Learning objectives are the clearly defined outcomes you hope to achieve with your organization’s user education program. Typically, learning objectives refer to the outcomes you want to help your learners accomplish. Like lesson plan objectives, learning objectives outline the skills, knowledge and mindsets you want your learners to understand and exhibit at the end of the learning process.
Learning objectives can be broad or narrow in scope. Some learning objectives may apply to many or all of your learners. For example, a basic product demo could apply to all your customers and employees simultaneously because both groups need a thorough understanding of your product to succeed.
Learning objectives for a product demo at a SaaS business might include the ability to navigate to the different parts of the software quickly and effectively. This is an objective that has a very wide audience.
Narrower learning objectives apply to one specific group of users, like gig workers, sales reps or channel partners. These learning objectives usually deal with a specific skill or subject that’s relevant only to one kind of user. A few examples of courses with narrow learning objectives are courses about negotiation tactics for sales reps and de-escalation training for gig workers.
Let’s dig a little deeper into learning objectives, how you can write them effectively and what they look like in action.
What's a Learning Objective?
Learning objectives can be categorized in three broad groups. These groups are not learning objectives but rather types of learning objectives. Before you can fully understand the importance of learning objectives, you have to understand how they’re generally grouped into three main branches.
Cognitive learning objectives are learning objectives that focus on information the learner needs to know. A cognitive learning objective expects a learner to retain information and be able to recall or reproduce it after it’s been presented to the learner (via text, a video, a podcast or any other medium). The information often relates to identifying and solving a particular problem or understanding a particular procedure or method. Cognitive learning objectives can also extend to combining information and developing original ideas based on the presented materials.
Psychomotor learning objectives deal with the control of body movement. A training course or other learning environment that focuses on developing certain motor skills would have psychomotor learning objectives. Psychomotor learning objectives aren’t very common in the context of user education for business. They’re more commonly applied in classrooms where young students are learning fundamental skills like writing, in athletic disciplines like sports or dance, in musical instrument lessons or as a component of physical therapy (to name just a few examples). However, there are some skills in the business world that can be improved with psychomotor learning objectives, like typing speed or proficiency with physical tools.
Attitude learning objectives are sometimes called affective learning objectives and relate to how the learner feels about a particular subject. These learning objectives are typically a bit more abstract than cognitive or psychomotor objectives. They include goals like achieving certain degrees of acceptance or rejection and influencing perspectives of certain ideas or situations. For example, an attitude learning objective at a business might involve employees learning the right tone to use when they interact with customers.
How To Write Learning Objectives
Writing effective learning objectives and learning outcomes for your user education courses is not easy. However, nearly anyone can learn to write learning objectives by following some simple steps that have been developed over the years.
Some key questions to keep in mind to guide your learning objectives:
What specific tasks or actions do you want your learners to be better at after completing your course?
What are the top three most important things you want learners to take away from your course if they get nothing else out of it?
Where are there gaps between your learners’ current understanding of the subject and the understanding they need to have?
There are five main steps you can use to help you plan learning objectives for your user education courses:
1. Identify a Broad Learning Category
The first step is to decide which category of learning objective your course is targeting: cognitive, psychomotor or attitude. Start by asking yourself what kind of change you want to see in your learners after they finish the course and consider which category that change falls within.
2. Choose an Action Verb
Next, you can use the category you’ve chosen to narrow in on a specific action verb around which to frame your learning objective. For example, a cognitive learning objective would probably use a verb like define, describe, explain, identify, list or recognize. The verb needs to be as specific as possible so it’s as measurable as possible.
3. Create an Objective
The third step is to write your objective! Use your broad category and your action verb to craft a goal for your learners that reflects what you want them to be able to achieve after taking the course.
4. Review Your Objective
After you’ve written your learning objective, you should review it to make sure it includes everything a learning objective needs:
Your learning objective should be directed at your learners and include the word “learner,” “user,” “participant” or something similar.
Your learning objective should include an action verb and describe what learners will be able to do differently after completing the course.
Your learning objective should clearly identify the learners’ situation, such as customers troubleshooting a specific issue or sales reps describing a product feature to a potential client.
Finally, your learning objective should state the degree of change you hope to see in the learners, such as being able to complete a certain task with no errors.
5. Create More Objectives
Finally, you should keep writing more learning objectives. Every learning experience you offer needs at least one learning objective, and many will likely need more than one. You need a thorough array of learning objectives in order to accurately measure the progress of your learners and their levels of competency. It’s important to be able to measure your learners’ progress so you can evaluate how effective your courses are.
Learning Objectives Examples
Here are some effective learning objective examples for a variety of user training scenarios. You can use professional learning objectives examples like these to guide you as you write your own objectives, but you’ll need to come up with ideas specifically suited to your business as well.
Learning Examples for Gig Workers
Here are a few goals you can use to build relevant learning objectives for gig workers:
Improving de-escalation techniques to make it easier to navigate interactions with unhappy customers.
Learning industry regulations to ensure compliance throughout the whole workforce.
Developing troubleshooting skills to reduce reliance on live support resources.
Learning Examples for Employees
Here are a few goals you can use to build relevant learning objectives for employees:
Improving knowledge of product features in order to provide better service to customers.
Learning essential processes and workflows to support productivity.
Understanding the brand’s identity and how to reflect it when interacting with customers.
Learning Examples for Customers
Here are a few goals you can use to build relevant learning objectives for customers:
Gaining knowledge about product features in order to recognize potential use cases.
Practicing using a tool to solve a specific problem in order to increase confidence.
Onboarding new customers to give them the baseline information they need in order to begin getting value from your business’s products or services.
Learning Examples for Real Estate Agents
Here are a few goals you can use to build relevant learning objectives for real estate agents:
Developing negotiation tactics to use with prospective buyers.
Improving industry knowledge with resources that share the latest developments and best practices.
Onboarding new agents in order to equip them with the skills and knowledge to start selling confidently and effectively with your agency.
Learning Examples for Partners
Here are a few goals you can use to build relevant learning objectives for partners:
Training partners to understand your products so they can sell them effectively.
Familiarizing partners with relevant regulations as well as any company policies they need to be aware of.
Improving knowledge of your organization or your industry in general.
These are only a few smart learning objectives examples for different groups of users. You should build your learning objectives around your organization’s specific goals and your users’ specific needs. However, this list of learning examples is a great place to start.