Learning Objectives—Yes, No, Maybe 1

I hate Learning Objectives.  Yes, they are a necessary evil.  Yes, they do help shape and mold the learning experience.  Sometimes they do this well, sometimes they completely miss the mark.  Yes, we should ban forever the verbs “learn” and “understand” from our learning objective writing.

Why are the necessary?  Because, when done well, they really hone in on what the leaner needs.  They need to specific, actionable and measurable.  Most learning professionals know how to write them.  Personally, I refer back to Bloom’s revised taxonomy for the verbs/levels of learning.  The learning objectives I write are exceptionally well done.  Just ask me.

Who are learning objectives for?  Ah, that is a key question.  They are NOT for the learner.  They ARE for the people associated with creating/designing/approving the learning design and experience.  Sure, we need to work hard on writing good learning objectives as part of the process to ensure we create good learning.  That is our responsibility as learning professionals.

Have you ever noticed that, for Instructor Led Training, you are standing in front of a bunch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed learners excited to be away from the office and eager to learn?  So, first thing you want to do is grab their attention.  How do we do this?  PowerPoint slide 1àWelcome to “XYZ.”  Slide 2àLearning Objectives.  It’s about this time you notice their starting to glaze over already as we engage in Instructional Design “Speak.”  Same thing with e-Learning.  It’s hard enough to design a e-Learning experience that is motivating.  Do you really need to sap that motivation with long, esoteric learning objectives?  A few years ago I was asked to review a game design book pre-publication.  It was a very good book, except for one thing.  At the beginning of every chapter it listed the formal learning objectives for that chapter—BORING.  I recommended they take it out.  Well, they left it in.

So, what should you do?  Yes, keep the traditional learning objectives internal to the process of creating the learning.  Keep it to the people associated with creating/designing/approving the learning design and experience.

For the learners, REWORD the learning objectives in their context.  Re-phrase it in simple, everyday language that shows the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).  I agree with the practice of letting learners know what will be covered.  Yet, let’s do it in a non-boring way.  Things like “today we will cover…”  Or, “Our discussion today will focus on…”

Just remember, what’s presented to the learner should be learner-centric, not learning professional-centric.

Comments, jabs, refutes, discussions?

One comment on “Learning Objectives—Yes, No, Maybe

  1. Reply Andy Sep 16,2014 9:36 am


    If you’re interested in objectives, have a look at this blog http://whatyouneedtoknow.co.uk/?p=370

    Also, I know you’re not suggesting this, but if you don’t have any objectives, how do you know what to assess?

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