After having flown by the seat of our pants as far as strategic use of learning is concerned, the summer slow down has allowed me to sit down and think. I am trying to articulate some sort of educational strategy, as well as defining the company's learning philosophy.
It all seemed pretty straight foward untill I started doing it, and now I am hoplessly stuck. Beeing a clear minority in our company, my collagues and I want to set the stage for learning and not just publish powerpoint courses. An initial step has been to introduce objectives for everything we do. (You'd be surprised how difficult that was...)
RIght now I am working on setting the course curriculum, but I am uncertain whether I should work on learning outcomes or objectives. Using my best friend google, I find that the terms get mixed up a lot, therefore I wonder if anyone can provide good advice on how to relate these two terms.

My impression is that the outcomes are on a higher level e.g "Upon completion the learner should be able to drive a car obeying laws and regulations witout causing harm to anyone or anything."
while the objectives are more in detail:
"Using a car with stick shift, the students should be able to select and apply the correct gears for safe and economical driving."

What are your thoughts?
Regards, Runar

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You might want to use a holistic view and apply a simple 'Parent /Child' methodology in your strategy.

Or ... from a higher perspective: Core Training Objectives, Syllabus Objectives, Enabling Objectives.
A detailed Training Needs Analysis will assist you immeasurably in the design of curricula and help you in your strategy.
Remember - objectives or tasks are measurable and will have specific outcomes.

Your analogy of driving a car with a stick shift can be further broken down into various enabling objectives.
A performance statement will encompass all enabling objectives and will sit at the 'Parent' level.
The taxonomy used in writing objectives is very critical; achieving desired academic or performance results.

Hope this helps in understanding the differences between 'Outcomes' & 'Objectives'


Thanks Dennis,
I think I get it altough I run the risk of getting lost with "Core Training Objectives, Syllabus Objectives, Enabling Objectives"....
Another way you could look at it may be objectives are specific and measurable; outcomes are the effect of applying those objectives (and these may or may not be measurable). Hope that helps!

A bit late in the discussion, but I work on the principle that training objectives describe what learners can expect to be able to do after training, outcomes are the way in which we as trainers measure the achievement of those objectives. Typically therefore a single objectives can potentially have half a dozen specific measurable outcomes.

Objectives are 'objective' and so can be measured in those terms, hence the use of active verbs such as explain, list, state, etc, and riders such as 'without reference', '8 out of 10', or 'within 60 seconds'.

I don't think outcomes are at a higher level (I think that is probably 'aims') but they are more suited to less objective topics such as softer skills or higher education. This allows some latitude and subjectivity, which can be useful if a student is asked to compare different pieces of music, art or poetry but it doesn't sit so well with teaching a widget production process and the 10 multiple-choice questions that come afterwards.

Kevin Kruse's site might prove a useful source of information for you
eLearningGuru or, if you really fancy wading through learning theory, try the
Denver School of Education site.


Also a bit late in picking up this thread however:

My thoughts on this topic are as follows:
Objectives: as a result of this training/learning activity the student should be able to....etc. etc.

Outcomes - very different in my opinion. I would strongly recommend that you ask the sponsor of each student what changes/improvements they wish to see whether in behaviour, skill, ability etc as a result of their employee attending a course - and provided you have done your homework, set expectations for the outcomes of a course you are in a position to ensure that there are quantifiable metrics in place to measure the required/expected improvements. This is probably the ONLY measurement that the students sponsor is going to be interested in and probably the only thing that will get you 'repeat business'


Hi Runar, all - I'll add my 2 cents:

You'll find that in the L&D world there is no consensus for many of the words we use, and trying to find a universally accepted definition will be difficult! There's lot of great suggestions or interpretations in this discussion, I'd say pick the ones that suit what you are trying to do in your organisation.

For us as L&D professionals it is vital that we think in terms of improving performance. Learning knowledge or skills without them contributing to an increased performance is - from a business point of view - a waste of time and money.

