Defining Learning Objectives – What You Need to Know

Damian Hehire-learning

Defining Learning Objectives – What You Need to Know

A crucial aspect of good management is making sure employees know what is expected of them. This could be anything from the sales they need to achieve per month, tasks they need to complete, points they need to action, etc. You need something similar for every e-learning course you create for your team. This is known as a learning objective, i.e. telling learners what you expect to happen as a result of them doing the course.

Why Are Learning Objectives Important and What Do They Look Like?

Creating learning objectives has several benefits:

  • Learners will have a clear understanding of why they are being asked to complete the course. This gives you learner buy-in and improves engagement rates.
  • Helps you focus the content of the e-learning course on the objective.
  • Gives you a more accurate return on investment figure.

The latter point applies because a learning objective must be measurable. For it to be measurable, you must make it specific. An example is an e-learning course to improve the presentation abilities of your team. A poor-quality learning objective that is neither measurable nor specific would be:

  • After completing this course, you will understand what makes a good presentation.

A better learning objective would be:

  • After completing this course, you will be able to deliver a presentation on the company’s core services to potential customers in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Good learning objectives should also be:

  • Clear – so the learner knows exactly what you expect of them
  • Concise and written using straightforward langue – so there is no ambiguity
  • Honest – explain how you will measure success
  • Achievable – make sure you are realistic

How to Create an Effective Learning Objective

  • Understand what you want to achieve as an organisation. This should not become your learning objective as you should focus it on your learners, not the company. Understanding what your company wants to achieve, however, will help you determine what you want the learner to achieve.
  • Understand the learner so you know what is realistically achievable and also what motivates them.
  • You must be specific so if there is too much to include in a single objective, break it into micro-objectives, keeping each one as specific as possible.
  • Use Bloom’s Taxonomy – more of this in the next section.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Named after the educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, Bloom’s Taxonomy was first published in 1956, although it was revised in 2001. It is a way of classifying learning objectives according to how people learn.

You should use it to first decide which classification applies to your e-learning course. This will help you identify the right verb to include in your learning objective. In the example above, the poor-quality learning objective used the verb “understand”. By using Bloom’s Taxonomy, we can find a better action verb – in this case, “deliver”. It has more purpose, is more specific, and is easier to measure.

The modern version of Bloom’s Taxonomy includes the following classifications:

  • Remember – being able to recall information. An example is an employee being able to recall the company’s policies, something with can be tested with a multiple-choice quiz.
  • Understand – being able to explain or describe. For example, describing a product and/or explaining how that product works. You can test this using role-play exercises or by getting the learner to provide written answers to questions in a test.
  • Apply – to begin using what they learn. An example of this learning objective is being able to use a new software programme which you can measure through proficiency testing.
  • Analyse – being able to distinguish, evaluate, classify, and appraise. A learning course that teaches managers how to conduct interviews and select new recruits is a good example. Measurements for this include role-play scenarios, written tests, and on the job observations.
  • Evaluate – assessing a situation, measuring, estimating, and making decisions. An example of this one is setting budgets or sales targets. Another is understanding the performance of the business based on data, or analysing data to better understand customers. Written tests and job observation are common ways of measuring this type of learning objective.
  • Create – to produce something as a result of the training. Examples can include creating a marketing strategy for a client, or a project plan. A practical test is a common way of measuring this learning objective.

One final point to remember about learning objectives – the best time to write them is at the beginning of the e-learning course creation process. This will ensure the content matches the learning objective and that you include the right type of measurement.

It’s a small step in the e-learning course creation process and one that requires a bit of thinking, but it is crucially important.