The website is also available in

3 Easy steps to writing learning objectives

The most effective trainers are those who can guide the whole learning process from the very beginning. And the best way to kick off that process is by setting several clear learning objectives.

Kasper Spiro
writing learning objectives

Learning objectives are more than just a list of topics covered by your course. They should provide an overview of all the specific skills and knowledge your learners will have absorbed once they’ve finished.

In other words, if your learning objectives clearly answer the question “What will I learn from this course?”, then you’ve come up with the right ones. Identifying precise learning outcomes can sometimes be tricky. This is why we’ve come up with a simple, three-part formula that will help you start writing clear learning objectives.

What are learning objectives?

First, let’s get define key terms. A learning objective is a brief statement that describes the instructor’s purpose for creating and teaching a course. They sum up the specific questions that the instructor wants their course to raise.

To write good learning objectives, you should keep in mind 3 main characteristics:

  • Learning objectives are related to the specific goal rather than the method or process for achieving that goal.
  • Learning objectives should be specific and measurable.
  • Learning objectives should be written with the learners in mind.

Ready to start writing learning objectives? Check out our best tips for writing learning objectives below and some examples of good learning objectives to get you inspired along the way.

3 Tips for writing learning objectives

1. Think in terms of “change”

The first step to writing clear writing learning objectives is to remember that learning is always a process of change. Learners start a course with a particular level of knowledge, and throughout the course, they then absorb further expertise. As soon as they’ve completed it, they’ve hopefully grown into a more knowledgeable and skilled individual.

By thinking about your course in this way, you can pinpoint exactly where the changes in your learners’ knowledge and skills will occur. Those areas of change will give you a first glimpse into what your learning objectives may look like.

When identifying these areas of change, many trainers use the ASK model: Attitude, Skills, and Knowledge.

If the course emphasis is on changing the way an employee feels about a topic, then attitude is your focus. Your learning objective is to “change the learner’s attitude” about a specific topic.

On the other hand, if your course is about teaching new skills, then the learning objective is to “change the learner’s skill set.” Similarly, if the course focuses on offering new knowledge, then its learning objective is to “change or increase the learner’s knowledge” about that particular topic.

Get started with Microlearning

Ready to increase engagement in your e-learning course through Microlearning? Watch our free webinar for tips on creating bite-sized learning content.

2. Think in terms of “action”

Now that you’re clear about which areas of change your course is targeting, you’ll need to choose which type of actions you want your learners to be able to take, once they’ve finished it.

The more specific you get in identifying those actions, the clearer the purpose of your course. That’s why it’s best to avoid overly vague action words like “to understand” or “to learn”. Instead, focus on tangible, specific action verbs like the ones we’ve listed below for each of the ASK categories:


Choose / Comply / Decide / Evaluate / Recommend / Select / Support


Build / Calculate / Design / Prepare / Repair / Resolve / Sell / Update


Describe / Explain / Identify / List / Memorize / Recognize / Write

Think about the course you’re working on right now, or maybe one you’ve designed in the past. Which of these three areas of change fit best (step 1)? And which of the above verbs most accurately apply (step 2)? Now, try and combine the answer to both questions by writing or re-writing your learning objective(s).

Let’s say you’re looking to train new customer support employees on how to resolve a specific software issue (“XYZ”) with the help of a particular technology. Your objective would most likely fall into the skills category. In that case, a possible learning objective would be “to help customers resolve issue XYZ by installing a software update.”

3. Refine and narrow down your learning objectives

You’ve now established a primary learning objective, but you’ll need to make it more specific and include further detail. That detail should focus on the particular circumstances that are relevant for your learners.

A useful model for this is the ABCD model. It states that each learning objective should mention which audience, behavior, conditions, and degree of mastery it relates to:

  • Audience: Exactly who is doing the learning (All employees? Customer support reps? Sales reps? New hires?)
  • Behavior: What’s the specific new behavior this audience will acquire? (Refer to step 2 and choose an appropriate action verb)
  • Conditions: In which setting and circumstances can they use this new attitude, skill, or knowledge?
  • Degree of mastery: To what extent will the audience be able to perform the new action on their own once they’ve completed the course?

So, expanding on the example we used earlier, the complete learning objective might sound like this: “All customer support reps will be able to independently help customers install a software update to resolve the specific known issue XYZ.”


By following these three quick steps, you’ll be able to write clear and specific learning objectives in no time.

Your learners will gain a much better understanding of which skills and knowledge they can expect to gain from the course. They’ll also appreciate why it’s crucial they complete it.

Need help getting started?

If you don’t want to start writing learning objectives from scratch, check out our Learning Objective Maker. Just fill in the blanks with your course’s information and our tool will guide you through the rest of the process.

Ready to start creating courses?

Start my free trial Book a demo

About the author

Kasper Spiro is the Co-founder and Chief learning strategist of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.