Learning objectives and why they’re so important
Defining learning objectives will help you set expectations for what your learners will be able to do by the end of your course and guide the structure of your course content.
In many cases, your learners are making a commitment to take your course. They’re spending their time and if they paid for your course, their money, and are hoping to learn something in return. It’s crucial for you to create a course that addresses the needs of your ideal learners. Maybe your learners are trying to get a job, upskill in their current role, or are looking to add a skillset to help them complete a project.
Learning objectives are statements that define what learners will be able to do after taking your course. They should be demonstrable, meaning a learner can demonstrate that they’ve achieved a learning objective through action, and measurable, meaning what someone has learned could be measured through assessment.
For example, “You will be able to use the SBI framework to deliver constructive feedback to their colleagues.” A learner could demonstrate they’ve achieved this objective through writing the feedback using the framework, and an instructor could measure that by reading the written feedback.
Guide to writing your learning objectives
When writing your learning objectives, first list the key concepts learners need to understand or skills they need to develop in order to gain proficiency in your course topic.
Next, determine what level of understanding you want learners to demonstrate for each of these concepts or skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a common framework that describes six levels of understanding: remembering, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, creation.
Then, use a descriptive verb that aligns to the level of understanding to explain what learners will be able to do and write your learning objective.
To help you get started, follow this formula when writing your learning objectives:
- Identify the concept or skill you want learners to learn. Example: The sum function in Excel
- Identify the level of understanding you want learners to demonstrate. In Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are six levels of understanding (remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create). Example: Apply the sum function to add numbers in a column
- Select a verb that is demonstrable and measurable to describe the behavior at the appropriate level of learning. Example: Use the sum function.
- Add additional criteria to indicate how or when the outcome will be demonstrable to add context for the learner. Example: Use the sum function in Excel to add up your quarterly sales.
Use learning objectives to structure your course
Learning objectives should not be thought of as action items or a laundry list of the concepts you’ll cover in your course. Rather, they’re the actions a learner can take to show that they’ve learned something.
Create as many learning objectives for your course as needed to describe what learners will be able to do after taking your course. Be realistic. Your learning objectives should accurately describe the content you cover in your course. Next, you will outline your course based on these objectives.