Introducing the Workshop Canvas: A Visual Tool to Design Educational Experiences

I’d like to introduce you to my new brainchild: the Workshop Canvas.

The workshop canvas is a visual tool to help you design your workshops, classes, courses and other (educational) experiences.

Born out of frustration with lengthy spreadsheets and inspired by other business tools such as the Business Model Canvas, it offers a more intuitive, iterative and collaborative approach to the design process of educational experiences.

After carrying the idea for a while, a beta version has been made and now I’d love to share with you what the Workshop Canvas is, how it may benefit you, and I’m looking to learn how it works for you!

It’s early stages but I hope to develop this canvas into a helpful tool that will make the design process of learning professionals a little bit more creative, inspiring and engaging. I look forward and am open to your feedback, questions, thoughts and ideas on the Workshop Canvas so far 🙂

WTF is the Workshop Canvas?

The workshop canvas is a visual tool to help you design your workshops, classes, courses and other (educational) experiences.

It’s inspired by other canvasses such as the BMC and functions in a similar way.

In my own experiences as a workshop designer, I got frustrated at the lack of visual aids, and with the lengthy overview table files I used to design in.

How can I use the Workshop Canvas?


1 Get the canvas.
You can download the Workshop Canvas as a PDF and then print it on A3. It works best in combination with mini post-its and basic pens. If you insist, you can also work digitally.

DOWNLOAD THE BLANK WORKSHOP CANVAS (A3) HERE (FOR PRINT).

2 Start by filling in the static blocks on the left to set the stage for your workshop.
The blocks include: the overall learning objective, the total time, the title (feel free to get creative in this block), the audience, the materials, and pre-tasks + follow-ups.

3 Decide on a time measure.
There is a timeline, but with the times free for you to set. Depending on the duration of your workshop, you can divide your total time into 5 or 6 segments, and have each horizontal column represent one segment. I personally like to work with 30 minute segments, adding up to a workshop of 3,5 hours, with each segment often being 15 mins of speaking and 15 mins of activities. I recommend creating your timeline with pencil so you can edit as you go – when for example you add breaks.

4 Devise a color coding system.
In the example below yellow represents information and speaking, and blue is for processing activities. The greens are the learning objectives. Color coding helps you keep a quick overview of what each segment entails. If you only have 1 color, you could consider an icon system.

5 Start outlining your content.
You read the canvas along with the timeline, from left to right. Within the vertical columns you work from top to bottom, going through the different elements of content and activities. Each column (top to bottom) represents one segment, aimed at obtaining its specific learning objective defined up top, and occupying whichever time measure you set on.

If you’re bubbling with ideas: go! Start writing and outlining those post-its with content and activities and drafting where they might go. Don’t get too hung up on their order, as you can keep iterating furtheron. If you don’t know where to begin: I’d say start with learning objectives up top, and then think about which content and activities would support them.

And the wonderful thing of post-its is obviously that you can edit, shuffle and re-design as you go and as much as you like. Once you’re (mostly) done, you can use the whitespace around the post-its for final notes and to indicate breaks, transitions, etc.

I made one example of a filled-in Workshop Canvas that I think brings it all to life:
workshop canvas

If the completely blank canvas intimidates you, you could also download this workshop canvas with digital post-its already there.

So that’s it. Should you have any other questions, I’d be happy to hear them.

After you’ve given the Workshop Canvas a go, I’d love to learn what the experience was like for you – the good, the bad and the ugly. What worked for you? What didn’t? What’s missing? What’s redundant? Hurdles, ideas, remarks, it’s all welcomed. Any piece of constructive feedback will contribute to shaping the canvas into a helpful design tool.

Finally, feel free to share the tool with whoever you think it might serve or be of interest to.

Now, I will let you get to work, and to design awesome experiences.

With love,

Posted by Nadia Piet

New Zealand-born, Amsterdam-bred terrestrial being, practicing the art of living in a digital age, and help others do the same. Passionate about shaping the future of work, education and life and helping people and organizations navigate the many challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Because I believe “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

  • Juan Colino

    Sounds like a usefult thing. I like the color coding for the post-its. The A3 file seems to be filled already with “digital” post-its which is annoying if you want to use it yourself. I would have a black one ready for downloading and printing.

    Also the timeline part is confusing for me. There is a horizontal line that starts at 0030 then 1:00 then 2:00. I also do not really get how to read the progress from one activitiy to other. Is it left to rigth by columns (top to bottom)? :-/

    Good job!

    • Hey Juan! I’m happy to hear you see useful application of the canvas, and to receive your critical remarks. I replaced the download with a completely blank canvas now, excluding the post-its (which indeed, were super annoying haha sorry about that). I also elaborated a bit more to explain how the timeline and the progression on the canvas is intended.

      I hope you’ll find the time to read this and I’d love to hear if it clarifies things, and how the canvas works for you in practice. Thanks for your interest and constructive comments Juan, I hope to stay in touch!

      • Now it makes more sense. The jump from the first hour to the second one was not clear. I was like, 30 min plus 30 min plus one hour? I missed the 30 min break note. I would expect that to be a column although then the top “learning objective” would not make sense. Once you get it is fine anyway.

        Cheers,