If the course structure is like the trunk and branches of a tree, the course objectives are its roots. So, a course without properly defined objectives is a recipe for disaster. Imagine a script going all over the place, a lost student, and a dumped course.
Therefore, setting goals and objectives is a very critical activity in the ‘Design’ (remember ADDIE) phase of content development. Now, there is a small difference between “goals” and “objectives.” For one, the course, module, or lesson goals are fewer in number and they carry the vision of the respective course, module, or lesson. On the other hand, course objectives are the “smaller goals” through which the vision will be achieved.
Example of course objectives and goals
Take the example of a course with the title, ‘Creative Photography for Beginners.’ Here, the goal could be: “Learn about the art and science of creative photography and be able to take great photographs.” Based on this goal, the course objectives could be:
In this course, you will learn about:
- Key photography terminologies
- The equipment you need to purchase for creative photography
- How to select a suitable room
- Lighting setups that will help you take quality images
- The considerations for purchasing a good camera
There could be more objectives depending on the length of the course. Goals and objectives in instructional design is also known as terminal objective and enabling objective, respectively.
What after defining the goal? Well, be generous with objectives…
Once you have defined the goal, it is always a good idea to state as many objectives as there possibly are. For one, they look good on the course landing page! But, the bigger purpose they serve is that they help learners get a sense of what they will be getting out of investing their time and money in the course. In fact, it is the course landing page where many learners make the buying decision. And, remember, there are learners of different profiles even within a certain learning level.
For example, in the beginners’ course in photography, learner X could be a journalist working closely with colleagues who handle hi-tech cameras, learner Y could be a software engineer who wants to learn photography as a hobby, and learner Z could be someone who wants to become a professional photographer. However, all are at the beginners’ level because they have never had formal training in photography. Therefore, a comprehensive list of objectives caters to a wider section of learners within the same learning level.
Now, who defines the objectives? In an ideal scenario, you must encourage your SMEs to come up with the first draft. The eLearning team can also do it in consultation with the SME. In any which way, SMEs should be closely involved in defining the objectives because they will be providing the content.
Write lucrative objectives
A good understanding of your audience helps you write lucrative objectives for them. You must have a thorough understanding of the following points:
- Who is your audience?
- Which part/s of the world are they from? Are they global?
- In terms of the subject, what is their level of understanding?
- Most importantly, why should your target learner care to learn from your material? What is in it for them?
Writing lucrative course objectives is a matter of responsibility
Writing objectives is not only an important activity but is also a task entailing immense responsibility. Let’s understand this with the help of the same example on the course in Photography. Suppose that we have defined our audience to be global, where anyone anywhere in the world can take up the course. In this scenario, we need to ensure that any photography equipment suggested, whether accessories or camera, is globally available.
This means that our objectives should map to the course content and the course content should fulfill the objectives. This point perhaps requires further commentary, which we will take up in another post.
Objective screens often have an image of a bulls’ eye or an hourglass. Both are very symbolic. They need to be supported with the best possible analysis and writing.