Hardly anybody can be successful without targets and careful plans. This principle is always true in education, whether offline or online. Teachers and curriculum developers are well aware of the importance of learning objectives. These are crucial in determining the direction in which students develop. Knowing how to write learning objectives is always a relevant skill for a career in education.
What Are Learning Objectives?
Learning objectives, also known as performance objectives or instructional objectives, are statements which express clearly what learners will be able to accomplish after a certain period of teaching and learning. Learning objectives, whether for offline or online classes, have the same characteristics and are often written in the same way.
An objective learning statement has three essential components:
Performance: What will students be able to achieve throughout the course?
E.g. Students will be able to explain the concept of sociolinguistics
Analyzing the statement above, it is clear what the students will be able to do after the course. They should know how to clarify the definition of sociolinguistics. This is a very good example of the performance part of a learning objective.
Many people write learning objectives from the teacher’s perspective, which does not describe what students will be able to do but rather what the teacher will teach. This is not a good way to write. Look at the example below:
E.g. Help students to know the concept of sociolinguistics
We can see that it describes what the teacher will do in class, instead of what the students achieve after class. Also, the verb “know” is not as measurable as the verb “explain”. We will look at measurable verbs in the next parts.
For now, note that the performance part of your learning objective should be about what students achieve, not what you will do in class.
Conditions: What do students need to complete the course?
These are the situations in which learners will be able to perform the abilities stated in the performance part. These conditions can include studying tools (e.g. textbooks, animation tools), knowledge, and so on.
E.g. With the help of the textbook, students will be able to explain the concept of sociolinguistics.
E.g. Without the help of the textbook or any references, students will be able to explain the concept of sociolinguistics.
Criteria: These describe how well students must perform under the given conditions
E.g. Given the 45-minute time limit, students will be able to calculate exactly all of the Math questions on the test paper.
“Given the 45-minute time limit” is the condition, “calculate” is the performance, “exactly all of the Math questions on the test paper” is the criterion.
How a Course Goal and a Learning Objective Differ?
Before moving to how to write learning objectives, it’s important to differentiate between a learning goal and a learning objective so that we don’t mess things up.
A goal shows the general outcome of a course. In this sense, a goal can include many learning objectives. The example below will give you a clearer idea of their difference:
E.g. A course called “Intermediate English” can have a general goal like this: Students will be able to use English well at the B2 level according to the CEFR scale.
Its learning objectives can include: Students will be able to write a complete argumentative essay with 40 minutes given. Students will be able to communicate effectively in everyday situations. Students will be able to read everyday news quickly and accurately.
We can see that the small learning objectives contained within the course help ensure the general goal of the whole course.
The Importance of Learning Objectives for Online Course
Every qualified teacher must know how to write learning objectives because these objectives affect learning outcomes. Improved learning objectives contribute a large part to improved learning outcomes. Below are the main reasons why learning objectives are crucial.
Give teachers a clear focus on lesson content
Teaching without an objective in mind often turns out to be ineffective because the teacher is likely to wander off the topic. Therefore, learning objectives provide a stable direction which the teacher can follow to maximize effectiveness. Only with specific learning objectives can the teacher choose what to teach, teaching methods and materials.
Give students a clear focus on what to study
It is difficult for students to know what to focus on during an online lecture without learning objectives. And if they are uncertain about what is expected from them after the course, they will get demotivated and lost in the study process. Also, students need learning objectives to revise before exams. Without clear objectives, they would face tremendous stress and anxiety. This affects negatively their performance.
Give teachers and students the foundation for assessment
If there is one golden rule that teachers must know when designing tests, it must be following the learning objectives. Learning objectives are the basis for every question in a test. A good test must challenge students all of the learning objectives but never ask students to do something not included in the objectives.
How to Write Learning Objectives for Online Courses
How to begin an objective learning statement
You can start by writing a sentence like “The students should be able to …” or “The aim of this online course is to … “. Then, use the action verbs to describe specifically the objectives. Look below to learn more about measurable action verbs.
Choose measurable action verbs
We have emphasized many times the importance of having specific, measurable action verbs so that teachers know what to teach, what to test and students know what to study. Bloom’s Taxonomy has been the main and reliable tool for this job over decades. Let’s see how to write learning objectives for the online course using Bloom’s system.
There are basically 6 levels of cognitive learning development:
This level is the lowest one, which involves simply memorizing and recalling information. True/False or Multiple Choice online tests are good testing choices for measuring students’ performance at this level.
Some of the action verbs for this level include: recall, identify, recognize, acquire, distinguish, etc.
This level requires learners to make classifications, comparisons, to explain and give examples. Students should able to explain concepts using their own words. Online students are often asked to produce a summary of what they have learned as a test of this ability.
Some of the action verbs for this level include: translate, extrapolate, convert, interpret, etc.
At this level, students should apply what they have learned to a new situation which is similar to scenarios used during instructions. For online courses, eLearning simulations are often used to place students in a virtual world where they put their skills into practice.
Some of the action verbs are: apply, operate, carry out, plan, solve, repair, etc.
Students should be able to organize information and make an accurate analysis of the input. In the eLearning context, students can be required to analyze their virtual employees’ performance based on the available information about them.
Some of the action verbs: estimate, discover, catalog,
This is where students put everything they have learned to solve a completely new situation which has not been taught before, using their knowledge base and creativity. In an online coding course, for example, students may need to use everything they have to produce a code for an entirely new website.
Some of the action verbs: build, produce, formulate, design, etc.
The highest level of all learning is judging what has been learned. Here the students are expected to make quantitative or qualitative evaluations based on given standards. Online students have often presented a situation and also solutions in the virtual world so that they can give their criticisms of both.
Some action verbs: rank, measure, verify, assess, appraise, check, etc.
Evaluate your current learning objectives
The job is not over yet when you have finished writing the objectives. The next step is to revisit the objectives you or other people have written and see how well those objectives are doing. If the previous objectives do not create desired results, you should locate the problems and make adjustments to the objectives you have just finished. You can change some action verbs to be more specific. Try looking at online learner feedback as well.
Include criteria for measuring performance
Don’t forget to specify assessment details instead of just saying there will be a test after the course. Be more specific, for example, make clear how and how often you test your students. Some online courses state specifically that learners must pass a simulation test at the end of the training process. They will be tested the ability to interact with customers. This is a very good example of adding criteria to your learning objectives.
So, you have come to the end of our guide on how to write learning objectives. As you can see, this is not at all easy to master. Even the experts make mistakes. But if you put in enough practice, you will certainly be able to write better objectives, which in turn produces better results for your online course.