The best way to ensure your training is relevant for improving performance, is by not skimping on your TNA - or even better a Performance Analysis. A good comprehensive analysis will also clarify which needs can be met by learning, and which are actually operational/documentation/organisation/... issues. Even though it is outside your remit, it can be very useful to spend a little time investigating the non-learning issues to:
1. Manage your stakeholders' expectations of the training,
2. Make explicit where your training's success is dependent on other factors (staff motivation, facilities, new systems being available etc)

You are now at a good point to write your Learning Objectives. You're able to see that the training is one part of the puzzle, and set objectives that just cover this part.

My view is that while our training should contribute to an improved performance, it is in practice very difficult to measure the actual effect of training on performance - What is the ROI? Can the learning department take credit if it works really well? Did we miss something if it doesn't work at all? While these are the ultimate questions for us to keep improving, I think it is more useful to write training objectives at a lower, more measurable level.

Training should improve performance - but performance is influenced by many factors other than training. So it makes a lot of sense to make 'learning objectives' for just the learning event. It is one step in a larger process, but a step that should have it's own self-contained objectives and evaluation.

I'm sure you are aware of the 'SMART' objectives - which I find very useful. The only thing I was taught to add is
* The condition/environment you are expecting the performance to take place (Start the objective with "Given...")
* A standard (*"as judged by...", "...compared to the average performance")

Hope this helps,
good luck!

Here's an interesting discussion on objectives:
I came across a blog post today that uses some practical examples:


So let's go live...
I am putting together several hands on labs for our partners to learn the fundamentals when using our products. Let's take the first one as a a working example...

Installing a network surveillance camera on a computer network
Outcomes: After completing this lab, learners will have acquired the skills needed to install a network camera on a simple network or connect it directly to a PC. They will demonstrate skills to perform basic camera set-up to get good image usability.

In order to accomplish this, you will learn:
• How to physically install a camera and to access it on the network to get an image.
• To focus the camera to get a sharp image.
• Use the Camera Basic Setup menu, to fine tune the image settings for good image usability

Here I've moved the condition, performance, and criteria to the learning outcome while the objectives really become more of a list of activities. I feel this will guide us when actually creating the lab, but at the same time I do not agree with Charles Jennings here,that the learners should be spared from the objectives. I belive knowing what to learn give you a set of hooks to tie the new learning into as you go along.
Hi Runar

I think that you should choose outcome or objective. What you seem to have here is a description of the lab and then the objectives/outcomes. If you are confused then whoever is reading it will be too.

If you define you objectives clearly these will work for you at this level. All of these are demonstrable and therefore an outcome can be measured. You might like to add a time if this is important.

For example
At the end of the lab you will be able to :-
physically install a camera
access a camera on the network to get an image.
focus the camera to get a sharp image.
use the Camera Basic Setup menu, to fine tune the image settings for good image usability

I agree with you that the focal point of any training or education should be the LO. In our sessions it is the first thing that the delegates see and also the the last. We ask them to self check.

Can I .........

If not his gives them the opportunity to ask for extra help, this is of course if you are not testing them.
The LOs are also a focus for the tutor, particularly where the delelgate might want to wander off the point.

Hope this help.
You can't simply state 'you will be able to ..' - that comes from a mechanistic view that was prevalent in the days of behaviourist psychology. They may be able to ... IF they pay attention, IF they want to learn it, IF nothing interferes or interrupts, IF they get a chance to practise afterwards etc etc.

So what to say? This is harder. I tend to say in elearning 'In this module we'll look at ...' or 'we'll cover how to ...'. In other words I stick to what I'm responsible for, not what they're responsible for.

I'm aware this isn't perfect, and some may look for a more definite statement. Another option, which I haven't used, would be to say 'If the module is successful, you should be able to ...'

That said 'will be able to ...' objectives are important in the design phase, no doubt in my mind about that.
Hi Runar, I'm with you all the way on learners knowing the objectives. In my organisation we believe that if you are aware of what is expected of you after completing the training you will more likely reach that goal. If knowing the objectives is combined with the learners manager also being aware of the objectives and it is expected that the manager does serious follow up; Then we are getting somewhere!! The manager shouldn't just ask; 'Was it a good lab?' But, 'Could you show me what you learned or could you share it with this or that colleague?'

Best regards



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