Many instructional designers and eLearning professionals may spend a great deal of time focusing on the visual elements of their deliverables or concentrate on the interactive components that they'll include in each eLearning module. Indeed, these are important and add value to the overall effectiveness of your eLearning course. However, the top priority for all eLearning professionals is to determine the learning goal(s) beforehand.
The learning goal(s) is the core element, and only after you define it you will be able to provide the best possible eLearning environment for the learner. Once you've carefully formulated the learning goal(s) of your eLearning course, all of the other aspects of your eLearning design and development strategy can fall into place.
How learning goals can add value to your eLearning Course
Even if you have the latest and greatest eLearning software, the fact that you don't have a predetermined goal of what you want to achieve will prevent you from achieving it effectively. Learning goals add value to your eLearning courses because they allow you to custom tailor assessments, subject matters, and eLearning tools in order to achieve your primary objective.
When learners enroll in your eLearning course or sign up for the online training module you created, they are doing so for one very specific reason: they want to acquire a particular skill set or build upon their already existing knowledge base. However, if your deliverable misses the mark and doesn't offer learners those skills or information, then it won't possess any real value to them. You may have spent countless hours fine tuning each page, or devote resources to purchasing the ideal eLearning authoring tool, but it will all be for naught without the presence of learning goals.
Developing focused learning objectives gives you the power to design learning aids that take the learners one step closer to achieving the end goal. They allow you to create eLearning experiences that motivate and engage the learners. In addition, the clearly defined learning goals that you've incorporated into your deliverables provide structure and clarity for online educators and facilitators, who can offer further support to learners.
How to develop and use learning goals
When you are trying to develop and utilize learning goals effectively, there are a few things that you may want to keep in mind:
- Know your target audience
Having a clear sense of who your audiences truly are, their interests, their current skill sets, and their level of experience is key to determining your learning goals. Find out about their current knowledge base, such as whether or not they know the basics of company processes and procedures. Researching all of these in advance will allow you to not only develop a winning strategy, but finely tune your goals in order to customize each and every element of your eLearning course. You may find valuable the 6 Key Questions To Effectively Analyze Your eLearning Course Audiences article.
- Know the desired outcome
You need to have an in depth awareness of what your learners want to get out of the eLearning course. Are they trying to master a specific professional skill? Do they need to learn about the policies of a company (i.e. for new employee orientation)? Will they be taking the eLearning course in order to expand their knowledge of a particular subject? Knowing the desired outcome will enable you to create a strategy that encompasses necessary information, tools, and activities. For additional info highly encourage you to read the How to design assessments that promote the learning process article.
- Know how to communicate objectives
The learners who decide to sign up for your eLearning course should know exactly what they are going to achieve by completing it. So, before beginning the development process, create a statement that describes the learning goals concisely, succinctly, and summarily such as: “Upon completion of this eLearning course you will know how to effectively utilize a point of sale system”, or “Upon completion of this eLearning course you will be able to utilize social media for marketing”. Clearly communicating your goals is just as important as developing them. Be as specific as possible and tell your audience precisely what your eLearning course is going to offer them. I highly encourage you to read the How To Write Aims and Objectives for eLearning Courses article.
How to link learning goals to your eLearning course
Aside from stating the learning goals in the eLearning course description and syllabus, you can link goals to your eLearning course by creating exercises and learning materials based upon pedagogical objectives. Resources and references should tie into the goals themselves, or take the learner closer to achieving the goal. Assessments are also essential, as these will allow you to gauge whether the learner is actually acquiring the information/skills, or if further action need to be taken in order to reach the desired learning goal.
It's important to incorporate periodic recaps into your eLearning course plan or curriculum, as well. For example, after each section completed you can create a summary or exercise that centers around the learning goals. This motivates the learners, as they are consistently reminded of what they will obtain by completing the eLearning course, and also allows them to more effectively retain the information for future use. In addition, try to omit any irrelevant content from the eLearning course, especially if they do not serve directly the learning goals. This extraneous information can lead to cognitive overload and distracts the learner from the core objectives.
While you are creating and implementing your interactive eLearning strategy, it's important to always keep one eye on the learning goals. Never lose sight of what you want learners to get out of the experience, as a whole. Even the most aesthetically pleasing, highly immersive, and well designed eLearning courses simply won't be successful if the primary learning goals aren't achieved.
Looking for more information about how to effectively formulate effective learning objectives? The Use Perfect Learning Objectives To Boost The Quality of your e-Learning article delves into the basics of learning goal creation and how to enhance the quality of your eLearning deliverables, including a detailed explanation of how to write a clear and concise learning objective.