Course Redesign, eLearning, Instructional Design

Creating Measurable & Motivational Learning Objectives

graphic by Stefano Bertolo

graphic by Stefano Bertolo

From a student perspective, clear learning objectives help to set expectations. From an instructor perspective, learning objectives help guide course activity to a measureable outcome. So, it is important that educator’s take the time to develop clear and meaningful learning objectives for course modules.

As a general rule, learning objectives should be specific and observable; there should be a few objectives per module – no less than three, no more than six.

There is a lot available about the art of developing well thought-out learning objectives, including:

However, I found Cathy Moore’s piece, “Makeover: Turn objectives into motivators” to add a different and interesting perspective on the task. Although her piece is geared toward training, rather than higher education, she shares specific examples about how to write learning objectives that are powerful and relevant to the learner.


Stop Blaming Technology for a Lack of Personal Connection


graphic by zen Sutherland

When I came across Matt Miller’s blog “What Online Learning Can’t Do: Why Face-to-Face Reigns” I was expecting the usual sentiments about elearning failing to measure up to traditional classrooms when it comes to interaction and engagement, or maybe even the age-old “quality of education” argument. Instead, I was surprised to read the heart of Matt’s sentiment was based upon personal connection, noticing a new haircut, high-fiving student after an achievement, etc.

It is true that these connections can be lost in the online environment. But, if we’re honest, we would have to admit that these connections could also be absent from face-to-face learning environments as well. The idea that there is no possible way that human connections – personal, meaningful, and valuable connections – can be established, fostered, and grown online is shortsighted.

If this were an impossibility TV shows like MTV’s Catfish wouldn’t exist and online dating sites wouldn’t be cropping up everywhere. It is possible to make very personal connections online; it just takes a different kind of effort.

The challenge of online learning is that too many instructors believe that their face-to-face instructional approaches are sufficient for the online environment. To be an effective online instructor – to foster student-student, student-content, and student-instructor relationships – one must toss out old instructional approaches.

Technology is simply a tool, not the replacement for the instructor. Every instructor is a subject matter expert – online or on-campus. If you expect technology to replace the facilitation, sharing, exchange that takes place in a learning environment, then you’re mistaken. If a car crashes, do you blame the car if the driver falls asleep at the wheel?

Technology is a tool and, when used by a skilled instructor, it can help to facilitate effective learning outcomes and personal relationships.

Course Redesign, eLearning, Instructional Design

Back to School: How to Revamp an Online Course

photo by Dvortygirl

photo by Dvortygirl

As an instructional designer, you may be working with educators who have taught the same course for several semesters or years, but that doesn’t mean the course can’t be improved! Here are my suggestions for instructional designers working hand-in hand with the instructor to analyze what they know, identify how they can improve, and finally implement those improvements.

It is important to collate the information you already have about the learning experience of students. This information will provide the basis for strategic revisions for upcoming semesters. To analyze the course, answer the following questions:

  • Which activities did students struggle with last semester? What were their struggles?
  • What activities/assignments did not generate the student engagement the instructor had hoped/planned for?
  • Did the instructor receive a flurry emails from students regarding a specific question, topic, or activity?
  • What did you learn from student course evaluations from the last several semesters? Is there a trend?

After analyzing some of the ways the course can be improved, identify strategies to address those needs:

  • Do you need to revise or add additional instructions to more clearly communicate expectations about the course,  assignment, or activity?
  • Do prompts need to be reworked to better align with the objectives and expected outcomes?
  • Would an instructor led screencast aid in the learning process? Explain a difficult concept?
  • Could learning activities and lessons be enhanced by multimedia– videos, simulations, podcasts, etc.?

Once you’ve analyzed the data and identified how to enhance the course, strategically and methodically implement these changes. One of the advantages of online instruction is that modules and lesson plans can be fully developed weeks in advance. However, I recommend holding off on planning too far ahead.

At the time of implementation, you should also establish benchmarks for determining the impact or success of these changes. This will allow you to make revisions module by module, if necessary, so that students get the most out of the course and the leaner experience reaches is maximum potential.