The purpose of learning and learning goals

Blog / News | 14-12-20

This way you can effectively use didactic learning objectives in the development of a course or learning module.

The goal of learning is to bridge the gap between the current and desired level of knowledge of students. A learning objective is a desired level of knowledge. For example, you want all employees to know the rules, be up to date on the latest system update, to adhere to the new corona protocols, to know the capitals of Europe, etc… Learning goals are interwoven in all facets of learning, however, they are not always used enough. That is why we will now go into more detail about how to use learning objectives effectively when designing a course or learning module.

Learning about learning objectives

Didactic learning objectives indicate what someone is going to learn, such as how to act in case of a fire in the company building. The idea starts with making the end goal clear. In the explanation of the goal you then explain why people are expected to achieve this and what they, and the company, get out of it. Additionally, you note what the sanctions are if they do not achieve the learning goal (such as fines from the supervisor or an insufficient score for a test). You should also mention when the participant should complete the module. If participants of your carefully developed learning module know what is expected of them, you are already off to a great start!

Learning target levels 

Within didactic learning goals, there are a number of levels. Which learning goals you need to reach depends on the amount of information you want to convey. You can have learning objectives on an overall course level (‘at the end of the course the participant can carry out the different parts of the first aid course as he has learned in the course’), at chapter or module level (‘at the end of the module the participant can name the 6 steps of CPR’), and at the micro level of only one assignment or question (‘after performing the assignment, the participant can correctly place the hand during CPR’). At this micro level we speak of a ‘knowledge element’. Give one knowledge element per exercise. Multiple exercises are summarized in modules, and multiple modules are summarized in a course. With this knowledge in mind, you start to formulate learning goals.

If we look at the Drillster application plain and simply, all levels of learning are relevant, even at the individual exercise level. After all, knowledge elements are particularly important in assessment-based learning (learning by answering questions), a core functionality of the Drillster methodology.

Start at the beginning

Step 1 in the process is to formulate a learning objective. When you are going to make a module or course, always (always!) start with formulating learning goals. This offers the student a big-picture overview, but it is also very valuable for you. 

For you: If you formulate a clear learning objective beforehand, you avoid losing yourself (unnoticed) in the development of the module or course. You would not be the first to enthusiastically include more topics in the course than is necessary to achieve the goal. By determining the goal beforehand and keeping it in mind during the creation, you avoid deviating too much from the most important subject(s). 

For the student: For the person who is going to follow your module or course, a learning goal is an absolute must. After all, this is how they work towards something. Note: the goal should not be: finish the course, read a book, or click through the slideshow. After an ill formatted goal like this you’ll have no idea if any of that information has stuck and if the student really understands the information. The goal must be to acquire, understand and retain specific knowledge. Which specific knowledge that is expected to be acquired, understood and retained should be included in the learning objective. 

It has been proven that when learning goals are explicitly mentioned in advance, people are more motivated. They then know what is expected of them and why so with this, the more specific, the better. All in all, make it clear what is expected of someone so that they take your course deliberately and not click through the slides as quickly as possible. At the end of the module or course you will return to the learning goal; in this way completing the circle.

The course-framework

Once you have determined what the learning goals are on course-, module-, and assignment/question level, you already have a nice outline for the course. A framework: This provides a starting point and a guide to stay on track for what you are going to create. This takes some extra time and effort at the beginning, while you probably just want to jump into work with the content. Often, you also lack the support to first think a bit longer about the goals and the framework. Especially because the subject matter experts who are involved in the interpretation of the course usually already know everything about the content. A strong framework is therefore seemingly unimportant, while it is actually essential and certainly benefits the end product. Take a moment now and then to look at the big picture. Are you still on track for the final product you had in mind beforehand?

A strong framework is seemingly unimportant, while it is actually essential and certainly benefits the end product.

On to the end result

Start by formulating concrete learning goals at every level that is necessary and use this as a framework. The most important thing is that you keep reminding yourself of the end result you are looking for. Always keep an eye on this framework to stay close to the roadmap. Doing this allows you to be more focused, with learners more motivated and remembering the information better. By following these guidelines, you do yourself and the students a favor.