Writing learning objectives

Learning objective are the basic foundations of an eCourse. They determine eCourse content, learning activities and assessments. Learning objectives are verb phrases that complete a sentence regarding what your learners can learn or do after taking your eCourse. Clearly stating learning objectives in the beginning of an eCourse sets your learner's expectations about what they will learn. It also keeps you focused on how to help them reach learning goals that are easily measurable.To clarify exactly what the eCourse is about, learning objectives are stated in this way:

              "At the end of this eCourse, learners should be able to" + VERB + KNOWLEDGE or SKILL

Selecting appropriate action verbs

Measuring the success of your learning intervention requires specific types of action verbs. Avoid the tendency to choose verbs like learn, understand and know. These verbs are vague and highly subjective. They are therefore very difficult to measure. Instead, select verbs recommended by Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning offers a basic guide in designing your course learning objectives, and matching them with the level of thinking skills you want your course to achieve. Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning was developed by Prof. Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s.  It organizes learning objectives according to lower-order and higher-order thinking skills (Armstrong, 2017).

Lower-Order Thinking Skills
Remember The learner is able to recognize or memorize information.
Understand The learner is able to reformulate a concept.
Apply The learner is able to use the information in a new way.
Higher-Order Thinking Skills
Analyze The learner is able to decompose and define relationships among components
Evaluate The learner is able to justify a decision according to a criterion or standard.
Create The learner is able to realize a new product or approach.

Source: FAO, 2011. 

The video below demonstrates how Bloom's Taxonomy can help you select appropriate verbs and write your learning objectives.

WATCH: How to write learning objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy (10:52)

by Course Design on a Shoestring Budget

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Write SMART Objectives 

Another way to produce appropriate learning objectives is to think S.M.A.R.T.  

SMART objectives are… 


  • Learning objectives should identify what learners need to know and what they should do with what they know. These must not be vague. 

  • Do not confuse learning objectives with aims and goals.  


General statements applied to a more universal learning intention (for an entire set of courses or an entire program) 

Students will understand and become proficient at identifying the different types of spoken English. 


More specific than an aim but still expresses a general learning intention. 

Students will be able to identify and use American slang terms and phrases. 

Learning objective 

Learning intentions that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound) 

Students will identify and list 5 slang terms they have heard from their peers. 



M - Measurable 

  • Learning objectives need to state conditions in which learning can be measured.  

  • As mentioned earlier, avoid statinh a general learning intention like “Learners will be able to understand Climate Change.”  Understanding cannot easily be measured or assessed. 

  • Instead, you may want to state the objective as: “Learners will be able to define Climate Change.”   

A - Attainable 

  • The learning objective must be achievable by your learners within the limits of the course or module. 

R - Relevant 

  • The learning objective must be a necessary component to learning about the subject matter. 

T - Timebound 

  • The learning objective should set a reasonable time for achieving or completing learning.  

  • Often times, providing the general condition “By the end of this course, learners should be able…” already conforms to this requirement. However, one should still evaluate if this is a reasonable expectation. 

To ensure that your learning objectives are S.M.A.R.T., ask yourself these questions:

  •  Is the learning objective clear and understandable (S-pecific)
  •  Does the learning objective allow learning to easily be measured? (M-easurable)
  •  Is the learning objective reasonably achievable? (A-ttainable)
  •  Is the learning objective directly related to the topic (R-elevant)
  •  Is the learning objective achievable within the time allotted for the eCourse? (T-imebound)

If you still need help with writing learning objectives, here are practical guides:

List of Bloom's Taxonomy action verbs

    Infographic of Bloom's Taxonomy levels and matching verbs 

Learning objectives generator

   A web-based application that guides you in creating learning objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy 

   Simple pointers on how and how not to write learning objectives 



Last modified: Thursday, 9 August 2018, 4:02 PM