The key to success is having clear goals and then mapping out a way to meet those goals. Without the map, you’ll never know if you got where you intended to go. In a previous post we looked at how to build learning objectives. Today we’ll take it a step farther and look at a simple process that will help structure the objectives around measurable actions.
What’s the Purpose of the Course?
There are many courses that exist for reasons other than performance improvement. For example, a lot of annual compliance or things like sexual harassment training are usually more about the awareness of policies and less about actionable activities.
On the other hand, there are many courses that do expect that upon completion the learner is able to do something specific. Perhaps they’ve learned a new procedure or how to apply a given policy in the work environment.
Understanding the type of course you build is important because it’ll help you craft the appropriate types of objectives, measure their success, and help you manage your resources.
Ask These Questions to Create Your Course Objectives
Once you understand why you’re building the course you can focus on who is going to take it, why, and what expectations exist after the course. One way to begin is by answering the questions below.
- Who is the learner
- Why is this important to him?
- In what situation would he use this information?
- What is the course objective?
- How does he prove that he’s met the objective?
I create a simple table to look over the answers. Here’s an example based on my experience working for some large organizations.
As part of our ethics training, there was a course on how to deal with bribes. This course was important because we had a number of international sites and many of our sales and procurement staff had to deal with bribery as part of the business culture. Even though we only had a handful of international staff, everyone who took the ethics training had to take the bribery course, regardless of getting bribed.
For the international staff the bribery course was performance-based. We had specific behavioral expectations. For all of our other staff, the objective wasn’t centered on their performance. Instead the objective was to build awareness of the company’s policies on bribery which fit into the larger context of being an ethical organization.
Here’s an example of how this I could have completed the table for this course and the tow different audiences.
You’ll notice that I broke out the two types of learners and their course objectives. For those who encounter bribes, we focus on the performance aspect. As we build the course, we want to create the types of situations they encounter and have then make the decisions that are in line with the organization’s policies.
For the IT analyst who is never bribed, we create a scaled down course. There’s no need for them to go through time-wasting situations not relevant to their job expectations. In their case, the objective is general awareness of the policy. Presenting the content in an engaging manner and having them certify their understanding is all we need.
A few key thoughts:
- Build the course appropriate to the performance expectations of the learner. If none exist, then don’t force them through the same type of course for those who do have performance expectations. Taking a course costs time which is equal to money. And pulling someone from their work to go through irrelevant scenarios is a time-waster.
- Don’t overstate the importance of the course. Subject matter experts have the tendency to do this. In this example, the temptation is to suggest that everyone needs to be able to make the appropriate decisions so they should all go through the same training. While it’s technically true if presented with a situation everyone should make the right decisions, but forcing people to take certain types of training because of some remote chance that they’ll be bribed is a waste of time.
- Focus on how the learners will prove their understanding. Are they able to make the right decisions in certain situations? How do you know? If the person needs to make certain types of decisions in certain situations then make that the burden of proof. Create situations like they’ll encounter in the real world and have them demonstrate their understanding through the decisions they make. If they don’t encounter those situations, then the level of understanding centers on general awareness. Instead of a decision-making situation, you can focus on the principles that drive the policies. Perhaps a simple case study would do the trick.
I know that some people say the non-performance courses shouldn’t even be built. They should be job aids. Perhaps. But they do get built and often you’re not in a position to force that change. By understanding what the organization expects from the learner you’ll be able to craft good course objectives and determine the appropriate proof to ensure they’ve been met. If they have performance expectations focus on what you want them to do. If it’s about policy awareness, certify their understanding with a simple quiz.
How do you determine the course objectives in your training programs?
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- May 22-24 (Atlanta). ATD International Conference & Expo. We'll be in booth 738. Swing by to chat.
- June 20-21 (San Diego). FocusOn Learning conference.
- Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general type e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. Learn more and sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
- There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.