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Unleashing the Power of Instructional Goals in eLearning


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The instructional design process is an intricate journey, and it all begins with a crucial step: goal analysis and the identification of learning objectives. Before you embark on building your course, you need a well-defined goal and a purpose to drive your instructional design. Let's delve into the essential steps of goal analysis and learning objectives.

Setting the Stage with Goal Analysis

A well-crafted goal statement is your compass, guiding the development of your course's scope and sequence. To start, it's essential to understand how to formulate both short and long-goal statements. Moreover, you must grasp the distinction between measurable and fuzzy goals. Let's explore two key steps in analyzing instructional goals and three approaches to identifying them.

  1. Classifying the Goal: Begin by categorizing the goal according to learning outcomes and taxonomy. You can adopt frameworks like Bloom's taxonomy or Gagné's five domains of learning to provide a structured foundation for this classification. This step helps you grasp the broader context of your goal.
  2. Identifying Major Steps: The next step involves breaking down the goal into its essential components. What are the major steps required to achieve the goal? These steps can be seen as a series of actions or mental processes, each accompanied by a measurable verb. This analysis helps you define the scope and sequence of your instructions.

Crafting Clear Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are the bridge that connects your instructional goal with the learners. They provide a clear understanding of what learners should be able to know and do as a result of your course. Let's explore the ABCDs of writing learning objectives:

  • A. Audience - Describe the target audience and their specific characteristics.
  • B. Behavior - Define what the learners will be able to do after completing the module.
  • C. Conditions - Specify the context or conditions under which the learners will demonstrate their skills.
  • D. Degree - Quantify the level of proficiency or mastery required.

Learning objectives can be categorized into two types: terminal objectives, which signify the final desired outcome, and enabling objectives, which represent smaller steps leading to the terminal objective. Developing these objectives ensures clarity for both learners and instructors.

Approaches to Goal Analysis

There are three fundamental approaches to analyzing instructional goals: a content-based approach, a stepwise approach, and an elaboration approach.

  1. Content-Based Approach: This approach focuses on identifying the major topics to be covered in your course. While it is useful for subject matter experts, it might lead to learners concentrating on isolated modules without understanding the broader context.
  2. Stepwise Approach: This approach identifies and sequences the major steps required to achieve the goal. These steps represent actions or mental processes necessary to achieve the goal, and each should include a measurable verb. This approach aids in structuring your course and defining learning objectives.
  3. Elaboration Approach: Unlike the stepwise approach, the elaboration approach starts with the simplest version of the whole task. It gradually progresses to more complex iterations. By starting with a basic understanding and moving towards complexity, learners gain a holistic understanding of the task and motivation.

When analyzing your goal, consider the size of each step. For younger students, smaller steps are recommended, while for older students, larger steps may be suitable. Aim to identify 5 to 15 steps to achieve your goal, ensuring a manageable learning experience.

In conclusion, goal analysis and learning objectives are the cornerstones of effective instructional design. Through clear goal statements, well-defined learning objectives, and thoughtful goal analysis, you can build a course that resonates with your learners, providing them with a clear roadmap to success. Remember, a well-planned beginning sets the stage for a successful instructional journey.





Hello, and welcome to the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners podcast, where new and aspiring instructional designers start, grow, and advance their careers in instructional design and online learning development. I'm your host, Crystal Harper.

I'm a former school teacher who transitioned to instructional design, all while working full-time as a single mom. Would you like to become a successful instructional designer without the burden of earning another degree? Well, then let's get started.

The beginning of the instructional design process. We're building your first course, and it starts with analyzing and identifying a course goal and learning objectives. Before building your course, you need to have a defined goal, something that you're solving. So what you'll need to do is conduct a goal analysis and identify which type of goal it is.

Your written goal statement will allow you to develop the scope and sequence of your course. I'll teach you how to write short and long goal statements, the difference between measurable goals and fuzzy goals, two steps to analyzing an instructional goal, three ways to identify an instructional goal, and how to analyze a goal using Gagné's five domains of learning. Once you've conducted a goal analysis and have a solid goal statement, you will then write and analyze the learning objectives.

The learners need to have a clear understanding as to what is expected of them, what they're able to know and be able to do as a result of the course. These statements are known as learning objectives. Learning objectives describe what the learners can do and what they should be able to complete in a module of the course. They're typically derived from the goal analysis.

