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Developing Effective Learning Objectives

An effective learning and development program involves setting, and then achieving, clear and relevant learning objectives. These learning objectives provide a framework that helps set the direction, focus the approach, and measure success of the knowledge or skills acquired by the learners. You can think of it as planning a trip.  Once you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to decide between driving or flying to your destination, for example.  Plus, it’s pretty easy to measure whether or not you’ve been successful.

So what exactly are learning objectives and what makes them effective?

What is a learning objective?

A learning objective is a clearly stated and measurable outcome that is expected of the learner by the end of the course.  In other words:  What will the learner be able to do as a result of this course?

For example:

By the end of this course, learners will be able to successfully identify 5 situations that need to be escalated based on our updated criteria.

Learning objectives should:

Why are learning objectives important?

Learning objectives help trainers create relevant training programs for learners. Because they outline the intended outcomes, objectives guide a focused approach that meets the needs of participants each step of the way.

For learners, learning objectives are important because they:

For trainers, learning objectives are important because they:

What’s the difference between learning objectives and learning goals?

You may have encountered both but there’s a clear delineation between the two:

Learning goals describe the overall result you intend for the learners, though they may not necessarily be measurable and demonstrable.

Learning objectives are clear and succinct statements describing measurable outcomes and what learners are able to do by the end of the course.


Learning Goal: Learners will learn strategies to keep our organization competitive in regards to employee recruitment.

Learning Objective: By the end of this course, learners will be able to select the correct salary formula and apply it with no errors. 

Knowing the difference between the two will help in developing effective learning objectives and approaches for the training course.

In the end

Learning objectives are essential in developing and implementing a training course. Understanding what they are and knowing how to develop effective learning objectives can inform the creation of courses and help you meet your training goals.  The right objectives lead to a relevant and valuable experience for your learners.

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