One of the biggest challenges in course design is creating a course consistent with the organization’s learning objectives. Often courses are built around fuzzy objectives where the expected outcome isn’t quite clear. Another issue is that the course doesn’t end up meeting the objectives.
Learning Objectives Require Clear Goals
Why is the course being built? What is expected after the person takes the course? Understanding this helps you create learning objectives to meet the course’s goals.
Often organizations don’t have clear goals or the goal isn’t based on immediate performance expectations. For example, many organizations require that employees take annual ethics training. It’s not like they hire a team of unethical employees who’ll take the course and all of a sudden be ethical. In that case, an immediate change in behavior isn’t the real goal. What they want to do is reinforce and remind the employees of the organization’s ethics policies and expected behavior.
That’s an information course. And often those types of courses only require end-of-year certification. So the objective is relatively simple: certify familiarity of the organization’s policies by December 31.
On the other hand, if the desire of the organization is to change behaviors or impact performance than the objectives are different. That’s a performance course where the learning objective is measurable change. They were at point A and after taking the course they’re at point B.
Learning Objectives Focus on Action
In a previous post we looked at a simple way to create learning objectives. The essence of creating a good objective is looking for the action required. We used to ask, ”What will it look like when I see it?”
With an identified action you can measure the effectiveness of your course. On the other hand a fuzzy objective like “you will understand how to do something” it’s hard to measure and see it in action. Move a step close by detailing what “understanding” is and how you can see it in action.
If a person understands something what are the expected actions?
Break Your Learning Objectives into Sub Categories
Often we’ll list the learning objective as a larger goal. For example: the objective is to complete customer calls within 4 minutes. That’s a good, basic objective and it’s measurable.
I can start with how long it currently takes to complete calls and then track the improvement after the training.
However, to complete the calls in less than 4 minutes usually requires other actions. Perhaps it means that the call is manually sorted into a queue to speed up processing. Or perhaps the customer’s account information is visible prior to engaging the customer.
Meet the larger learning objective is contingent on meeting a number of smaller, secondary objectives. The person who handles the customer calls actually will meet the 4 minute mark if they are successful with those other activities.
List your main learning objective. Then make a list of all of the required actions to accomplish the main learning objectives. These actions are your supporting learning objectives.
When building courses in the past, I would chunk the supporting learning objectives into smaller modules. They were faster to create and easier for the learners to digest since the modules were more specific and smaller.
However you go about creating learning objectives, the key is to really understand what the organization wants and then build objectives to meet those goals. This helps you spend your resources in the right place and ensures that you are moving things forward.
What do you think is the most challenging when identifying your course’s learning objectives?
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Post written by Tom Kuhlmann