OSCQR – Standard #9

OSCQR – Standard #9

Course objectives/outcomes are clearly defined, measurable, and aligned to learning activities and assessments.

Review These Explanations

Learning objectives and outcomes are essentially milestones on the learning pathway – milestones that learners need to achieve in order to succeed. Course objectives should express some level of mastery that learners will need to demonstrate as a result of participating fully in the course. Learners need to understand how what they are learning, and what they are required to demonstrate, are connect to the course outcomes.

All course content, learning activities, interactions and assessments should be in alignment with these objectives/outcomes. These relationships should be clearly explained in order to provide relevance of learning to the learners (Knowles, 1984). Objectives should address what learners need to know when they complete the module, course, or program, and aligned activities and assessments should showcase how learners have achieved those objectives.

Keep in mind that well written learning objectives are made up of four parts – the identity of the learner, the skill that you want the learner to demonstrate, the conditions under the learner will demonstrate that skill, and the criteria in place to measure mastery of that skill.

Overall course objectives should be clearly communicated via the syllabus and course information documents, and module objectives should be introduced at the beginning of every module.


Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

  • Map all content, interaction, activity, and assessment to module, course, and program objectives. This exercise will show you if your objectives are aligned, and if one or more course elements needs to be adapted to better meet the set objectives. This can be done with a simple table where each activity and assignment are listed (rows), and a check mark indicates associated objectives (columns).
  • Use verbs that are actionable and measurable in writing objectives/outcomes. Test each objective/outcome by detailing out exactly how you are measuring it, and how you will know learners have met set criteria.
  • Avoid “busy work” or assignments not clearly aligned with stated outcomes.
  • Use verbs that are measurable in describing outcomes. “Learners will understand” is not measurable. How will learners demonstrate “understanding”? Preferred: “You will research and write a five page research paper to demonstrate your understanding of x” is a measurable activity.
  • Use the 2nd person (you/your) tense in communicating the objectives, instead of a generic “learners will learn”. This personalizes the statement for your learners.
  • Explore Bloom’s Taxonomy and associate resources to better understand types of objectives and related examples of ways to measure success through activities and assessments.
  • Create a course or module map to share with your learners that details how each objective falls in sequence in the course, along with the activities and assignments that measure associated knowledge and/or mastery.
  • Reiterate the association and alignment of learning objectives by listing any associated objectives in the activity or assignment instructions.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

This Pedagogical Practice from TOPR explores the purpose and benefits of breaking down course objectives to the modular level, and provides an example of scaffolding learning across modules.

Relate Course Goals into Modular Measurable Learning Objectives
Creating clear and measurable objectives is key to developing purposeful and systematic instruction. One of the strategies instructors used is to relate course goals into one or more measurable learning objectives for each unit/module/week of your course. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

This site explores the “why” and “how” of assessment.
This poster from Fractus Learning lists each level along with a variety of associated action verbs you can use to guide the development of learning objectives.
This tools generates learning objectives based on a variety of set variables, with room to enter new values. Originally designed for academia, this tool is a fun way to generate new objectives!
McCracken, J., Cho, S., Sharif, A., Wilson, B., & Miller, J.. (2012). Principled Assessment Strategy Design for Online Courses and Programs. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 10(1), 107-119.

Share What You Know

OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

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