4.1 Learning objectives drive online activities


Learning objectives and learning outcomes

Key Concept: Activity design starts with establishing learning outcomes aligned with module and programme aims.

This section of the handbook starts by ensuring you have defined learning objectives for your learning activities, i.e. what you intend to cover and the experiences you want students to have. Once you have identified the type of activity you wish students to undertake, this will inform your choice of learning technology. Through the online activity students will then try to fulfil intended learning outcomes, i.e. what students should be able to do as a result of learning through the activity.

The video below provides a brief introduction to the concept of blended learning with a focus on learning objectives and desired learning experience that will inform your approach.

Establishing learning outcomes

Start by defining what students should be able to do as a result of undertaking a learning activity. Learning outcomes should be specific and measurable, so that they can be assessed.

By defining learning outcomes, you can align learning activities to support them. Making this alignment clear to students will also bring meaning to the learning activity, setting clear expectations about the value of the activity to students learning for the module.

Writing learning outcomes

The following guide from QMUL is a useful starter for writing learning outcomes and relating them to module and programme aims and objectives.

Learning objectives for online and face-to-face

Linking learning objectives for both the online and face-to-face environments strengthens the relationship between the two learning spaces. Students can then relate the activities and resources provided online to the module as a whole. One approach is to consider how the module would be taught in a face-to-face only environment, thinking about the limitations and constraints that imposes, then thinking about how technology may overcome such limitations. The following document can be used as a template to help plan your blended learning design:

The template maps your weekly activities, which for the most part may be face-to-face, and what learning objectives you are trying to achieve. This process is particularly useful at identifying where activities across a module, or even a programme, are too similar in nature, providing similar learning activities that do not provide enough variation for a range of learning outcomes or student engagement.

Laurillard (2002, p.189) offers three questions to help work out the balance of how activities support your learning objectives based upon analysis of students’ learning needs:

  1. What is the total formal and informal study time needed for the course?
  2. What are the key learning objectives defined for the course/programme?
  3. Given the needs analysis (common misconceptions, terminology, problems in understanding concepts, what learning needs to be done), what is the appropriate breakdown of study time, formal and informal across the key objectives?

Deciding on a type of activity

A single learning objective can be met through a range of learning activities. The choice of activity is in part about the type of learning experience you wish students to undertake. From there, you can then decide upon the most appropriate learning space (online or offline) and the most appropriate tools to facilitate students meeting that learning objective. This is covered in Sections 4.4 and 4.5.

As an introduction to modelling different pedagogical approaches, watch the Replay Lecture Recording below from our PGCAP TEL Workshop (York Users Only).

TEL Workshop Primer: Activity. Click to watch Replay Lecture Recording

Types of activities

The Learner Engagement cards shown below detail 8 different forms of learning events. Each form of engagement offers recommended resources and suggested tools for learning activities.

You might find a single card does not represent the type of activity you wish your students to undertake. For example Problem Based Learning approaches might require identification and analysis of the problem, exploration of resources, application to the problem scenario and reflection to develop understanding. For each of these phases of PBL there may be different requirements on the learning space and tools, for example how will you facilitate the exploration of resources via online links, will you adopt individual reflection or group-based discussion activities to develop understanding?

Online interventions

E-Learning Walkthrough

Problem-based learning

Supporting PBL

Use of Yorkshare tools to encourage students to engage deeply in a case study and apply knowledge.

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