Getting Started with Learning Objectives

When you begin designing a course, it is a good idea to first establish your course goals. If you start with the end in mind, you will have a clear path to follow!

When you begin designing a course, it is a good idea to first establish your course goals. If you start with the end in mind, you will have a clear path to follow! To ensure your stated goals are appropriate and achievable, you should create both course level and lesson level learning objectives. When you take the time to write out your objectives, it is easier to develop assessments to measure student outcomes.

What are Learning Objectives?

Learning objectives describe what the student is expected to achieve by the end of the course (course level objectives) or end of the lesson (lesson level objectives). To begin, a good question to ask is, “what do I want my students to be able to do at the end of this course?” Or even, “what do I want for these students to be able to do three years after they have taken this course?”

Well-written learning objectives are a powerful tool for ensuring that the activities and evaluations in your course align with your course goals.

Well-written learning objectives are S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific (each objective clearly states one skill or competency)
  • Measurable (they describe student performance in observable terms)
  • Attainable (they target an appropriate level of learning, within the scope of the course)
  • Relevant (assessments align with lesson level objectives, which align with course level objectives)
  • Targeted (written from the students’ perspective in terms they can grasp)

Are you creating an online course using the Quality Matters (QM) rubric? These SMART guidelines are supported the five sub-standards of QM General Standard 2: Learning Objectives are measurable and clearly stated.

How can I create SMART Learning Objectives?

Here are some steps to create learning objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Targeted:

  • It’s helpful to start with the same root for all of your objectives. For example you might say “By the end of this lesson (or course) the student will be able to….”
  • Add an action verb that describes what the student should be able to do. Consider the skill level of your students (Are they freshman? Grad students?). Choose action verbs for your learning objectives that will move them up to the next level.

How do I find the right verbs for my student’s skill level?

Fortunately, there is a wonderful development tool to help you choose verbs called Bloom’s Taxonomy. Click to learn about using Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Additional Resources:

Listen to the Learning Objectives (8m 27s) presentation created for the online course development process



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