What is a learning objective?

An objective defines in specific terms what a learner must do or accomplish as a result of learning.

It will typically describe the conditions, the behavior, and the standard for successful completion:

  • Conditions: Under what conditions should the learner be able to perform the task (e.g. with what tools and in what environment)?
  • Behavior: What should the learner be able to do? What is the task to be accomplished or the knowledge to be gained?
  • Standard: What is the criteria for successful completion? How well should the learner be able to perform in terms of time, completion, accuracy, etc.?

Types of learning objectives:

  • A learning objective (or performance, instructional, or behavioral objective) describes what learners will be able to do when they successfully complete a learning activity (a course or part of a course).
  • An enabling objective describes something learners must do to show accomplishment towards the course or terminal objective.
  • A terminal objective (or course objective) describes what the learner will be able to do at the end of the training course.

Benefits of writing learning objectives:

Writing clear learning objectives for your training helps in the development and evaluation of the training program.

There are three major benefits: 

  1. Guidelines and structure: Once learning objectives have been developed (based on job expectations and task analysis), the instructional designer can make sure that the content of the objectives is addressed in the training program.
  2. Measurable goals: The learner will know the expectations for successful completion of the training and what they should focus on during the training.
  3. Evaluation: Learning objectives can be used to measure the success of the training program and the progress of the learner. Using learning objectives, designers know exactly what to test for in post course assessments. If at the end of training, learners cannot perform tasks as specified in the objectives, then some adjustment of the training may be required.

How to create learning objectives:

  1. Create a list of tasks and behaviors that you want addressed by the training and break each of these down to single objectives.
  2. Add conditions to each objective.
  3. Add the criteria or standard for success.
  4. Craft each objective into a grammatically correct sentence. Use active verbs that accurately address the appropriate learning domain.
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