Opinion: Learning objectives should not be listed in your courses

Learning objectives are important. They give instructional designers / learning experience designers the ability to make sure they are including activities that allow learners to practice the skills that are the goal of the course and so they can be sure to include the content learners need to do the practice activities.

But do not list those learning objectives in the course itself; your learners don’t want to read them and will just skip over them.

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I don’t disagree @learning.lane yet I wrestle with the hook, the value proposition that has some meaning to open the hearts & minds to the content being brought forward. Objectives, boring indeed so what would you offer as a way to bring forward the WIIFM?

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I’m not against the hook; the trick is to make it conversational and pique their interest. But listing the objectives in the detailed, dry, analytical way that is used for planning courses is not something that sparks excitement. When planning the course, LXDs often use wording like this:

"By the end of this module, learners will be able to:

  • Do XYZ by using the ABC job aid"
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Item #5 in the presentation Dr. Ethan Edwards of Allen Interactions’ gave at Online Learning 2015 in Denver, 10 Ways to Ruin Your e-Learning: A How-To Guide in Reverse. Scrub to 30:00.

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I think it’s all in the way you present them, you can still include them but as a conversation perhaps, part of the introduction. Objectives are conversation drivers as well as guides to the purpose of the learning materials, they help us convey the WIIFM to the learners.

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This whole talk looks really useful, thanks for posting.

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Agreed, there needs to be something responding to the ‘why should I do this?’ question learners will be thinking. But yes, let’s ditch the ‘By the end of this module…’ framing.

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I know this is the current thinking, but i disagree with it. I’d say they should be presented to the learner for orientation, but not in the same way or perspective they are written for the designer.

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In my experience, different people need different things, at different times. One potential learner may need more information than another to make a decision while ‘the other’ learner may need a much quicker way to understand the WIIFM aspect than having to wade through a list of learning outcomes. Learner audience characteristics (and even the point in their decision process about whether to sign-up or not) might be more relevant than a rule / trend about providing learning outcomes or not.

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Good point, Belinda! The learning objectives (made a little more conversational) can be an important part of the learners deciding to take the course or not. Even with this thinking, though, I would argue that by the time the learner gets into the course and starts taking it, they’ve already made that decision. The information needed to make that decision shouldn’t be in the course; it should be available before they get into the course, through whatever medium being used to advertise it. Maybe it’s an LMS entry; maybe it’s a website like a company’s L&D intranet site; maybe it’s an email… To me, it makes sense to list those objectives there so the learner can decide whether or not to register for the course.

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The course catalog should have it. But in corporate learning, people often get enrolled in classes by their boss who doesn’t fully communicate why or what it’s about. Stating the objective somewhere in the course content is sometimes our way of catching them up on why the heck they are here. This is why I feel the need to sneak the learning objective into the welcome section if it’s faciliated or the elearning opening summary.

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I love how you say “sneak the learning objective into the welcome…” That sounds exactly what I’m going for - something that tells the learner “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) but without being a dry list of formal learning objectives. Love it!

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