In most, if not all e-Learning and classroom courses, one of the first things mentioned are the Learning Outcomes. After all, they’re the purpose of the course. Unfortunately, in many cases, they appear to be slapped on with very little thought put into them. Here are three that I dislike seeing:
By the end of this course, you will:
- Understand something, or
- Be aware of something, or
- Know something.
The problem with these outcomes is that they are too vague. Yet they are used all too often to set the scene for an online or face-to-face learning experience. Sure, understanding, awareness and knowledge are part of the learning process. You could even argue they are learning outcomes because hopefully by the end of a course, learners will understand, be aware and know something that they didn’t know before. The problem is these outcomes don’t go far enough. How can you tell if a learner understands, is aware or knows something?
They’ll be able to DO something.
As someone who works in “Learning and Development” my goal is to change behaviour and ultimately improve the performance of the employees in my organisation. There are many ways to do this both formally and informally but focusing on what will be learned i.e. the content, its stopping short of the ultimate goal of behaviour change and performance improvement.
For example, if I’m designing a course about our organisations Code of Conduct, a learner is aware of, and knows that, the code exists – just by participating.
So, an outcome of the course isn’t really:
You’ll be able to understand the requirements of the Code of Conduct.
It’s only part of what learners are able to do. A real outcome is:
You’ll be able to make ethical decisions while working at our organisation.
See the difference? The first one is content focused – what the code says to do, where the second is performance focused – making decisions based on what the code says to do. So why don’t we call them Performance Outcomes? Surely, by moving away from the term Learning Outcomes and calling them Performance Outcomes, we can focus on the desired performance required from learners and not what content is to be covered during the course?
A performance focus should also guide us through the analysis and design of the course resulting in an improved outcome for learners who are participating and the organisation as a whole.
What’s your view?