Teaching Online: ALOTA Part 2: Learning Outcomes
Click here to go back to the Menu


map with a pin on Mexico City

Planning a trip to Mexico City is not very different from designing an online course!

Basically you have a starting point (where you are now) and end point (where you want to go) and a map or path to follow to get there.

Your students current knowledge related to the concepts in your Lesson Plan represents where they are now...and the Learning Outcomes represent the "end point" or "where they are going" part of the "trip"

Planning a trip without a destination might be good for a young adult hitchhiking all over Europe...but in online learning...we want clear indications of where we are going!

(By the way, the map or path we are to follow is the Teaching part...we'll get to that next!)

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the three domains in Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
  • Identify the utility of Educational Verbs as indicators of Learning Outcomes
  • Construct Learning Outcomes statements that are measurable
  • Integrate the concepts related to Learning Outcomes into initial considerations for Assessment


An Introduction to Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

As your students begin each journey associated with each Lesson Plan it is important to describe, in precise ways, the destination. Within the field of Education there are a number of models associated with best practice in writing these "destinations" for your students, but the most commonly used is likely Bloom's Taxonomy.

Bloom's Taxonomy considers three domains of learning that justify the creation of statements of Learning Outcomes.

Cognitive Domain

The Cognitive Domain focuses on the acquisition of knowledge, comprehension of concepts, application of knowledge, analysis of outcomes, a synthesis of different ideas, and an evaluation of these ideas.

Affective Domain

The Affective Domain focuses on more emotional and reactive learning. Receiving, responding to, valuing, organizing, and characterizing values are some of the main Learning Outcomes in the Affective Domain.

Psychomotor Domain

This Domain focuses on skill acquisition through perception, set (taking steps toward the acquisition of skills), guided response, mechanism (when students become habitual in their actions), complex overt responses, adaptation to different scenarios, and origination (the creation of new movement patterns and skills)

Click here to review a document that describes each of these Domains and associated example Action Verbs for each Domain.

For a quick start in this process, review the "Tips for Stating Instructional Objectives" that is on page 3 of this document.

Considering your own Lesson Plan Learning Outcomes

You are at a critical juncture in your Lesson Planning. Here you have to identify what you want your students to walk away with or learn or be able to do when the Lesson Plan is finished. You have to consider this in some very practical ways because:

  • You want to limit the number of Learning Outcomes to a "doable" number within the timeframe of the Lesson Plan
  • You want to identify Learning Outcomes that are measurable so that you can assess accurately if your students have learned them or not.

The Number of Learning Outcomes

Probably the most common error in Lesson Planning is the creation of too many Learning Outcomes. Textbooks are notorious for this! Very often there is way too much to learn related to a single topic so it is important as the designer to identify the small set of essential material that you want your Lesson Plan to focus on.

This does not keep your students from learning other material while they are leaning the stuff related to your Learning Outcomes!

By focusing on a small number of Learning Outcomes you can focus your Teaching and Assessments on THOSE Learning Outcomes only...your students will learn other things along the way simply be exposure but you are only going to hold them accountable for the Learning Outcomes you identify.

These decisions are informed by the topics themselves, the degree of complexity of the topic, the importance of depth and breadth of understanding of the topics, real-world expectations for competence (such as for licensing or practice requirements), and time limitations.


In my field of Psychology, the topic of Sensation and Perception is worthy of chapters, books, articles, and entire divisions within professional organizations...however, in my Introduction to Psychology class we only have one week to cover it! So, among all the extremely interesting, complex, and important bits of knowledge in Sensation and Perception I identified five key Learning Outcomes:

  • Differentiate between sensation and perception through personal awareness and experience
  • Define and provide examples of depth perception
  • Define and provide examples of optical illusions
  • Describe how subliminal messages and self-fulfilling prophecies influence thought processes
  • Explain how cultural differences may influence perception

This is a creative and pragmatic selection process...another instructor might select an entirely different set of Learning Outcomes for the same topic!

Relating Learning Outcomes to Assessment

In the practice of Instructional Design, once you have identified the Learning Outcomes you move on to developing the Assessments you are going to use to determine if your students have actually learning them or not.

The fact is it is best that you are mindful of Assessment AT THE SAME TIME you are creating your Learning Outcomes!

Determine Learning Outcomes that are measurable and doable in the time frame of the Lesson Plan!

I have seen Learning Outcomes such as the following:

"Apply the model of motivation to an analysis of your own personal life course and to future choices in life associated with career, relationships, and spirituality"

There is nothing WRONG with this Learning Outcome statement. However, how are you going to MEASURE it? What are you going to do to actually determine if your students "got it" or not? This type of Learning Outcome might be better associated with an overall goal of the course or even the goal of a larger project such as a research paper, or in this case, a personal reflection.

Keep your Learning Outcomes defined within your ability to actually measure them!

We will be discussing the design of Learning Outcome based Assessment and I will use my examples from Sensation and Perception (see above) so that you can see the connection between establishing Learning Outcomes and the Assessments that measure them.