I'll teach you the ABCDs of writing learning objectives. I'll teach you about terminal objectives versus enabling objectives, and then also how to conduct a skills analysis and develop your learning objectives. After completion of this step, you'll have identified all the modules or lessons to be included in your course.

You'll also have developed the related terminal and enabling objectives. Doing a thorough analysis before developing and implementing training can save a lot of time and resources. This is actually among the most essential phases of the instructional design process.

Before getting started on the content of your course, you first need to understand your starting point. During this phase, you need to take a closer look at who you are teaching, goals, any constraints that might exist, and your desired time. The analysis phase consists of four sub-phases.

The development of instructional goals, instructional analysis, learner analysis, and learning objectives. Finding and making a clear instructional goal can save a lot of time and effort. Once you have clearly defined what your instructional goals are, you will be better equipped to develop the instruction. This is also called learning outcomes. Put simply, when the course is finished, what should students be able to do? How will they demonstrate their new skills? It's especially important in an e-learning course to be sure that you have clearly defined goals and learning objectives.

It's important in the beginning of the instructional design process to either A, define a goal statement or verify the accuracy and appropriateness of a goal statement given to you by your client, and B, analyze the goal and identify key components of the goal.

If the goal is unclear, subsequent planning can become unclear and ineffective, and learners may have difficulties discerning the overall purpose of the instruction. It's also important to determine what your target learners must know and be able to perform the goal. They will learn how to write and analyze your goal.

After completion of the course, you should be able to distinguish approaches for identifying instructional goals, generate a measurable goal statement, recognize key components of a goal statement, classify learning outcomes, clarify fuzzy goal statements, recognize the purposes of conducting a goal analysis, distinguish approaches for analyzing a goal, and analyze your goal and generate identifying major components of the goal. A short goal statement should include a brief description of the learner and targeted skills. In contrast, a complete goal statement provides additional information about the performance context and the availability of tools.

Now we will depict the key components for both short and extended goal statements. Please note, the length of your statement has little to do with the scope of your instruction. A short goal statement is a description of the learner and what learners will be able to do. An extended goal statement is a description of the learner, what learners will be able to do, real-life context in which the skills are to be applied, and available tools for accomplishing the goals. Both statements are used to focus subsequent analyses.

A complete goal statement may be used as a course description and for marketing purposes. There are two steps in analyzing a goal. Number one, classifying the goal according to learning outcomes and taxonomy. And number two, identifying and sequencing major steps involved in performing the goal.

Gagné's five domains of learning is a great foundation for completing these two steps. It's believed that learned human capabilities may be classified into several distinct categories. For instance, Bloom proposes what is probably one of the best learned taxonomies that distinguishes between knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Others differentiate between cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning outcomes. While comparing these taxonomies, it's important to note that most posit additional subcategories within each major domain. The goal analysis process will ensure that you have determined the major steps necessary to complete your goal and that you account for these steps in your instruction.

The results of a good analysis will help you define the scope and sequence of your instruction, including the number, nature, and sequence of instructional units to be contained in your course or training program. An instructional goal statement may be derived from a list of goals from a front-end analysis. From practical experience from someone else who is already delivering instruction, or from other requirements for new instruction. The scope of your instructional goal will determine the amount of instruction that will be necessary to achieve the goal.

A relatively extensive goal may require a series of workshops or a semester of coursework to accomplish. Less extensive goals may take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to attain. There are three ways to analyze your goal.

After defining and classifying your instructional goal, your next task is to analyze it and depict either A, the major steps necessary to achieve or perform the goal, or B, simple to complex examples of goal performance. These steps may then be used to determine the nature and number sequence of instructional units, lessons, or modules in an e-learning course to be included in the course or the training program. This will also help you with analyzing your learning objectives.

There are three fundamental ways to analyze an instructional goal, including A, a topic or content area approach, B, a stepwise approach, and C, an elaboration approach.

I will briefly summarize the content or topic and then the stepwise approach and further discuss the elaboration approach. The content approach to goal analysis identifies the major topics to be covered in an e-learning course or training program. The content approach focuses on knowing and is typically of how subject matter experts define the scope and sequence of an online course or training program. Let's view an example.

Generated from an advanced college-level biology course, it's divided into 12 units or modules, each covering a topic related to physiological psychology.

