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Approaches to Creating Effective Learning Objectives

1238452_46868173.jpgThe other day I had a bit of an epiphany of sorts that I would like to share with all my dear friends in the E-Learning world.  I was talking with a student when they asked me a very pointed and direct question that I wasn’t expecting.  Nor, as it turns out, was I prepared to answer it.

Curious as to what it was?


They wanted to know why we were doing the things we were doing in the course and why it should matter to them.

My friends, I knew in that moment that I was failing my students in a way I hadn’t even thought of.  If they were feeling compelled to ask me why, then I was definitely missing the boat in a key area of my lesson prep.  In short, it became blatantly obvious that I wasn’t creating effective learning objectives for my students.  Because if I was, then this question would never even come to the surface, much less catch me so off guard.

So today we are going to fix this problem once and for all.  We’re going back to basics as we look at not only the idea of a learning objective, but also how to create one that will be both well understood and effective.

Let’s get started!

940458_54686734.jpgThe first question to ask….what is a learning objective?  After all, if we can’t define it, then how are we supposed to create it?  Much less build it in a way that is beneficial to our users!  Simply put, a learning objective is something that you want your participant to garner from your e-learning interaction.  It may be a new skill set, a behavior change or a new knowledge base, that part doesn’t matter so much.  What matters is that you present your objectives in a way that is both easy to understand and easy to measure.

Why is this important?

Because setting a goal that cannot be feasibly achieved is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot before you even get started.

With this in mind I’ve spent some time poking around different philosophies on this and I’ve finally settled on one that I feel to be both effective and concise…..the ABCD method.  ABCD, as you might have guessed is an acronym that will help you streamline the process of creating effective learning objectives.

Here’s what it means:

  • A – Audience
  • B – Behavior
  • C – Condition
  • D – Degree


Who is your intended audience?  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  But you may want to think about this a bit.  Knowing exactly who you are targeting will help you to build effective objectives that are meaningful to your participants.


What is the desired outcome for this initiative?  i.e. what behavior do you want your participants to be able to model at the end of the day?

At this point you should have a clear understanding of both who you are targeting and what you would like for them to do.


When would you like to see this behavior modeled?  The term condition refers to the time and place that the behavior is appropriate.  Basically not only do you teach them what to do, now you are showing them when to do it.


This is the measurable portion of the process.  By now you have taken the time to lay out the who, what and when, now we are talking about the how.  As in how many, how much or even how often.   Use this portion of the formula to lay out expectations and define what success looks like.

And that’s it!  It’s simple, it’s straightforward and it produces results.  I know it’s worked for me, and I can’t wait to see what it will do for you!

Happy teaching my friends.

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