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5 Tips for Creating Effective Learning Objectives

Written By Bushra Zaineb

5 Tips for Creating Effective Learning Objectives

I finished reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and liked Habit #2 in particular: Begin with the end in mind. I felt that it relates perfectly to our e-learning objectives. That is what our learning objectives should begin with – the end objectives — they should convey to the learners what they should be able to do after completing the course.

I would like to share a few tips for creating effective learning objectives:

Tip 1: Keep your learning objectives simple, brief and avoid long paragraphs as it allows learners to understand the learning objective better.

Tip 2: Consider the following questions when developing objectives. These questions help you keep your learning objectives grounded.

  • What should the learners learn?
  • What is the learners’ level of current knowledge and skill on the content or topic?
  • Do the learners have any background experience on the content or topic?
  • What is the language level and style of language that learners prefer?
  • Do learners have any major misconceptions about the content or topic?

Tip 3: The objectives of this course should communicate its intent and leave very little space for interpretation. Select an appropriate action word or verb to describe the required behavior of the objective. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive behavior for this. Some examples of helpful verbs include: Define, list, identify, recall, describe, diagram, draw, discuss, explain, analyze, compare, predict, relate, critique, examine, debate, interpret, illustrate etc.

Tip 4: Your objectives should specify three main things. They allow you to communicate the intent of the course when writing an objective:

  • Performance: An objective must always state what a learner is expected to do after taking up the course.
  • Condition: An objective must describe the condition under which the learner is able to perform the task given.
  • Criterion: The objective may state how well a learner must perform the task given as it gives a standard to know if the performance is acceptable.

Tip 5: To check whether what you have stated as a learning objective, ask yourself: “Is this what I want the learners to be able to do after completing this course?” Every activity and assessment must be connected to the learning objectives, as it ensures that the objective is being achieved.

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” – Clay P. Bedford

These are a few tips that I use while creating learning objectives for e-learning courses. If you have any, please do share your thoughts.

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  • Samantha Jones

    I love a good top tip! There are 2 other ‘tips’ that I recalled whilst reading this that also fit in with Habit #2:

    1. Get a good understanding of the SMART business objectives first so that the SMART learning objectives are aligned and relevant to all stakeholders.

    2. Write the learning objectives around SMART skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours which will demonstrate the outcome so that the learner is clear about the developmental requirements in these areas.

  • Kevin Wilcoxon

    We developed these criteria for learning objectives in a higher education setting:

    Composition: Clear and concise, allowing students to easily grasp the learning outcomes expected of them. Stated using action verb(s).

    Alignment: Objectives are aligned with and contribute directly and obviously to the accomplishment of course goals or, for module level objectives, course objectives.

    Language: Free of educational jargon, confusing terms, unnecessarily complex language and puzzling syntax.

    Measurable: The measure(s) by which objective obtainment will be gauged is concrete and clearly spelled out.

    Intention: The objective not only describes the performance to be measured, but also the intent of performance “… in order to …”

  • Marsha

    I’ve always used the following process to create my learning objectives based on a task analysis:

    A= Auidence
    B= Behavior

    The learning objective is a more detailed objective focused on the condition of the behavior.

    For example,
    Given a stethoscope and normal clinical environment, the medical student will be able to diagnose a heart arrhythmia in 90% of effected patients.

    This example describes the observable behavior (identifying the arrhythmia), the conditions (given a stethoscope and a normal clinical environment), and the standard (90% accuracy).

  • David Picard

    The S.M.A.R.T. acronym is used for goal setting. (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely). Recently, I’ve seen it used to describe learning objectives, but I believe this is a misuse (or an overgeneralization). Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. but applying this to learning objectives is a stretch.

    The three mush-haves I always come back to are 1. Is it Observable, 2. Is it Measureable and 3. What are the conditions for performance. An objective can meet the SMART criteria any conditions for performance.

    A truck driving course may include objectives and assessments about the student’s ability to control an eighteen wheeler. Meeting that objective is going to be very different on a a closed driving course, a Santa Monica freeway, and the ‘ice-road-trucker’ conditions shown on the Discovery Channel.

  • Pam Morgan

    • Concrete
    • Use action verbs
    • Numeric or descriptive
    • Quantity, quality, cost
    • Feasible
    • Appropriately limited in scope
    • Within the committee’s control and influence
    • Measures outputs or results (not activities)
    • Includes products, accomplishments
    • Identifies target date
    • Includes interim steps and a plan to monitor progress

  • Robert

    Thanks for your information. It help to create effective learning objectives.

  • Bidify

    Some really wonderful content on this web site, regards for contribution. “Always aim for achievement, and forget about success.” by Helen Hayes.

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