How to Create Clear Learning Objectives

The phrase “learning objectives” gets thrown around a lot in discussions about training and development. Courses are supposed to have learning objectives, competencies should be related to them, quiz questions should assess how well they’ve been met, and more. But what are learning objectives? For that matter, why are they important, and how do you create them? By the end of this post, you will be able to define “learning objectives,” recognize why they are important, and create them. Online Education

Learning objectives are mini learning promises. They are short statements that tell your learners what a specific educational offering presents and what they can learn from it. Each piece of education or training you offer should have its own set of learning objectives.

Learning objectives are important for several reasons. Firstly, learners can read the learning objectives for an eLearning course or training seminar and decide whether they want to take it. Second, if they do register for the course or attend the training, the learning objectives act as a road map. By comparing their progress against the list of objectives, learners will have a general idea of how much material is left in the course. Finally, learning objectives help keep the content tight and focused during course production. Everything, including assessments, should tie back to one or more of the learning objectives. If something does not seem to fit, look over it again and consider whether it needs to be re-worked or if it can be left out.

You create them by following a three step process:

1. Identify Time Frame and Target Learner
2. Use an Action Verb
3. Add the Specific

“By the end of this post, you will be able to define ‘learning objectives,’ recognize why they are important, and create them.” Look familiar? That’s a learning objective! Okay, it’s three learning objectives rolled into one. Here’s a shortened version with the parts labelled.

By the end of this post, you will be able to define “learning objectives.”

l___________________l                             l____l  l______________l

Time Frame and Target Learner           Action Verb         Specific

The action verb is crucial. It needs to provide a measurable way of determining whether or not the learner successfully fulfilled the learning objective. If you can define “learning objectives” you can prove it by giving the definition. You can use a verb list to help you find useful action verbs. Words like “know” and “understand” should not be used. They don’t give the learner a clear picture of what they need to do and, as a result, are difficult to measure.

Now you’re armed with the basic “what, why, and how” of learning objectives. Did you learn something from this post? Prove it by fulfilling the learning objectives using the comments section. I’m looking forward to seeing your sample learning objectives.


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Jennifer Ritter

From storyboards to module building, Jennifer covers a lot of eLearning ground as an instructional designer, writer, and course creator. She earned her B.A. at Rollins College and draws on her past life as an occasional amateur film maker for insight on the zaniness of the production process. This Jen-of-many-trades is fascinated by the role of storytelling and gameplay in learning and engagement. This may or may not be connected to her urge to write novels and love of videogames and most things “nerdy.” A passion for learning that started in school and led to tutoring has happily landed her in the mystical realm of eLearning.

Spirit animal: Hawk
Diet-breaker: Ice cream
Comfort object: Throw blankets
Personal vice: Medieval-fantasy novels
Useless talent: Remembering useless facts
Unreasonable paranoia: Rollercoasters
Wishes more people cared about: Other people


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