When do you tell the participants the learning objectives?

Sep 15, 2016

I've seen learning objectives presented several different ways. Sometimes, the learning objectives live "outside" the course and only in the LMS. Sometimes, it's the very first thing following the title of the course.

I'm considering adding in the Learning Objectives to the "end" of the introduction module in a series of courses I'm working on. The introductory module would have something of a teaser for the rest of the course, and it feels natural to add it at the end of it as something of a summary, such as "As you dive deeper into the course, you will learn more about X (the things that they just got a teaser on). As a result, you should be able to do Y & Z."

Thoughts? Is there more of a benefit to adding them at the very beginning or leaving them out entirely?

18 Replies
Carolina Fautsch

I like your approach. I think learners need a good mental map before diving in, which lends itself to putting the objectives at the beginning -- but objectives are so specific that learners often won't be able to make sense of them without some greater context. So, an intro module with the course objectives at the end sounds perfect. (And that's my personal strategy -- give some introductory material to help them see the bigger picture, then tell them how what they're going to learn fits into that bigger picture.)

Bob S

Hi Rachel,

That's a great idea, good for you!

I try and view Learning Objectives through the "particular audience" lens.  In other words, do I expect that the typical person taking the course would need or benefit from having the Objectives?

For example... If it's a recurring compliance course, I don't include learning objectives.  It's not respectful of the learner's time for something they have to take no matter what. 

Conversely, if it's a course aimed at someone brand new to the topic area, I would strongly consider having the Objectives up front so they can gauge what they are in for and if the course is right for them. 

Similarly, if it's a quite veteran group that may not see the value in brushing up on a topic, I might challenge them up front with a HARD pre-quiz and then list the learning objectives to demonstrate what they may not know or need refreshing on.

Hope this helps!


Rachel Barnum

Thanks Bob -

The participants will be required to take the course, however it isn't a compliance course. Essentially, my organization is changing the lens into how they do regulation. I wouldn't say they're typically completely brand new to the topics, rather, the topics redefine and reorganize what they may already know into our new regulation "language" (to way oversimplify it).

Essentially, no one will really know these topics ahead of time though they probably know pieces of them, and everyone has to take it.


Dan Brigham

Hi, Rachel: I usually do two things when inserting learning objectives:

1. Keep them somewhat general, so they can encompass a few of the smaller objectives.

2. Briefly state why the objective will help them. E.g..

"You'll learn how to inspect your vehicle, so that you can ensure that it never lets you down." That kind of thing. 

Bob S

Hi Rachel,

Sorry for the delayed response.   Given your audience/situation, I might try a version of the third option I mentioned above...  a short challenging pre-quiz.   Something along the lines of "So you think you know the regulations, huh?"    Then give them a couple of really hard/obscure questions they are very unlikely to be able to answer. Then as part of the quiz feedback present the learning objectives and explain that this is why they need to take the course again.  Note: It's in this second part of the quiz feedback that you can take a little sting out of the failure should you choose....or not!  :-)

Basically, you are trying to head off the objections from the crusty veterans that think they shouldn't have to take such a course again because they've been working with the topic for years. The pre quiz will be a little bit humbling for them.... and that matches up perfectly with your company initiative,

Zsolt Olah


Personally, I don't like learning objectives. I mean I like them for design purposes but not to tell participants. Instead, show them the performance objectives: what they will actually do on the job. So, for example, I've seen things like: "able to explain the X process." Unless that's your job, to explain the X process, that is not really an objective of the participant in real life. Instead, find out under what circumstances participants use this process and challenge them with the specific work scenario, and have them make a decision like for real. If they they know what to do, there's no point training them. If they think they know what to do but the decision is not correct, there's your learning. If they don't know at all, that's a different type of learning...    

Matt Garratt
Bob S

"So you think you know the regulations, huh?"    Then give them a couple of really hard/obscure questions they are very unlikely to be able to answer...Basically, you are trying to head off the objections from the crusty veterans that think they shouldn't have to take such a course again because they've been working with the topic for years. The pre quiz will be a little bit humbling for them....

This is a great idea, but I would be cautious if you have a mix of crusty folk and noobs. You don't want to be too intimidating or you might scare them off or make the noobs think the course is for veterans that do think they know the content. That is, what if the answer to your question in the minds of some of your course takers is "no, I don't know these regulations at all. I don't want to click that button". The fear of failure comes into play that clouds the learning process.

 A compromise might be to have a branching option. Click to take the challenge if you think you know it all, or option two skip the quiz and get started (with better calls to action than that of course).

Ulises Musseb

I may become unpopular by posting this, but I disagree with that idea. A summary is a summary and an objective is an objective. Why on Earth do you want to start delivering material without letting the learners know where are they going with it? They lose a lot of the value of what they are learning if they do know know what is the objective of what they are learning. That's what objectives are for; to let learners know where are they going with their learning experience.

I understand the need for innovative ways of applying instruction, but not at the expense of misusing the different components and elements of learning.

Joanne Chen

I second Zsolt Olah, I found I got bored if I see bulleted general objectives in the begining of a course. And that will make me demotivated, so I usually skip that page and jump into the main content. But I do believe that learners should get a big picture what they will learn from the course before they jump into it. Therefore I think the general objectives should be provided before a course, and people can evaluate if the course could meet their need and worth to take according to the course description and objectives.

As an instructional designer, I think the most important thing is to motivate learners. If you have a strong motivation, you will learn whatever the format of the content. Think about why we google for something, because we 'need' and we will be fulfilled if we got something that meet our needs even if they are heavy text. Of course I am not saying text is good enough, I would be happier if I got chart than text, and would be even happier if I got video than chart. I am saying we should make objectives as part of motivation just like Zsolt mentioned showing them the performance objectives.

Chris Cole

We often use an anecdote at the start that is directly relevant to the subject matter; then we can say something like "So you see how it is important that you understand A, B, and C, and be able to do X, Y, and Z."

That approach provides the objectives without being boring, and provides context for the learning, all in a 30 second "story."

This discussion is closed. You can start a new discussion or contact Articulate Support.