At first glance, you may think there’s really no difference between “learning objectives” and “learning outcomes”. Even if you research the topic a little, you will often find these terms used interchangeably.
But, there are some important differences. In this article, we’ll look at those differences and why it’s important to understand them, so you can improve the effectiveness of your e-learning.
First, let’s get the definitions straight. A learning objective is the instructor’s purpose for creating and teaching their course. These are the specific questions that the instructor wants their course to raise. In contrast, learning outcomes are the answers to those questions. They are the specific, measurable knowledge and skills that the learner will gain by taking the course.
It might help you to think about the difference in terms of perspective. Learning objectives are usually viewed from the instructor’s perspective (what does the instructor want to accomplish?) while learning outcomes are seen more from the learner’s perspective (what will the course teach me, as a learner?). Of course, the two are closely related, because a trainer’s objectives will ultimately be translated into the learner’s outcomes, as long as the course successfully serves its purpose.
We’ve built a free and easy-to-use Learning Objective Maker so you can start creating your own goals and learning objectives.
As mentioned above, learning objectives help foster a sense of purpose for all the parties involved. They enable authors and trainers to shift their focus from delivery to creating an engaging experience for learners. Learners and administration benefit too. Let’s review the advantages for each group.
Before you can define learning objectives you need to identify what levels of learning you want learners to achieve. The industry standard for this is Bloom’s taxonomy, which has six levels of learning. The most basic level of learning is ‘Remembering’, and the highest level of learning is ‘Creating’.
Easygenerator helps Subject Matter Experts (without a didactics background) create effective learning objectives with our Learning Objectives Maker that has seamlessly integrated Bloom’s taxonomy into the software and allows the authors to create an objective with four easy steps.
For instructors and content authors, focusing on outcomes is a great way to improve the effectiveness of your course. That’s because it encourages you to put yourself in the learner’s shoes. By consciously putting learning outcomes into words, you gain a clearer understanding of your purpose as an instructor.
They are also valuable because they give instructors, learners, and administrators clear, measurable criteria for assessing whether a course has done its job and if you need to improve your approach to the material. If you start with a clear learning outcome in mind but find that the course fails or struggles to achieve this outcome, then you know that you need to rethink your approach.
If you are a training manager, you will probably also think of learning outcomes in financial terms. After all, your organization is investing valuable resources in its training program, so it’s important that the training content delivers a good return on that investment. Learning outcomes are precisely that return on investment.
That means clear, measurable learning outcomes are essential for evaluating whether a specific training activity is worth the time and money. If a course fails to deliver learning outcomes, it’s time to try a new strategy.
Lastly, let’s look at how clear learning outcomes improve the learning experience for the three main stakeholders of any learning program: the learners, the instructors, and the administrators/managers: