Tips to Identify Learning Objectives

Designing Digitally


Learning Objectives

Learning and development programs help organizations generate a more highly skilled and productive workforce, which in turn, drives business outcomes and generates revenue. Only carefully designed learning programs will help organizations achieve these goals, however. Program designers should build such programs based on effective course design practices.

Start with the learning objective

A learning objective should drive the course module. It should be built on a statement that summarizes what the learner will acquire in terms of knowledge, attitude and skill once the instruction is complete. In essence, the objective should be centered around the learner. Learning designers should be careful to avoid stating what activities the instructor will perform, as opposed to what the student will accomplish. 

Demonstrate specific steps

From the summary statement, course designers should next outline the specific tasks or steps involved in meeting the outcome. From these steps, designers can decide how many sub-modules to create. For example, if the learner should acquire the skill of writing a memo, the course may actually involve a five-step course module that breaks down the components or skills involved.

Create the course

The training course should be built around learning objectives that contain critical components. Namely, SMART learning objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Targeted

Strategy when creating learning objectives:

Organizations should follow this strategy when creating learning objectives:

  • Step 1: Identify the outcome. Action words should describe what learners will do, such as find, estimate, demonstrate, create, design, critique and summarize. For example, “After completing this module, the learner will be able to prove a solution works.” In this case, the activity will lead to an assessment portion that shows the learner is able to apply the knowledge learned in the module. In another example, “After completing this module, the learner will be able to state the goal.” In this case, the activity ensures that the learner can memorize information and recall it.
  • Step 2: Be specific. When describing the outcome, don’t use words that are vague, such as “understand.” 
  • Step 3: Develop one objective per activity. A targeted learning objective will outline the specific activity, and ensure that the learner accomplishes the steps involved in achieving the tasks or learning a skill.
  • Step 4: Define criteria involved in meeting performance outcomes. Learning designers should start with the initial skills or understanding the learner should have and then move onto the next step or skill required.
  • Step 5: Create the assessment portion. The final step involves developing an assessment activity that will clearly determine if the learner has accomplished the task or acquired a new skill. In short, the activity should be measurable so that organizations can determine if the learner has truly mastered the learning objective or skill.

Go forth! Create learning objectives

Creating learning objectives for training programs helps designers achieve their end goal: Creating highly skilled employees who can help the organization meet business goals. Ultimately, by building programs based on the learning objectives, the organization can be assured that they follow a carefully constructed, strategic progression that connects assessment and content to learning activities. With a clear understanding of what learners will do in each module, organizations can confidently drive the program’s success.