Writing Learning Objectives: Part 3

fun-learning-objectivesLearning Objectives for the Audience

In case you were asleep, the previous two articles in this series discussed how to write learning objectives for your internal eLearning team. Part 1 demonstrated how to write classic three-part learning objectives and Part 2 discussed how to make them measurable. Now let’s see how to write exciting and fun learning objectives for your eLearning audience that will cause them to react as in the photo shown here.

All of this implies that the learning objectives you write for the audience should differ from the technical, inflexible, three-part learning objectives you write for developing training products. Believe me, no audience member wants to see a long list of instructional objectives preceded by “1.4.3.5.” Only instructional designers find those lists exciting.

Advance Organizers

Cognitive psychology tells us that as part of an overall instructional strategy, learning objectives can act as an advance organizer for the learner. In the right context, presenting audience members with learning objectives can help them organize new information by connecting it to information that they already know. This should ready the mind for learning and make it easier to understand new content. Presenting a vanilla list of learning objectives without context, however, will probably not achieve this goal. In fact, most people probably skip the “learning objectives screen” anyway.

Are You Guilty?

Let’s admit to the fact that we have all been guilty of presenting an audience with a long list of learning objectives. But it’s because someone made us do it, right? The problem is, not only do we miss a chance to facilitate learning, a plain list of instructional objectives at the start of a course doesn’t make sense to the learner without context. Plus this might be de-motivating and motivation is an important component of learning.

Solutions

So what is an instructional designer to do? There are several approaches outlined here. And many more to come in future articles. David Ausbel, who developed the theory of Advance Organizers, suggested they should bridge the gap between what the learner knows and what the learner needs to know.

1. Real World Scenarios

One approach that works well is to start a course with a short scenario. The scenario should be realistic and present a problem for which most audience members probably don’t know the solution. At the end of the scenario, add a statement such as, “Would you know what to do?” Then lead into a related statement about what they will be learning.

2. How It Will Help The Learner

Another approach involves seeing things from the learner’s perspective. How will your course help the audience members? Will it help them save a life, become a better leader, repair a computer or use accounting software? Tell them how the course will benefit them and bury your objectives in those statements. Example: “As a manager, you may find it tough to not only organize projects but to lead the way as well. This lesson will teach you how to be a better leader, by practicing how to analyze given information to make sound decisions.”

3. Speak to the Emotions

It’s a well-known fact that speaking to the emotions is one way to motivate people. It also creates context—a way to connect previous knowledge with what one will be learning. Example: “In a hospital environment, patients are dependent on us during emergency situations. This module will help you quickly implement the fire emergency plan for your building to ensure our patients can be evacuated safely.”

Not Really The End

You’ve been given three possible ways to put learning objectives into a broader learning context and to make them more motivating. But this is really just the beginning of an important discussion. So please share your successful ways of introducing eLearning learning objectives to an audience. Write your comments below.

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