The Whys and Whats of Learning Objectives in Instructional Designing

All learning theories stress the importance of informing the learners of the learning outcome (what they will learn at the end of the course) even before they begin the course.

The learning outcome is indicated by the Learning Objectives. If you look up any e-learning course you will find the Learning Objectives in the first page.

In this post I shall tell you:

  1. Why you need Learning Objectives.

  2. The characteristics of effective Learning Objectives.

#1 Why you need Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives helps both instructional designers and learners in a number of ways.

Advantages to Learners

  1. Learning Objectives convey to learners how the course will help them even before they begin it.
  2. This motivates them to learn.
  3. This also helps them keep the learning goals in their minds throughout the learning process.

Advantages to Instructional Designers

  1. Learning Objectives help Instructional Designer choose appropriate instructional materials for the course.
  2. They further help Instructional Designers/tutors assess learner performance at the end of the course which in turn helps them measure the effectiveness of the course.

By now you must have got a hint that Learning Objectives are baseline to any e-learning course.Most often Learning Objectives are carelessly written. You need to remember that Learning Objectives are not just statements. Learning Objectives set the path for learning. So you need to set Learning Objectives precisely.

The characteristics of effective Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives must be:

  1. Short, clear and concise – A Learning Objective must be a sentence less than fifteen words. It must specify the task in simple words.
  2. Measurable – A Learning Objective must have active verbs ( explain, list, solve etc. ) and not passive verbs such as ( understand, feel etc.)

A good Learning Objective has a Task, Condition and Criteria.

#1 Task

Indicates something that the learner must perform.


  • A Task is indicated by actionable verbs.
  • It indicates a one of the Bloom’s six levels of learning.
  • The verb you use must appropriately define the level of learning.

Some Examples

Example :1

History requires just recall of facts. So the level of learning is Knowledge. When you set the Learning Objective when it requires recall of facts you use verbs like List, State etc.

State the capitals of countries in India. (RIGHT)

Explain the capitals of countries in India. (WRONG)

Example : 2

Scientific experiments require demonstration. So the level of learning is Application. When you set the learning objective when it requires practical application use verbs like Solve, Use, Classify etc.

Use ammonia and sodium chloride and illustrate discoloration effect. (RIGHT)

Describe ammonia and sodium chloride and explain discoloration effect. (WRONG)
#2 Condition (optional)

Indicates how the task will be performed.


Given a customer query , the waiter must explain the cooking process of the dish.

# 3 Criteria (optional)

Indicates how the task must be performed.


Given a customer query , the waiter must explain the cooking process of the dish within ten seconds.

It is always good to have Terminal Objectives and corresponding Enabling objectives. A Terminal Objective is a task to fulfill which you need to perform many other tasks which get reflected as Enabling Objectives.


A waiter needs to learn all dishes, their ingredients and the cooking process to solve a customer query. So the Terminal and Enabling Objectives will be as follows:

Terminal Objective

Given a customer query, solve within 15 seconds.

Enabling Objectives

  • List Blackford dishes.
  • List ingredients of Blackford dish.
  • Explain the cooking process of Blackford dishes.

Hope all information provided above would be starting point for you to research more on Learning Objectives.

Here are some links below for your reference:

Watch out my next post for some guidelines on Designing the Course Flow for an e-learning course.