What’s the Objective Here?: Using Module-based Objectives for Student Success (Issue 24)

Dear ADDIE,

Are module objectives all that important to create? I don’t want to spend time creating something that students don’t read, but I always hear that establishing objectives are something critical to do. I’m not sure what’s the best way to save time for myself and still help my students.

Signed,

Trying Not to Take the Easy Way Out

Dear Trying,

Thank you for the care that you have for your students. Everyone faces the challenge of “is the effort that I’m putting in worth it” when creating content. While it certainly may not seem like your students are actively reading your module objectives, students tend to ask “why” they are doing the work you assign. Having your module objectives clearly listed for your students is a first step in getting them to understand why they are learning what you have provided and why you are asking them to complete specific assignments.

According to Adelphi University, establishing module objectives will allow you to clearly think through and organize what it is that you want students to learn not just in your course, but throughout each module (2020). By understanding the individual pieces of the puzzle that make up your course, the design process will run smoother than before. While it may feel as if you are spending time and effort in determining these objectives, in the long run you are making the design process go by faster because you will know what needs to be covered in each module for students to obtain the knowledge and skills they need to achieve by the end of the course.

Additionally, a quality course design includes objectives and assessments that are in alignment. Many higher education institutions are promoting Quality and/or High Quality designated courses. If you are interested in designing and developing a quality course, course and module objectives are a component to this process.

The rubric above is a snapshot of the rubric criteria used by Quality Matters. Learning Objectives, Competencies, Assessment, and Measurement are key factors in quality course design.
"Module-based objectives...can serve as a kind of checklist that spells out what [students] should know and be able to do..." (Adelphi University, 2021)

When students are clearly able to demonstrate their understanding and comprehension through a completed activity, then the objective and assessment are in alignment. Without a module objective(s) to guide them through the process, both you and the student would be left wondering if they successfully accomplished the goal of the activity and learned what they needed. This sense of dissatisfaction can lead to poor academic performance and disengagement with the course. In turn, listing the objectives of a module is a subtle way of illustrating to the student how they are progressing through the course and the knowledge that they are building along the way. Objectives that are student-centered and focused will lead to better learning outcomes.

If you are struggling with sharing your own objectives or understanding the importance of module objectives, I recommend reading these two Design with Quality in Mind blog posts: Measurable Module Objectives and Align Module Objectives. The Eberly Center also provides a quick guide on composing strong learning objectives that are measurable and use action verbs (2021).

Once you have an understanding of the objectives that best fit your course, you can also use this Objective Builder Tool to ensure you are creating quality measurable objectives. There are also mnemonic tools that you can follow, such as SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-Orientated, Realistic, and Time-Based (Writing Module-Based Learning Objectives, 2020).

Ultimately, while it may be frustrating having to come up with both course objectives and module objectives, in the long run both you and your students will benefit from this information. Establishing clear objectives will guide you through the design process, and having a list of objectives will help the student successfully navigate through your course. And the more you practice writing objectives, the easier it will be!

What other ideas or tips for writing creative and powerful objectives do you use at your higher education institution? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on Discord!

Resources

Design with Quality in Mind a. (2021, September 1). Align Module Objectives with Assessments. Center for Distributed Learning. https://cdl.ucf.edu/align-module-objectives-with-assessments/

Design with Quality in Mind b. (2021, August 6). Measurable Module Objectives. Center for Distributed Learning. https://cdl.ucf.edu/measurable-module-objectives/

Eberly Center. (2021). Design & Teach a Course, Articulate Your Learning Objectives. Carnegie Mellon University. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/learningobjectives.html

Quality Matters. (2021). QM Rubric & Standards. https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/rubric-standards

Writing Module-Based Learning Objectives. (2020, August 10). Faculty Center for Professional Excellence. https://www.adelphi.edu/fcpe/programs/online-and-blended-course-development/resources-for-planning-and-development/course-mapping-and-learning-objectives/writing-module-based-learning-objectives/