logic behind this structure.

This How-To resource explains the mechanics of how LevelUp’s Trainers’ Curriculum is structured, and considerations for using it to design your events.

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.

Terms and Basic Structure

LevelUp’s Trainers’ Curriculum is organized into three core tiers, designed to help users begin with an idea of what general themes are required in a given event, narrowing the focus down to eventually arrive at its specific topics and sessions.


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 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.

So, each Topic module is comprised of individual Elements, which are the individual ADIDS elements of:

  • Activity, which includes a Discussion about that activity;
  • Input, a related lecture or background material;
  • Deepening, the hands-on portion of the session;
  • Synthesis, the wrap-up, review, and Q&A closing.

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

Customizing your Agenda

The LevelUp Trainers’ Curriculum is designed to, as it grows, allow trainers to select from increasingly more options for each session Element. Some Elements fit together better than others, or fulfill distinct functions based on the session context, but we’ve left things flexible to accommodate the inherent need for customization when planning a training.

Most Topics include one each of Activity/Discussion, Input, Deepening, and Synthesis Elements; however, some may have multiple of one or more - for example:

In cases like the above, choose which Activity/Discussion, Input, Deepening, and Synthesis elements are the best fit for the context and scope of your event; as the LevelUp curriculum grows, you will find increasingly more options for different Elements across more Topics. Of course, you can always create your own Activity/Discussion, Input, Deepening and Synthesis elements, as needed. If you create anything you think would be useful for your fellow trainers, please consider contributing it to be shared back out with them!


In many cases, events will not solely comprise session Topics - incorporate components like Icebreakers, Energizers, and other Interactive Exercises into the training agenda you’ve created for more energy and interaction. Likewise, check out The First 3 Sessions of Your Event for effective ways of starting your workshops and trainings.

Material and Resource Needs

Select session Elements for which you have all of the resources you’ll need - each Element includes a Materials to Prepare section to give you an idea of what you are likely to need. LevelUp curriculum content is designed around some basic resource parameters:

Access to the internet by participants

…and, when possible, consider pre-downloading beforehand any apps or resources you want participants to have before the training. This saves time and eases strain on bandwidth, which can become problematic if participants are all downloading simultaneously.

A projector and an adaptor

…for displaying any visual aids during an Input, or demonstrating the hands-on portions of Deepenings, during a session so participants can follow along.

Electricity and access to power outlets

…both to keep your equipment and devices (laptop, phone, projector) charged and powered, and those of your participants.

Devices for each participant

…to use for hands-on portions of Deepenings in particular; you may have to double up participants to share a computer if they are in limited supply or not everyone was able to bring their own.

As a further material and resource consideration, throughout the Trainers’ Curriculum, you may see references to Whiteboards and Flipcharts quite frequently. Documenting what you’ve covered in sessions is valuable both as a reference during the training, and also for participants to be able to refer to throughout the training.

Being prepared with materials like whiteboards or large flipchart/butcher block paper for this purpose is important to remember for trainers - refer to How to Handle Surprises During Training for tips on your Training Toolkit and other materials to always have at hand for your events.

Timing Considerations

Timing for Individual Sessions and Elements

Approximate time estimates for each session Element are provided - these estimates do not include anything denoted within that element as Optional, and generally indicate a range (for example, 30-45 minutes).

Time estimates for both entire Sessions and individual Elements can vary based on your training style and a number of other factors. Please note that the time estimates noted in Session elements are based on an assumption that everything is going smoothly at an “average” training: you are training in the same language as your participants, you have everything you need logistically, the internet connectivity is of good quality, and there are little or no interruptions otherwise.

We chose to set this as the baseline here for the time estimates; however, you may also allot more time because a training is particularly successful, and taking more time to accommodate the details questions of very engaged participants would be beneficial.

Timing for Participant Questions

You may throughout the Trainer’s Curriculum references to “tabled questions,” sometimes also called a “parking lot” or a “bike rack”. This is a list of questions that come up during a training session that are held or “parked” to be answered later, either when you get to that particular issue later in a training session (during Input or Deepening), during wrap-up at the end of a training (Synthesis). Sometimes it may be a question that is highly particular to a certain individual (e.g., one-on-one assistance, or a complex problem unique to them and their situation), or to a few participants within a larger group.

In this case, you may set aside a time to answer their question in depth. This is usually when the question isn’t generally relevant to the entire group and may take some time to either fully understand and/or answer.

Refer to Developing a Shared Brain under The First 3 Sessions of Your Event for a practical guide on how to establish and manage a “parking lot” or “bike rack” for questions that come up during your event - this is a great tool for time management that helps keep your sessions on track and on time.

Sequencing Considerations

Designing an agenda is an art - aside from requests to cover everything (which is impossible), you also are asked to meet organizers’ priorities while also carefully calibrating how to meet the most urgent priorities of participants as you learn more about them.

That being said, make sure you don’t skip over the most fundamental topics that you will continue to build upon throughout the workshop, and avoid sequencing sessions in a way that may cause larger problems down the road. For example, with many groups, three vital things to cover towards the beginning of a digital safety training are:

Here are 3 reasons why:

Using Antivirus Tools Highlighting the importance of keeping software updated, avoiding pirated or unlicensed operating systems and applications, and how to best use antivirus software for protection early on is key. You don’t want any malware (particularly spyware) to potentially compromise all the participants’ passwords and other information generated during your workshop; otherwise, this fundamental pitfall could undermine all the work completed during the event!

Data Backup Basics Technically, there are no prerequisites to leading a session on Data Backup. Should it be necessary to cover this topic in your event though, you wouldn’t want to have participants simply back up any malware already on their devices for later reinstallation onto the same or other devices - address this before creating backups to avoid this predicament!

Creating and Managing Strong Passwords You’re potentially about to help participants create or change a lot of passwords on their devices and accounts; covering Creating and Managing Strong Passwords [LINK] earlier means participants can use their new skills to create safer passwords from the start, and add them to their password manager as they go. This is great practice, helps build habits, and means they’re less likely to forget all those new passwords from the training!

Other Ways to Use the Trainer’s Curriculum

If you want to structure your training sessions in a different way, you can still use the Trainer’s Curriculum.

Activity/Discussion and Input elements can serve as excellent background on a tool or a tactic, Deepening elements are well-suited for the hands-on portions of events and workshops, and Icebreakers & Energizers are great exercises for building group dynamics and renewing participant focus and enthusiasm.

Trainers are also often asked to lead a number of other types of sessions where ADIDS isn’t possible or appropriate. Sometimes an Activity that illustrates a concept will be preferred; other times, trainers are asked to simply lecture then lead a question and answer session. For this grab-bag of needs, trainers can also choose and adapt from the Trainer’s Curriculum to create what they need.

Our You, the Trainersection features more background on some of the different kinds of events trainers may be asked to lead, and how to begin preparing accordingly for those.