Learning Objectives

June 12, 2023

Clear learning objectives provide a strong foundation for designing your course and communicate to learners what they will accomplish. Course learning objectives (CLOs) set the expectations for the whole course. All of the assessments, learning activities, and instructional materials work together to aid learners in reaching these objectives. Module (or unit) learning objectives (MLOs) are more specific to the content of the individual unit and contribute to the overall course objectives, showing learners their progress.

Learner Centered

Learning objectives focus on what the learner will gain in skills and knowledge through the completion of the course or module. They should not be framed as the instructor’s goals for the course or checking accreditation boxes (though these may be related). Instead, keep the learner at the center of the objectives. Limit disciplinary jargon so that even before beginning the course, learners know what they will be asked to do.

Appropriate for Course Level

Entry-level courses with little prerequisite knowledge first have to establish basic facility with the content before asking learners to apply or evaluate it. More advanced classes may spend less time on acquiring foundational information and more time on learners engaging the content at a higher cognitive level more quickly. Bloom’s taxonomy provides a framework for the increasing cognitive levels of engagement with learning tasks. Most courses will include a range of objectives, but the course level should influence the balance of higher and lower cognitive tasks.


Target with a dart close to the center

Learning objectives should be as clear as possible, focusing on the specific content of the course. For example, stating learners will be able to “differentiate” between deciduous and coniferous trees is a specific outcome. Stating that learners will be able to understand differences among trees is not very specific – that could mean almost anything.


Printed column chart with a pen

Most importantly, learning objectives must be measurable. Think about how learners will demonstrate their mastery of the course content. What artifact or assignment will they complete that allows the instructor to gauge their progress in the course? Measurable learning objectives require observable evidence that learners can accomplish them. Whether students have “learned” or “understood” as such is not observable. Instead, instructors observe learners “applying,” “identifying,” or “explaining” various concepts.


“At the end of the course, learners will be able to…”

  • Ineffective CLO: Learn the different genres within African American literature.
  • Effective CLO: Identify and compare various genres within African American literature.
  • Ineffective MLO: Understand the enslavement narrative genre.
  • Effective MLO: Identify two tropes common to the enslavement narrative genre.

Learning objectives are always specific to the course, and we love consulting on them to make them more effective. Book a meeting with one of our staff to discuss your learning objectives.

Upcoming Events

Create Group and Peer Review Assignments

Wednesday, June 14, 1:30 – 2:15PM

Use Canvas to implement active learning strategies such as grouping students and assigning peer-reviewed assignments. In this workshop, you will build groups and a working peer-review assignment that you can deploy in your courses. 

Facilitated by James Butler, Digital Learning Strategist.

Register here for Workshop Wednesday: Create Group and Peer Review Assignments on June 14th .

Clemson Online Summer 2023 Events Calendar

Review our Summer 2023 Events Calendar to see what Online Instruction Development opportunities await!

We have a robust Summer lineup of topics and live training formats to support your use of Canvas and other e-learning tools. Topics cover demonstrations of using Kaltura, presentations on inclusive practices for online education, and workshops to get your Canvas site ready to teach!

All of our live training is recorded. Registrants will automatically receive a link to that day’s video after it has been processed.

Contact James Butler with any questions regarding these sessions. 

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