Why Identify Course Goals?
When you are creating a new face-to-face (F2F) course, you begin planning your course by identifying overall goals and analyzing the purpose. An online course is no different. A strong understanding of the needs of your learners and how your course can meet those needs is also important. Consider what you want your students “to walk away with” at the conclusion of their coursework. All your course objectives, instructional strategies, content, and assignments should facilitate your learners to attain your course goals. Some questions to consider as you begin planning your course are:
- What are your learners’ characteristics?
- What types of learning are involved?
- What content and information is needed to facilitate learning?
- What tasks do learners need to master to achieve the overall course goal(s)?
- What sequence of content and activities is needed?
- What technologies are available and best suited to present the content to facilitate learning?
Learning objectives are especially important in a distributed learning environment where the instructor and students may have little or no F2F time. Functioning as guideposts, learning objectives help students organize their efforts toward accomplishing the desired behaviors. Learning objectives also help the instructor identify whether students have gained the appropriate skills and knowledge. A learning objective is a statement:
- Specifying in measurable terms what a learner will be able to do as a result of your instruction.
- Describing the intended outcome of the course rather than a description or summary of the content.
- Describing the intended results rather than the means of achieving the results.
Mager (1984) states each learning objective has three parts:
- Performance – describes what a learner is expected to be able to do.
- Conditions – describes the environment under which the performance occurs.
- Criterion – describes how well the learner must perform for it to be considered acceptable.
Mager, R.F. (1984) Preparing Instructional Objectives (2nd ED). Belmont, CA: Lake Publishing Company.