I’m going to begin this article with a quick reference to Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice, the main character, comes to a crossroads with two paths, each stretching in opposite directions. As Alice contemplates which way to turn, she is confronted by the Cheshire Cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I follow?”
The cat responds with,
“That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”
Like Alice, if training developers do not plan where their training instruction is going, they and the people to whom they instruct are more likely to wander.
In this article, I’m going to share four reasons learning objectives are critical to the development and implementation of training, including e-learning.
- Learning Objectives guide the instructor during the development of the training.
As an instructor establishes what the learning objectives are for a presentation, an e-learning module, or a course, they will be able to:
- sequence the content and topics into logical and manageable learning chunks
- allot the appropriate amount of time for the content
- plan learning activities that will bring their learners to those objectives
- and assemble the relevant materials and media for the instruction.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say an instructor sets the following as one of the learning objectives for her live presentation:
By the end of this training, you’ll be able to create a personal budget spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel.
In this example, the instructor decides to bring the class participants to this learning objective by including samples of personal budget sheets, the use of relevant hotkeys in Excel, live demonstrations, and opportunities for the learners to practice throughout the training.
- Helps the instructor know what to leave out of a training session or module
Sometimes, it is tempting to try and dump too much information onto a learner in too short of a time. This is simply not effective. Studies have shown that separating information into more manageable chunks and then spreading the learning experiences out over time is more effective for information retention, positive behavior change, and the improvement of work performance. This requires a more proactive approach to planning, rather than a reactive approach. Also, if there is not enough time to include non-essential information or activities during a session or module, you may have to leave them out of the training. This can be hard, especially if you were excited about including information or an activity that you highly value. Stephen King said it well in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft;
Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.
As a trainer, sometimes, you have to “kill” or leave out some things from training that you were really excited about for the sake of time or resources.
- Learning objectives can motivate the participants to want to learn.
Sharing learning objectives at the beginning of a training session or before an e-learning module provide the instructor with an opportunity to motivate the audience to want to learn. Learning objectives are kind of like a sales pitch that lets the learners know what’s in it for them. Learning objectives help learners see the value of the training by connecting it to their own specific roles, responsibilities, challenges, and interests. For example, if a new customer service representative is anxious about working with upset customers, a learning objective that promises skills to solve this problem may peak their interest. The learning objective may look like this:
“By the end of this course, the Learner will be able to use Active Listening Skills to deescalate stressful situations with upset customers.”
- Learning objectives helps audience members know where to direct their attention
Have you ever been in a training where you wondered
“Where is this training going”
“What’s the point of this training”
or “Will this be on the test?”
Sharing well-written learning objectives at the beginning of a course, training session, or e-learning module answers these types of questions. Learning objectives minimize some of the anxiety felt by the participants about what will be expected of them. They help keep the learner’s attention focused on what is most important during the session.