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How Can I Create Measurable Objectives in Online Learning Courses?


In the face to face training world, establishing measurable objectives is typically considered key to the development of any training course.

However, this process is often overlooked in the development of online courses.


Because the virtual nature of online courses creates a natural distance between the learner and the ‘teacher’ which can also lead to some course creators viewing the standards of face to face training courses as irrelevant to online delivery.

However, measurable objectives are just as important when creating online learning courses as they are for face to face courses.

By creating measurable objectives at the outset, and before writing the course, these objectives can play a vital role in shaping the online learning materials and learning path.

5 Ways of Measuring Learning Objectives for eLearning

So how do we make the most of creating measurable online learning objectives which can be used to our advantage when developing courses?

Let’s use the fictional company ‘Global Tech’ to help outline the stages necessary to consider and develop online measurable learning objectives.

Global Tech is an international technology firm dealing in integrated financial systems. Working cross-culturally is essential to business success as most of their roles interface with colleagues and clients from other cultures. The company have decided to build an online cross-cultural course to be rolled out to all staff members to help staff maximise the opportunities presented by cross-cultural working.

We will use Global Tech through this article to demonstrate the necessary steps in this process.

1. Think about the end before the beginning.

Thinking about the end before the beginning is a great place to start in establishing your objectives.

Don’t be tempted to jump straight into your content, instead consider the following; What are the changes you expect to see in your students once they have completed your online course? What would you expect to see them do differently in their role?

If you put your student in front of someone without any understanding of the subject, then to what extent would you expect them to be able to relay the necessary facts? What impact would you expect this learning to have on their broader team?

Global Tech expects staff to have an awareness of the impact of culture on business processes and to understand that they may need to adapt their style to get the best out of their relationships with colleagues or clients from other cultures. They also expect staff to understand the business areas most likely to be impacted by culture and to appreciate the ways in which people might behave in certain scenarios due to their cultural background.

2. Determine the level of learning that you expect your students to achieve

When thinking through the level of learning you expect your students to achieve, then you need to do this within the context of the individual’s role and performance KPIs.

For example, are you keen for them to simply be able to recall basic facts, or, are do you intend the online course to help them reach a level of understanding that allows them to evaluate their learning on a far broader level?

Learning and cognition models, such as the more popular cognitive learning model produced by Dr Benjamin Bloom will be especially useful during this process. Dr Bloom developed a model widely used by L&D professionals which consists of six levels.

The most simple of these levels relate to the basic recall of facts, while, the most complex cognitive level relates to the learner’s subsequent ability to analyse and evaluate concepts on a deeper level.

Understanding the level of learning that you expect your students to achieve will not only help you to structure content, but also the supporting materials and any evaluation processes which might need to be built into the online programme.

The trainers responsible for building the online cross-cultural course at Global Tech have agreed that staff should be expected to achieve learning at most of the cognitive levels outlined by Dr Bloom. Firstly, they expect staff to remember some of the key impacts of culture on the workplace. It is necessary that staff understand why culture impacts the workplace in the way it does and to also understand their own role in any cultural dynamic. They then need to staff to evaluate the situations in which they are required to work cross-culturally and to think about how they might need to do things differently going forwards. This might involve creating strategies relevant to the particular situations in which they find themselves.

3. Establish the descriptions which demonstrate learning at this level

When using verbs to create your measurable online learning descriptions, it’s important that you only use one at a time.

Using more than one verb in any one objective may impact the degree to which the objective is truly measurable.

Here are some examples of the online measurable learning objectives established by Global Tech:
a) Describe at least three cross-cultural dimensions
b) Recall at least two behaviours from each of the cross-cultural dimensions
c) Define at least two challenges that might be experienced when people work together from different positions on the cross-cultural dimensions
d) Identify the cultural differences at play across a number of cross-cultural case studies

4. Determine how you will measure these objectives

The nature of your ‘how’s’ will depend greatly on the type of online programme being developed.

Online programmes range from exclusively online with no human interaction to online coupled with interaction upon completion with a specialist/manager etc.

Putting the differences of the online programme formats to one side, however, generic assessments might include matching exercises, missing factor exercises, or completing the sentence exercises. They might also include quizzes or case studies. Where human interaction is also included in the overall programme, then assessment might include debates, authoring a process or procedure, role play or presenting the subject to others.

5. Using the end results as outlined in 1,2,3 and 4, it’s now time to develop your content

With each measure in mind, consider the learning journey to deliver the necessary understanding.

Determine the images, slides, script etc. to outline the necessary information and, upon completion of each step, assess whether or not the learning allows the student to successfully reach the pre-determined learning objective. If not, then you need to go back to the drawing board!

We hope this article has given you some food for thought when developing your online measurable learning objectives. Give us a like or a share!

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

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