Why and How to Write Learning Outcomes
Writing learning outcomes is among the most crucial aspects of learning. It gives a clear picture of what participants need to learn from a course they take. Teaching or training is a complex activity, and so is measuring learning.
However, it becomes easy if you have learning outcomes ready. You can compare the actual learning with these pre-defined take-aways to gain insights into learners’ performance. Not only this, it is also an opportunity for learners to measure their own learning and spot the areas for improvement.
So, before we talk about how to write learning outcomes, let’s first understand what these are.
What Are Learning Outcomes?
Simply put, learning outcomes are the take-aways of a course. These indicate what learners should be capable of on completion of a lesson or a course. These outcomes can also involve the knowledge that a learner is expected to have. The five most common ways these outcomes are measured are through:
- Change expected in learner behavior
- Change in learner’s capabilities
And the gaps between the expected and actual indicate that the
- learning outcomes were not carefully written and/or
- learning is not delivered in a right way and/or
- learners are not receptive
This means that either the learning outcomes need to be re-written or teaching methodology needs to be changed to suit different learning styles.
How to Write Learning Outcomes
Knowing where instructors and learners are in the learning process is the key to successful learning outcome creation. Writing learning outcomes is a focused activity. And an instructor or administrator doing so should be clear on the direction. Setting goals for learners is also important.
1. Consider These When Writing Learning Outcomes
Creation of learning outcomes should include:
- Changing behaviors or attitudes based on accurate knowledge
- The ability to apply knowledge correctly through the result of learning
- A skill that can be completed due to knowledge and information
- Testing to determine how learners are using the information
- The value the learners have gained through their learning
When writing these, the instructors should carefully focus on what learners will gain and how they will put the knowledge to use. The exact type and number of outcomes is up to the instructor.
2. Apply Information When Writing Learning Outcomes
Writing learning outcomes is not a simple process. Instructors need to apply different permutations and combinations. In simple words, they need their human understanding and intuition to create learning outcomes that will work for the courses they teach.
Here your eLearning platform plays a crucial role. Your learning software may or may not support insights or analytics to look into learner behavior. Without a strong understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the learners and the LMS, these learning outcomes may not be created correctly. If available, put it to good use. How? This way:
- Understand and comprehend information
- Analyze and synthesize information
- Get new insights from data churning
- Apply available information to write learning outcomes
3. Keep in Mind the Characteristics of Learning Outcomes
Understanding the value of learning outcomes comes partially through being aware of the characteristics that are offered by these outcomes. These include:
- Broad conceptual knowledge
- Reflecting essential knowledge
- Skills and attitude
- Representing minimum performances
- Exit behavior
Assign characteristics to each learning outcome. This will allow the proper information to be implemented, so the learners can receive what they need to be successful.
4. Measure Quality Of Learning Outcomes
An instructor who is creating learning outcomes must be mindful of the quality those outcomes reflect. For example, the learning outcomes that are far too easy will mean that all the learners meet their goals. Similarly, when these are complex, majority of learners wouldn’t be able to meet them – which ultimately leads to drop in motivation.
How’s this possible? The only real way to determine this is instructor’s
- Understanding of what learners need to know
- Focus on providing true value for the learner.
- Vision for what needs to be achieved
- Ability to apply direct methods, such as testing, that can truly indicate the knowledge gained
- Ability to apply indirect methods, such as asking learners about their perceptions of their educational experience.
- Ability to apply performance-based methods that allow students to use what they have learned.
Learning outcomes that are high quality give instructors and learners the chance to enjoy and appreciate their educational and training experiences. And those creating learning outcomes must think carefully about the difficulty learners may have when meeting those outcomes.
Writing Learning Outcomes for Online Environments
Writing learning outcomes is important in either of the cases – online or offline. Here, the question is not which of the two methods of learning deliver is more impactful. Rather, it’s about getting the maximum out of a session, and which depends on writing a clear-cut take-away.
No matter which option learners choose, they still expect to get a good quality education. They want to be taught what they need to know. If they are not given this knowledge, they will not have the skills and abilities they expect to have from pursuing their education. Because online learning is much more affordable, quick and convenient, majority of adult learners prefer it.
The Learning Management System and Learning Outcomes
A learning management system can help track and follow what learners are doing. It can show whether learners:
- access and engage with the material
- grasp information in a timely manner
- can apply that information correctly
- need help in specific areas that may be complex
Learners’ interactions with the LMS provide a statistical view of their engagement. However, they also have shortcomings. Unfortunately, most learning management systems do not provide a detailed idea of the learning outcomes themselves. The data has to be coupled and analyzed by the instructors. Therefore, a lot depends on analytical skills of instructors.
Conclusion: The bottom line remains that writing learning outcomes – whether the medium of instruction is online or offline – whether you use technology or not – is crucial aspect of learning process. The instructors must create learning outcomes for each of their lesson and courses.