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How to Write Learning Objectives

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How to Write Learning Objectives

One of the first steps you should take when creating an e-learning course (or any other type of training) is to write the learning objective. The problem is that even though this should be part of the process, it is often not done.

The temptation instead is to dive into the tasks required to get the development work underway, including planning the structure and content creation elements. However, taking time to write down the learning objectives is worth it.

Why Write Learning Objectives for Your E-Learning Course?

Writing learning objectives when you create a new training course offers a range of benefits. The most important are:

  • Development direction
  • Learner motivation
  • ROI Analysis

Development Direction

The process of writing learning objectives involves narrowing in on the specifics that you want to achieve. It’s about focusing on exactly what employees will learn. Doing this helps define the initial development direction of your e-learning course, and it can bring you back on track in the future if you feel the content is becoming too wide-ranging.

Let’s introduce an example to illustrate this and subsequent points – a sales training course. Sales training aims to improve sales, but courses usually have a specific purpose, such as overcoming objections or improving product knowledge. By making your learning objective specific, you will set the tone for the development process, ensuring it focuses on the main purpose (in our example, improving product knowledge).

Learner Motivation

Learning objectives help learners quickly understand what the training is about, how it will help them, and how it relates to their day-to-day activities. This can motivate learners, turning them from sceptics into enthusiastic participants.

Our sales training example can be used again with this point. Giving your team an e-learning course and telling them it is to improve sales might annoy some members of the team who believe they are already good at sales and don’t need the training. There isn’t anything that is motivational with this approach either.

The following learning objective is one that salespeople are more likely to buy into:

  • This e-learning course will improve your product knowledge to help you better explain to customers why our products are better than our competitors.

ROI Analysis

A crucial part of creating e-learning courses is measuring performance and outcomes to assess return on investment. This is difficult to do if there isn’t a clear understanding of what the course is about, i.e., the learning objectives. So, writing learning objectives will help you analyse success and make improvements for the future.

What Do Good Learning Objectives Look Like?

  • Short – a good learning objective is short. Ideally, a sentence or two.
  • Easy to understand – good learning objectives avoid jargon and stuffy, corporate language. Instead, they use easy to understand language and a friendly tone.
  • Specific – the more specific you make the learning objective, the better. Focus on the exact skills the employees will learn.
  • Realistic – creating learning objectives is not about being overly ambitious or thinking big. There is a place for that approach, but when writing learning objectives, being realistic is more important.
  • Relatable – good learning objectives relate to the learners’ day-to-day.

Tips for Writing Good Learning Objectives 

Identify the Audience

Start by identifying your audience. In our example mentioned earlier, the broad audience definition would be salespeople. You may even be able to narrow this further, such as experienced salespeople, salespeople that specialise in particular products, or salespeople in specific locations like the UAE or Saudi Arabia.

Think About the Broad Goal

As we can see above, learning objectives should be specific. However, when writing them, it can be helpful to first look at the broader goal as this will clarify how the specific training topic fits in.

Think About How You Will Measure Success

How will you measure whether or not the e-learning course has been successful? You might use post-training assessments, business metrics, or behavioural change, for example. How you will measure success will influence the learning objective you ultimately create as the learning objective and method of measuring success should match.

Use the Learner’s Perspective

The learning objectives you create should not be about what you are doing. Instead, they should be from the perspective of the learner.

For example, a poorly written learning objective would be:

  • This e-learning course will provide more detailed information on our products to enhance the understanding of our salespeople.

Instead of this, where the focus is on what you are doing, explain what the learner will achieve and why that is important, i.e., improved product knowledge, so salespeople are better equipped to explain why we are better than the competition.

Use Outcomes Where Possible Rather than Actions or Tasks

The temptation when writing learning objectives is to focus on actions or tasks. An example is using the word “understanding”, i.e., at the end of this course, you will have a better understanding of our company’s products. This learning objective is more about the actions/tasks of the course than it is about the main outcomes. In our example, that outcome is to become better at explaining why the company’s products are better than a competitor’s.

We can also explain this using training on a new set of procedures. The main outcome is not about understanding the new procedures. Instead, it’s about being able to use or apply the procedures.

Use Learning Objectives to Make a Connection

One of the reasons for writing e-learning course objectives is to motivate and encourage learners. You can do this by explaining how the course will make them more efficient, more successful, or better equipped to deal with challenging situations, for example.

This connection you make with learners at the very outset of the e-learning course will improve the learning experience and overall results.