Do You Understand Learning Objectives?

Did you just say the U-word?

You can’t use UNDERSTAND, do you understand?? — Anonymous ID, Bloomed in Taxonomy, PA

The story above, featuring learning objectives, is completely fictional and any resemblance to living or dead is mere coincidence.

Why do we need learning objectives?

Writing smart learning objectives is an art. I’ve talked to a lot of instructional designers who are passionate about them. Why? Because anybody can put together a job-aid, a website, even a video. But there’s only one profession in the WORL&D that writes awesome learning objectives: the instructional designer. If you are one of them, you have probably met SMEs whose first instinct is to tell learners they need to UNDERSTAND something…

Bang! They just bloomed it! For you, the U-word sounds like the screeching fingernail on the backboard. You intervene on the spot: there’s nothing like a measurable action verbs for breakfast: choose-define-find-label-list-name-omit-recall

Learners will be able to…

For a long time, I was convinced that learning objectives are like medicine. You need them to get better, and there’s no other way to get better. Yes, they are plain bullets, yes they are boring, yes they are bitter… But they must help, right? Because, why on Earth we would put those boring (yet measurable) bullet points on the first slide?

I mean what could be more exciting than recalling the five steps of the sales process? Or recognizing the five strategic pillars of successful coaching? Understanding the… oops, I did it again.

The Challenge

Here’s an experiment/challenge for your next learning project: imagine that there’s a new rule in instructional design, banning the bulleted list of learning objectives on slide 1. No “learners will be able to…” anymore for this one. Your task is to design the learning without explicitly listing those objectives! Be creative! Find other ways to call attention to what’s important, yet engage learners from the very first slide.

Here’s some help for you to UNDERSTAND why and how:

I’d love to see some examples!



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