Creating Your Course Outcomes and Lesson Learning Objectives

Course outcomes

The outcomes for your course should align with the outcomes for your program; these should be established with your academic programs before you begin development of your course.

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 Once the outcomes for your course are identified, you can break them down into lesson objectives for each week of the course. At the lesson level, learning objectives “are related to the outcome of instruction rather than the process of instruction. For example, when a chef adds seasoning to a soup, that is part of the process of cooking. But it isn’t the result of cooking. The soup itself is the outcome or the result of cooking” (Mager, 1997, p. 5). In the course, we want to identify these desired results as performance objectives. 

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Learning objectives

The learning objective is a critical building block in the creation of an online course. It provides a foundation on which all the other elements of your course are built. Lectures, discussions, assignments, and assessments are all teaching strategies used to reach the common goal, satisfying and accomplishing the objectives.

Learning objectives communicate what the student will be expected to be able to do at the conclusion of a given week. They are also used to measure whether a student has achieved what has been described by the objective at the end of the lesson.

Robert Mager (1984) states that each learning objective should have three parts:

1. Performance – describes what a learner is expected to be able to do.
2. Conditions – describes the environment under which the performance occurs. 3. Criterion – describes how well the learner must perform for it to be considered acceptable.

In creating your learning objectives, keep in mind that each objective should be performance-based and measurable. A performance-based learning objective describes the skill or knowledge that a student will be able to demonstrate by the end of the course or lesson. Use specific action verbs such as: list, identify, state, discuss, describe, define, solve, compare and contrast.

Consider the difference in the following two examples: 

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As previously stated, learning objectives are your course foundation. Once you have established your learning objectives, your readings, lectures, and assessments should follow accordingly.

For more information on creating more performance-based learning objectives, see the Appendix for the Bloom’s Taxonomy wheel of action verbs and Robert Mager’s book Preparing of Instructional Objectives.

Next: Lecture Materials