In Part One of our Successful Course Authoring series, we discussed techniques for grabbing your learners’ attention to ensure they are focused on your training. Next up, we are going to set expectations for your learners by writing learner objectives. 

The first step in successful course authoring is getting your learners’ attention. Next, be sure to give them a clear picture of what they will learn and why it matters. Here is why, according to renowned learning researchers John Hattie and Gregory Donoghue:

“Providing [learners] early on with an overview of what successful learning in lessons will look like will help them reduce their anxiety, increase their motivation, and build both surface and deeper understandings.” (1)

Simply stated, the subject matter expert creates a purpose for learning. If learners know that they are gaining value from the experience, then they are more likely to participate in and benefit from the learning process.

Before instruction begins, clearly state the learning objectives for the lesson. Then, tell learners what learning activities will be used to help them grasp the subject matter. Finally, tell learners the level of proficiency they are expected demonstrate. Doing this sets expectations and helps motivate the learner to complete the lesson.

Creating goals and writing objectives

In Part One, we talked about hooking people into our empathy and communication lesson. Now, let’s write learning objectives for that lesson. Our lesson teaches learners how to read body language and interpret tone of voice. We’ll start with the intent of the lesson:

“This lesson is designed to teach you how to interpret body language and tone of voice. This is important because spoken words are only one part of how we communicate, and body language and tone of voice is actually a better indicator of a speaker’s intent.”

Next, we’ll write our learning objectives:

  1. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify body language cues that help you determine if a person is tense or relaxed.
  2. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify from tone of voice if a person is tense or relaxed.

Then, we want to tell our learners how they will learn these things:

  1. In this lesson, you will practice reading body language through a series of interactive diagrams.
  2. In this lesson, you will practice identifying tone of voice by listening to audio of people speaking.

And finally, we need to tell our learners how they will be assessed:

  1. At the end of this lesson, you will be presented with images and audio clips that you must interpret correctly to complete the training.

Learners now have a clear idea of why they need this training. Furthermore, we have reduced any anxiety by letting learners know how they will study the material and how they will be tested. They can now proceed through the training confidently and with a full understanding of what they are expected to accomplish.

Using learner objectives as your course roadmap

Clear learning objectives don’t just help learners, however. Learning objectives also provide subject matter experts with a clear idea what needs to be taught in order to achieve the stated goal. These learning objectives are a convenient measure of whether or not your training material is sufficient to achieve the stated learner goals. In fact, from an instructional design perspective, it is often best to write the learning objectives before you begin to create your training.

Using the learning objectives, we immediately know what we need. We want learners to identify mood through body language cues, and learners will look for those cues in images. So, we need to discuss elements of body language such as posture, open or defensive postures, and facial expressions. This way, learners will know what to look for in our images.

We also want learners to identify mood based on tone of voice, and learners will determine mood based on audio clips. We need to discuss pitch, volume, and intensity of the voice to provide learners with the information necessary to successfully achieve that objective.

On Versal, we created the image portion of the lesson with the Diagram gadget. Here is one of the images we used:

visual learning explains complex topics easily

And, using our Audio features, we created the listening exercises and had learners respond to with the Survey gadget, which allows for free response answers that instructors can download and view.

the audio exercise described in the learner objective

In Part Three, we’ll look at why stimulating recall of prior learning is a key part of successful course authoring.

(1) “Learning strategies: a synthesis and conceptual model”, John AC Hattie and Gregory M Donoghue, Nature Partner Journals in partnership with The University of Queensland, revised April 12, 2016