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Learning Goals and Objectives in Course Design

| February 14, 2019 | 2 min read
Learning

Learning goals are broad, general statements of what we want our students to learn and provide:

Setting goals gives us a real road map to where we want to go. The same when we provide goals to learners. Learning goals are the heart of a course design and need to be made clear at the planning stage.

An instructor can use those goals as a roadmap to prepare an online class. In this article, we are going to explore in-depth the role of Learning Goals and Objectives in course design and how to prepare a lesson plan based on them.

Defining Learning Objectives

The best way to use goals as a roadmap for a course design is to make them more clear and concise by determining specific learning objectives.

Learning Objectives are measurable subgoals of a lesson and inform particular learning outcomes.

Writing learning objectives keeps you focused and helps you in planning. This is easily achieved with the use of action verbs that describe learner capabilities at the end of a course.
From the learners’ point of view, objectives help them understand what the instructor expects of them and what they must expect of themselves.

What is the Difference Between Goals and Objectives?

Many people confuse the definitions of goals and objectives, and often confuse the terms.

Learning goals are long-term, broad, and achievable, but not necessarily measurable.

On the other hand, learning objectives are also referred to as learning outcomes because they are immediately linked to the expected outcomes; what we can expect learners to be able to do by the end of the course.

Learning objectives can then be broken down into small learning activities, or assessments.

Goals, Objectives, Assessments
Breaking down Goals into Objectives and then into Activities (Assessments).

Changing one of these three components greatly affects the other two. So, this process is dynamic while planning course content. The table below can help you understand how goals differ from objectives:

Is it clear enough yet?

Now, let’s see a real example of an instructional goal vs. the objectives in an Art course and Photoshop course:

Why is it Important to Set Objectives?

When setting Learning Objectives:

Objectives tell the learner how they will be able to know, not merely quess, whether or not they have learned and understood the lesson.

How Should Objectives be Formed?

Objectives should be specific, concise, observable and measurable. Each learning objective should target one particular aspect of student performance and be expressed with a single action verb.

There is a specific order according to which learners process information in a course. Bloom’s taxonomy helps understand this natural order. What Bloom did is describe the levels of student learning, that could help a designer set the right objectives:

Following this taxonomy is the most surefire way to boost learning to a higher level. The following table depicts everything we are talking about. In it there are examples of verbs and activities you can use to formulate your course objectives. Take a look!

Examples of how to use the listed verbs:

– Learners will be able to use a rule to determine if a sentence is grammatically correct.
(Application stage)
Learners will be able to classify foods according to their origins.
(Analysis stage)
Learners will be able to discriminate the program’s peculiar features.
(Evaluation stage)

See how it goes? You may struggle at first to apply this method, but it provides an analytical design, worthwhile to try out!

You will see how much more your learners will engage in your course.

While designing your objectives, it is optimal to follow Bloom’s hierarchical order of objectives and not dismiss lower levels as unworthy so that learners have all the requirements regarding previous knowledge to proceed.

Important tips:

Designing Your Course Using Learning Objectives

Let’s suppose you have chosen your topic and you are determined about what to teach in your course. When in the process of completing these steps, it is optimal either to use a pen and a paper or a concept map application to create connections between your ideas.

1 Imagine your course.

Brainstorm a list of all the possible things you want to teach and might include in your course.

2 Draft your course goals.

Write at least 2-3 goals to shape your ongoing course design. Here, we give you some questions that will help you plan your course goals:

“In this course, I will emphasize in…”
“The main themes learners will go through are…”
“The big picture I want to promote through this course is…”

Suitable verbs to use to set goals are shown below. “Through this course, you will…”

verb idea cloud

3 Design Learning Objectives

Using the table above, design your Learning Objectives. Break down your goals to form more specific and measurable learning objectives. Link those objectives to the corresponding sections.

4 Write the Activities

For each objective of the course, write down some corresponding activities that you are planning to use to accomplish that objective.Through these activities, students will achieve the objectives you set for them. Other activities not mentioned above are:

5 Develop Assessments

Ideally, as you are drafting course goals and learning objectives, you are also beginning to develop the assessments for the course. Decide which questions you will include in your questionnaires or exams (as well as the type of questions you will use) or the content of your assignments based on the objectives you have set.

Align your assessment activities with your objectives. This way you can be sure that your learners have the desired progress.

6 Reflect

Reflect on your objectives and consider the following:

What if I Have Already Created My Course?

You may argue with the above if you have already created your course without having formed clear goals and objectives. But imagine how much you could improve your material by reviewing what you want to achieve and also how happy your old or new learners will be if you add this information to your course.

How to update a course using learning goals and objectives:

Then, you can create a great lesson plan based on the learning objectives, goals and activities you have decided on.

Further Reading

To prepare quality educational materials using learning goals, objectives and outcomes is a challenge worth pursuing. It will translate into a higher valued course, satisfied students and will help you in the process of creating your own course.

For this purpose, we suggest the following literature for further studying:

Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: is there a difference? Ronald M Harden – Link to article

Choosing teaching methods based on learning objectives: An integrative framework. Sarah E. Bonner – Link to article

Bloom’s taxonomy revisited: Specifying assessable learning objectives in computer science. Christopher Starr, Bill Manaris, Roxann H. Stalvey – Link to article

Academic Sources

Designing and Assessing Courses and Curricula, Third Edition, 2008. Robert M. Diamond. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.)

Harden, R. M. (2002). Learning outcomes and instructional objectives: is there a difference?. Medical teacher, 24(2), 151-155.

Bonner, S. E. (1999). Choosing teaching methods based on learning objectives: An integrative framework. Issues in Accounting Education, 14(1), 11-15.

Starr, C. W., Manaris, B., & Stalvey, R. H. (2008). Bloom’s taxonomy revisited: specifying assessable learning objectives in computer science. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(1), 261-265.

Bloom, B. S. (ed.). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. Longmans, Green and Company, New York, 1956.

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Course Designer & Content Creator at LearnWorlds

Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.

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