About Learning Outcomes

A learning outcome provides a description of what learners should know, understand, and be able to do in a course or program (Huba and Freed, 2000). It provides direction for the design of instructional activities and clearly communicates to learners the end-product of the learning experience. A learning outcome is also learner-focused. It places emphasis on what learners will obtain in the learning process, not on what the instructor is attempting to do in the course or unit.

The following is a passage written by Palloff and Pratt (2001):

In a collaborative learning environment, learning and learning outcomes are much more than the simple acquisition of knowledge. The co-creation of meaning and knowledge that can occur in the collaborative online classroom can serve to create a level of reflection that results in what is called transformative learning. In transformative learning, students are able to begin to reflect on the following question: How am I growing and changing as a learner and as a person through my involvement in this course? If the course has been designed to incorporate and invite real life experience into the classroom, students can begin to explore the material being studied not just from an academic standpoint but through the personal meaning they derive from it. As facilitators of the online classroom process, instructors can encourage students to engage in this level of reflection by creating assignments and asking questions that allow students to apply material to their work or life situations.

(Palloff and Pratt, 2001, p. 83)

Furthermore, a learning outcome establishes the basis for learner evaluation by aligning assessment criteria with specific learning outcomes. Assessment criteria are descriptive statements that enable instructors and learners to measure the achievement of specific learning outcomes. Formal and informal assessment processes provide both participants and facilitators with opportunities to evaluate if learning is aligned with pre-set learning outcomes. Often, assessment is viewed with trepidation, and even fear, rather than as part of a learning development process. As learning facilitators, we have a challenging task to incorporate assessment in a way that is both constructive and supportive of our learners. This is especially true in the online environment where our learners may feel increased isolation and concern.

Jen Walinga (1:21)

You made find it helpful to reflect on the following questions as you prepare to teach your online course:

  • How do the outcomes inform and focus the course's learning activities?
  • How do I keep learners focused on the outcomes?
  • How do I ensure that ongoing assessment and feedback aligns with the learning outcomes?