- Explain two of the reasons why Cammy Bean doesn't like learning objectives
- Explain your own view of learning objectives
- Develop an alternative approach to listing learning objectives in your next eLearning course
I hate writing learning objectives. I see the value. I do. At least from the instructional designer's and the business's point of view. Learning objectives clarify exactly what it is you're trying to teach. But I find them painfully boring to read and to write.
Ray Sims has written a great summary on Writing Learning Objectives, with citations to some good resources, including Vicki Heath's post Learning Objectives: Writing Learning Outcomes So They Matter.
Vicki states as the first benefit of learning objectives: "Learners can focus more easily on what is important to their actual workplace performance."
Her statement is in keeping with traditional instructional design theory that says that learning objectives help learners organize their learning efforts. And yet one could argue that most learners don't even bother reading them.
As Michael Allen says in Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning: "Learners think, 'I'm supposed to do my best to learn whatever is here, so I might as well spend all my time learning it rather than reading about learning it." (p. 159)
The objectives page is one that I always click NEXT to slide right on by.
How about you? If you have ever taken an eLearning course (and be honest -- have you really taken an eLearning course?), have you taken the time to read those objectives? Really?
Write Better Objectives
One approach, as Cathy Moore demonstrates so well, is to write better objectives. See her recent post: Makeover: Turn Objectives into Motivators.
Michael Allen thinks better-written objectives are a start, but wonders if any form of the "textual listing of objectives [is] really the best way to sell anyone on learning." (p. 161)
Break the Rules
Allen urges instructional designers to break the rules: "Don't list objectives."
Pretty radical, isn't it? I called this one out as one of the top things I learned about learning in 2007.
Instead, provide some meaningful and memorable experiences using interactivity, graphics, animation, and storytelling.
photo by bb_matt
Alternatives to Listing Objectives
Here are some of Michael Allen's alternatives to listing out boring learning objectives in text bullet form:
Put the Learner to Work (p. 161) Have the learner attempt a task. If they fail, they'll know what they are going to be able to do when they finish your program (hopefully, complete the task).
Use Drama (p. 165)
Create a scenario showing the risk of what could happen if the learner doesn't learn the content -- and the benefits that will happen when she does
Create a Game Quiz (p. 166)
Instead of a traditional, boring assessment, create a game-like quiz. Based on their performance, learners will see if they are beginners or advanced, and where their gaps in knowledge might lie. And they'll be able to see what kinds of tasks they should be able to do at the end of the course.
Check out Karl Kapp's Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning for some simple game ideas.
Have you experimented with alternatives to listing out learning objectives? Do you have any good stories? Have you had a client push back when you've tried to eliminate the learning objectives page?