In most, if not all eLearning 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, there isn’t a lot of thought put into them. Here are three examples that I dislike seeing:

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand something, or
  • Be aware of something, or
  • Know something.

Learning PerformanceThe 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 type of 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 the learning space, one of my goals is to help change behaviour and ultimately improve the performance of the employees in organisations. 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 around an organisational policy, such as a Code of Conduct, a learner is aware of, and knows that, the code exists – just by taking the course.

So, an outcome isn’t really:

  • You’ll be able to understand the requirements of the Code of Conduct.

It’s only part of what people 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 and not do, where the second is performance focused – making decisions based on what the code says to do. The second is much more realistic because it’s about application. So why don’t we use Performance Outcomes? Surely, by moving away from Learning 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 by focusing on what people need to be able to do. This will result in an improved outcome for the people who are participating and for the organisation as a whole.

What’s your view?

Matthew Guyan About Matthew Guyan
Matt has been working in the learning and development field for almost 7 years and has experience as a classroom facilitator, workplace assessor and most recently as an instructional designer (for e-learning and classroom environments). Matt has a keen interest in a number of learning related areas including human cognitive architecture, motivation, performance support, informal learning and social media. He’s also completing a Master of Education in Educational Psychology at the University of NSW. http://learningsnippets.wordpress.com/