When goals are analyzed in terms of what learners are expected to know and online courses or training programs are divided into topics or modules, learners typically concentrate on one particular module or unit without considering the contents of the other units.

The instructional materials and resources specified for a unit or module is used in one block of time rather than different points throughout a term or program. And once the class or team or individual moves on to the next topic, the first one is often forgotten. With a content or topic approach to goal analysis and e-learning course design, learners often fail to see the relationship between topics or how the skills and knowledge covered in one unit relate to another or to real life.

In comparison to the content or topic approach, the stepwise and elaboration approach to goal analysis concentrate on what learners are supposed to do rather than know.

They provide instructional developers with an unambiguous description of what exactly someone should be doing when performing the goal. Starting the design process by determining what learners are supposed to be able to do as a result of instruction is in sharp contrast to first identifying what topics or content areas are necessary to achieve the goal. The stepwise approach identifies and sequences the major steps necessary to perform a goal. To identify and sequence major steps, ask yourself what learners need to do in order to perform the goal. Your goal statement may already include a short description of the major steps.

Each step may represent a physical activity or a mental step and the description of each step should include a measurable verb. These steps will be helpful in determining the learning objectives for the e-learning course as well. A goal analysis results in a flow diagram or visual display that clearly identifies and illustrates the relationship among the major steps. In comparison to the stepwise approach, the elaboration approach to goal analysis begins by identifying the simplest epitome of someone performing the goal. It's also referred to as the whole task or simply as the task.

After identifying the simplest epitome of the whole task, the analysis progresses through more complex examples of the goal being performed. In other words, it elaborates on the goal or whole task. Take, for example, someone preparing a spaghetti dinner. The simplest epitome of the whole task may include the use of pre-made noodles, bottled spaghetti sauce, frozen garlic bread, and packaged salad with some already grated parmesan cheese.

The next most complex iteration of making a spaghetti dinner may focus on adding some fresh ingredients to the bottled spaghetti sauce and preparing the salad and garlic bread with their basic ingredients.

More complex examples of the goal may include making the sauce all the way up to the pasta noodles and salad dressing from scratch. Training and education often focuses on complex cognitive tasks. By first presenting your e-learners with a simple epitome of the whole task, they may begin to understand the task holistically and start to acquire the skills necessary to complete a real-life task for the very first lesson. Being presented with and acquiring the skills necessary to accomplish a real-life task at the beginning of an e-learning course or training program, in turn, may be more motivating than simply learning the first step of a task. The holistic understanding of a task also results in the formation of a stable cognitive schema to which more complex capabilities and understandings may be assimilated. This is especially valuable for learning a complex cognitive task.

To identify simple to complex examples of the goal analysis, ask yourself and or work with a subject matter expert to determine what is the simplest epitome of someone demonstrating or performing the goal. Your goal statement may already include a short description of the whole task.

Identify the simplest example of the whole task that is fairly representative of the goal and describe the conditions that distinguish it from other versions or examples of the task. When elaborating a whole task, I also suggest that it may be helpful to start by identifying some of the major versions of the task and the conditions that distinguish when one version is appropriate versus another. Thinking of different conditions helps to identify versions and thinking of different versions also helps to identify conditions. Therefore, it is wise to do both simultaneously or alternately.

Ask the subject matter expert to recall the simplest case of the whole task she or he has ever seen. The simplest version will be a class of similar cases. Then check to see how representative it is of the task as a whole. There is no single right version to choose.

It's usually a matter of trade-offs. The very simplest version of the task is usually not very representative of the task as a whole. The more representative of the simple version can be the better because it provides a more useful schema to which learners can relate subsequent versions.

You may want to use some other criteria in addition to simple and representative such as common, which is how frequently performed the version of the task is, and safe, which is how much risk there is to the learner and or the equipment. After identifying the simplest epitome of the whole task that is fairly representative of the goal, work with the subject matter expert, if applicable, to identify the next simplest version that is more representative of the goal. In general, the next simplest or more complex version will require learners to address additional variables and or more difficult conditions.

Continue to identify progressively complex versions of the whole task until instructional time runs out or the learners have reached the desired level of expertise. A question that may arise as you analyze your goal is, how large should a step be? Or how much should be included in one step?

There are no easy answers. In general, if instruction is intended for young students, each step in a goal should be rather small. An instructional goal for older students may be broken down into larger steps. In general, it's recommended that you identify between 5 to 15 steps to achieve your goal.


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