Whether you’re creating formal training videos for a company of 10,000 employees or informal training for a couple of colleagues, knowing what your training video will accomplish helps your audience know what to expect. In more formal training scenarios, it even helps students or trainees track and gauge their progress through the course.
Creating learning objectives is also the step a lot of us want to skip. It can seem tedious sometimes to have to create a statement like, “In this course, students will learn how to blah blah blah.”
But here’s a secret: It’s not just “blah blah blah.” They serve several important purposes for your learners. And, learning objectives aren’t just great for your audience. They help you create better training!
For a recent episode of The Visual Lounge podcast, I interviewed Jonathan Halls, and he had some really great thoughts on learning objectives and why they’re important. But more on that in a bit.
What are learning objectives?
You’ve probably heard the terms learning objectives and learning goals. It’s easy to assume that they’re the same thing. While they may be similar, there are some key differences.
Learning goals describe what you hope to accomplish with your course overall. They can be relatively vague and aspirational. It could be something as simple as, “To create a better understanding of how to use X software in the remote work environment.”
Learning objectives, on the other hand, describe in specific terms what your audience will know or be able to do when the course is complete. It might sound something like, “After completing this course, students will understand how and why to use the X tool as part of their remote work.”
Remember, too, that you don’t have to be that formal with it, depending on the tone of your video and your audience. That same learning objective could be expressed as, “Today, we’re going to learn how and why to use X tool in your remote work.”
Whatever the tone and formality, learning objectives should include behaviors that are measurable and should include active words such as remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create, etc.
And don’t forget, learning objectives should be something that is actually attainable in your course. Setting learning objectives that are too ambitious can be overwhelming for learners and can lead to frustration when they can’t meet expectations.
If you find your learning objective to be too much for a particular course, you can try breaking down more difficult or advanced topics into separate courses.
Even if your objective is appropriate for the course, it can help learners determine whether a course is right for them. If the objective is too advanced, they may want to find a beginner or intermediate course. For advanced learners, a more basic learning objective gives them the option of looking for a course more suited to their skill level, as well.
How learning objectives help instructors
So now we know a little more about how learning objectives help learners, but how do they help you create a better course?
This is where Jonathan Halls has some great insight. He believes that starting with a clear learning objective helps instructors define not just what to include in a course — but what to leave out.
Essentially, if it doesn’t help accomplish your objective, it doesn’t belong in your course.
“If you have any element in your video that does not actually do what you’re promising to do, chop it out,” he said.
A well-defined learning objective helps you plan your course by giving you a clear set of boundaries on what actually belongs in the video. Whether your video is two minutes or 20 minutes long, be sure each piece of information actually does what your video is supposed to do.
That doesn’t mean the content you’re cutting wasn’t good or useful. It may very well be! But, if it doesn’t fit your well-defined learning objective, it doesn’t belong in that particular video. You can always use it in another course or at another time.
Help your learners and yourself with learning objectives
While taking the time to create a well-defined learning objective may not sound like the most exciting part of creating training videos, it can be one of the most important things you do. Good learning objectives not only help your students understand what to expect from your course but also help you know what to provide.