Learning Objectives Vs Learning Activities: What's The Difference?

Learning Objectives Vs Learning Activities: What's The Difference?
Summary: Learning objectives and learning activities are two crucial pieces of ammunition in the eLearning provider's arsenal. They have a role in making lessons engaging and fruitful. Here, we explore the binary relationship of learning objectives vs learning activities by discussing the difference and understanding the importance of both.

Emploring The Learning Objectives Vs Learning Activities Dichotomy 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Positive learning outcomes are the desired goal for any learning program. However, in order to ensure that this happens, taking a structured approach to designing learning plans becomes essential. Learning objectives and learning activities are two crucial pieces of ammunition in the eLearning provider's arsenal. They have a role in making lessons engaging and fruitful. Learning objectives and learning activities might seem like two sides of the same coin that ultimately have the same objective, that to enable better learning, but they are also vastly different. In this article, we will discuss the learning objectives vs learning activities premise, as well as understand the importance of both.

The What And Why Of "Learning Objectives"

Having clear learning objectives is the first and perhaps "the" most important tenet for designing a great eLearning course. Learning objectives describe the goal of the learning program and define what competencies the learners have to achieve after completing the program. Only when you have clear learning objectives can you build a structured eLearning module and design learning activities that make learning an engaging and interesting proposition.

At the same time, it should be mentioned that learning objectives and learning goals are not the same things. Unlike learning goals which define what the learners should be able to do at the end of the learning module, learning objectives are a great deal more specific, defined, and measurable. The objectives will define in great specificity the individual elements that the learners will have to master on course completion. To put it simply, the "goal" is the destination, while the "objective" is like the road that takes you there.

In order to define learning objectives, it is essential to have a clear idea about the learning audience and their cognitive skills. However, when defining learning objectives you do not need to include information regarding the audience base or the strategy used to develop these objectives. What, however, is important is to employ a framework such as Bloom’s Taxonomy to understand the order in which your target audience will process the information. It then becomes easier to divide the objectives into subcategories when needed, to successfully quantify them to make it measurable and to make learning less overwhelming for the learners.

Having clearly defined learning objectives helps in better assessments and evaluations and ultimately in better learning outcomes. In order to make the learning objectives successful it is essential that these objectives are supplemented with the right tools. This brings us to the second part of this article – learning activities.

The What And Why Of "Learning Activities"

Learning activities are the resources that help in achieving the learning objectives of an eLearning program. It is only when a learning program is engaging and immersive that it will promote better learning. Learning activities motivate a learner to participate more actively in a learning program. There is a vast number of ways in which learning activities are being incorporated in the eLearning program. Engaging learning activities can turn dull and cognitively heavy learning modules into interesting and meaningful learning experiences.

In order to be effective, learning activities have to account for the experience level of the learners and identify the goals that you want to achieve with the activity. You also need to determine the optimal amount of time that you would want to spend on each particular activity to achieve the desired goals. Using storytelling, gamification, virtual learning, augmented reality, etc. to create learning activities can promote better learning. These tools can be used for creating learning activities that can be employed to reduce the cognitive load of the learners and promote better learning. However, when it comes to designing learning activities, you need to remember that much like everything else, learning activities also have to have the right context. For example, developing a game for compliance training would perhaps be less effective when compared to using an interactive infographic or quiz as the latter would be contextually more relevant.

Using learning activities to create branching scenarios, comparative case studies, creating group collaborations via the social network, feature rich eLearning games, creating personal learning paths, etc. are just some of the learning activities that help in achieving lesson goals. Identifying what media and technology you want to use to create an effective learning activity also becomes important contributors to its effectiveness

Using technologies such as big data can now be immensely helpful when creating learning activities. Data helps you design more personalized learning material, identify loopholes in previously created learning activities, assess which kind of activity is right for a particular module and come up with alternate activities when the effectiveness of the same is in question.


In order to use learning activities appropriately and impressively, it, therefore, becomes imperative to align these with the learning objectives. To put it quite simply, learning objectives are the guide to draw up learning activities which assist in achieving the goal for the particular lesson which collectively lead to better student engagement and learning.