Why Learning Objectives Are Critical (And How To Create a Good One)


They say in order to get where you want to go, you have to know where you’ve been.

That may be true.

But before you can even take your first step, you have to actually know where it is you want to go. If you don’t know what conclusion you want at the end of a journey, how do you know whether the journey was a success?

This has been a challenge the training industry is still trying to overcome. What’s the goal? What are the objectives of the training. And even more important, how do you measure them?

It’s been hard to measure training effectiveness, which means that measuring against learning objectives tends to fall somewhat by the wayside. But if you do that, you’re just  doing training for the sake of training—because it’s “something we’re supposed to do.”

More Training is often the mantra when it’s not clear how to solve a problem, or when other known solutions seem too challenging or expensive. But it’s like throwing money at a problem:  it doesn’t always fix it.

This Is Why eLearning Objectives Are So Important

The good news is that eLearning’s very nature allows us to measure our efforts. Good measurement gives us the information we need to determine whether a training project is successful or not.

But you have to know what’s important to measure.

A strong and clear learning objective not only tells you whether training efforts were successful, it also guides the instructional designer and the learner, not only for this course, but for future learning efforts.

It creates the feedback loop that allows training to improve over time.

We emphatically recommend that clients have a very clear objective for every training project, and if it’s unclear, we’ll help sort it out. It’s absolutely essential for everyone to know and understand the objective and definition of success from the beginning of a training initiative. We can’t claim success - for us or our client - if we don’t know what is supposed to happen after completion.

Now, not all definitions of a successful training are learning objectives.  Sometimes maybe you’re trying to impress  your boss, leave a legacy, make a splash. Whatever. But most training programs do have learning objectives. So let’s look at how to make them.

Creating a Good Learning Objective

Remember that objectives and goals are not the same thing, even though the words are often used interchangeably. Goals are broader in scope, while objectives are more specific, and often relate to a broader goal.

Let's take a look at some simple examples of learning objectives.
"Upon completion of this training, you will be able to...

  • ...add new sales prospects to the CRM."
  • ...complete the steps of quarterly substation maintenance."
  • ...operate the retail check-out system."
  • ...create detailed reports using the data analysis tool."

There are several you should note about these examples:

  • Each objective starts with a verb, because we’re looking to change behavior. We want our learners to be able to do something overt after training is complete. Avoid objectives that focus on more obscure achievements like “better understand.”
  • Each objective refers to what the learners will do, not what the trainer or instructional designer will do.
  • Each objective is clear, realistic and doable.
  • Each objective is targeted toward the audience the training is targeting, so that they will feel it’s important information and worthy of their time.

Organizational knowledge is simply too important and use too many resources to skip goals, objectives and measurement. Make the most of your investment and show your employees you value their efforts and want to help them become better at their jobs. Not sure where to start? Give us a call, we’re happy to help.

Will Holland