Every time you sit to design a specific course of study, the first point which has to be catered to is the end result. The most efficient way to be able to reach a conclusive end is to write it down in terms of measurable, learning objectives. Objectives are the basic goal statements which define what will be the outcome of the entire learning process. They are generally linked to the desired outcomes and not the process which helps to achieve the outcomes. These often carry action verbs, which will clearly define what you want the makers of the course to exhibit at the end of the journey. The best way is to align various assessments with expectations from the course, to begin with.
What are Learning Objectives?
Learning objectives refer to clear and measurable results which one seeks to achieve after the end of the learning activity or process. Here the word clear may have different meanings for different people, but the underlying objective remains the same, i.e., to be a better version of yourself in terms of the course taken. Defining specific learning objectives also helps to design the curriculum. Two of the most important facts about learning objectives are:
- Learning Objectives and Learning Goals: There is a difference between learning objectives and learning goals, and you should have a clear understanding of both. Your learning objective should be, in essence, with the basic goal of your course. A learning goal defines the what the learners will be able to do after their online course is complete while a learning objective refers to in clear and measurable terms what kind of particular learning elements will the students have mastered after the course is completed. The central idea is specificity and measurability. Goals thus have much broader approach as they help to focus on the bigger picture or the primary vision while the learning objectives are more streamlined and to the point. Goals thus give you basic directions to write the learning objectives, i.e. latter have to be in line the basic spirit of the former.
- Information not Relevant to Learning Objectives: There are some pieces of information which are not relevant to be included in learning objectives. These generally include
- Any mention or information about the target audience.
- The strategy which you have used to develop your learning objectives.
Although both of the form vital information but they are not important to be placed in learning objectives. Thus, it becomes clear that the only thing which has to be kept in mind while developing the learning objectives is the knowledge outcomes and other benefits which your students will gain by subscribing or taking up the learning activity.
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Components of Learning Objectives
There are three major components of the Learning Objectives:
- The behavior to be Performed: This usually comprises the action under which is relevant to the domain of the activity. It is difficult to measure generic verbs like knowing, understanding, etc. Thus, there is a need for a proper assessment tool as it clearly lays out if a student can define, explain, outline, etc.
- Conditions Under which Students Exhibit Skill: It is important to mention the conditions under which the students will have to showcase or demonstrate their skills. The format of presentation is also important.
- Criteria for Measuring Performance: The criteria which are used to measure performance and gauge their level of learning is also important.
The learning objectives can be grouped into three major domains:
- Cognitive Domain: This is one of the most important domains in all instructional programs. It comprises the objectives which are linked to information, solving, naming, predicting and other aspects of learning.
- Psychomotor Domain: This involves the skills which are needed for the use and coordination of the skeletal muscles. Such behaviours are easy to observe, explain and even evaluate than both cognitive and affective behaviours.
- Affective Domain: This domain comprises attitudes, appreciations, emotions, and values. This is difficult to assess in terms of learning and education. These levels form a continuum ranging from simple awareness and acceptance to complete learning.
Classification of Learning Objectives
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Learning objectives were classified by Bloom’s Taxonomy on the basis of various cognitive processes which were involved in a student’s mind. Latter was edited for the first time by an American educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom. The objectives as earmarked by the same are as follows:
- Knowledge: This is very important as it demands that the students should be able to recall the information which has been learned.
- Comprehension: The information which has been learned should not be dull but the learners should also be able to drive meaning and relevance out of it in terms of the larger goals in their lives.
- Application: This is another important outcome of any learning process. The students should be able to thoroughly apply the information which they have learned in different contexts and areas of work. This will give them the true essence of their learning.
- Analysis: The students should also be able to analyze the information by identification of various components and parts. This will open them to new avenues to where these can be used.
- Synthesis: This is the most important part of any learning process. The students who have recognized various parts of the process and are able to apply the same in different fields should also be able to make something new with it. They should be able to use different parts of the information imbibed at different points of the process to create something new.
- Evaluation: The students have to be able to give their own independent views and opinions about the things which they have learned. Once done, they can also give individual judgments, justify various decisions on the basis of their knowledge.
This taxonomic approach is vital for development or defining the learning objectives as it helps to understand the level of various cognitive processes which are involved during learning in humans. This will thus define the natural order by which the target audience will be able to process the information. All the objectives outlined above are ranked as per their importance from lower to higher levels in the hierarchy. In terms of online learning, many experts often suggest ignoring the lower levels as unimportant. Contrarily, these are the ones which are most essential to be able to proceed to higher levels. One can always add in a pre-test to ensure there are no gaps in knowledge. The scores so obtained in the latter can suggest to the learners that they are ready for the next module.
Verbs which Help Write Learning Objectives
Knowledge of Bloom’s taxonomy and the cognitive processes which comprise the learning are a great help when you sit to define and write your learning objectives. Another notable part about learning objectives is their communication to the target audience so that the latter can get a clear picture of the course which they are going to take-up. It was in 2001 when Anderson and Krathwohl were able to present a revised version of Bloom’s taxonomic levels so that the instructional designers can come up with clear objectives. The designers suggested a list of verbs to help the target audience know what has to be expected. Below is a list of verbs which are helpful for the creation of suitable learning objective for every level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
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- Remember: This refers to the ability to recall, repeat, catalogue, state, speak, spell, etc.
- Understand: This refers to the ability to be able to explain, alter, discuss, contradict, identify, etc.
- Apply: This refers to the ability to explain, translate, illustrate, demonstrate, sketch, etc.
- Analyze: This refers to the ability to be able to distinguish, compare, classify, differentiate, etc.
- Evaluate: This basically refers to the ability to be able to decide, appraise, recommend, revise, assess, think, etc.
- Create: This relates to the ability to be able to produce, prepare, formulate, organize, manage, etc.
Additional Tips to Keep in Mind
Thus, you now know what to consider while you are writing your learning objectives to the level of cognitive processes which comprise the learning. It will be helpful to also keep the following key pointers in mind when you design the above:
- When you are writing the learning objectives for any online or eLearning course, you need an e-learning assessment for evaluation of your students to gauge what they have been able to learn and imbibe. The results of such assessments will give you direct hints if your students can match the true learning objectives of the course, the depth of their knowledge and even the level of interest the course has been able to generate among them. Thus, the assessments have to be highly consistent with the broader goals and objectives of the learning program for more accurate results.
- It is very important that you make use of clear and well-defined verbs to write the assessments.
- You should be very clear about who you are writing your learning objectives. Thus, a proper analysis of your target audience, their basic requirements, etc. are very important to design the above.
- You should be yourself satisfied that the objectives which you have defined are actually achievable and realistic in the same period for which the course has been designed. The objectives should also be supported by defined tools and resources.
- The language you use to write the objectives should be very simple, direct, and engaging. Although it is usually advisable to keep short at times, you really have to elaborate on certain aspects to tell the students what they should and should not expect.
- Lastly, if there are many learning objectives related to your course, then it is always advisable to organize them in subcategories. Such divisions help avoidance of overwhelming the learners.
The Learning Objectives form a vital part of every learning process. They have to be clearly defined and laid out in simple and effective language intended for the ultimate target audience. Bloom’s Taxonomic classification serves as a great help in recognition of these and should be kept in mind when writing them. You should also remember that these are different from learning goals, which only give a broader direction in which the objectives have to be written. One should have clarity of thought when writing them as any ambiguity will kill the purpose of learning objectives.
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