Learning Objectives: A Better Place?

Let’s find more useful ways to draw learners into the content quickly and in the most interesting manner possible.

Do your eyes glaze over whenever a facilitator or eLearning course presents a Learning Objectives slide? And yet, doing this is still a usual and customary practice everywhere. Why?

Aristotle is credited with having carved this quote into stone: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” And it is still in use today.

Now in some ways, that is admirable. Even timeless. But maybe when it comes to guiding and facilitating learning content, there is a better way.

Learners are busy people. There are competing priorities and demands on them and their time. Let’s find more useful ways to draw them into the content quickly and in the most interesting manner possible.

Ideas to Get Started

  • Craft and present performance objectives instead. Doing this provides a sort of roadmap or progress report that the individual learner can use to gauge the level of knowledge and/or skill they’ve acquired as they complete the learning content (for more on this, see: https://trainingmag.com/lets-craft-performance-objectives-instead/).
  • Present the learners with a story or real work scenario that poses challenges to overcome and problems to solve. Doing this gives them a glimpse into what lies ahead and, again, the ability to discern for themselves what knowledge or skills they need to acquire to complete the learning content and be successful in their work.
  • Present the learners with a brief self-assessment. Doing this provides learners a safe place to discern that they do have more skills or knowledge to acquire. And it won’t be a waste of their time. It might work well to present them with the same self-assessment at the end to allow them to gauge both their attitude and how much learning they acquired after completing the content.

Break the Mold!

Learning objectives still have their place—preferably in the needs analysis that is presented to leaders and stakeholders. Speak the language of business when writing the needs analysis. Position the objectives as expected outcomes in the plan or learning strategy.

Set up a time to discuss how best to do this in your organization—soon. Break the mold. Reframe the standard. Rework the template. All with the learners in mind!

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: dawn@trainingmag.com.