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Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes are the foundation of any well-designed course.
Student Learning Objectives

Introduction to Student Learning Outcomes

The first step in planning your online course is developing student learning outcomes.  Whether you are creating a course to teach online or face-to-face, it is critical that you start by developing measurable and observable student learning outcomes.  Think about what you want your students to be able to do, know, think, or feel by the end of your instruction.  As you think about your vision of student learning, write down your thoughts because they will eventually become the basis for your learning outcomes.

There are several elements in good learning outcomes.  First, they are written from the learner's perspective.  Second, they incorporate an action verb that can be easily observed and measured. Finally, they include key components such as audience, behavior, condition, and degree.  The video playlist in this section will guide you through the process of writing good learning outcomes through the use of Bloom's Taxonomy and the ABCD formula. In addition, you will see examples of how some learning outcomes were rewritten to make them more measurable and observable. 

The videos in the "Writing Student Learning Outcomes" playlist are licensed
under the Standard YouTube License.


Tips for Learning Outcomes

The instructional designers at UW Oshkosh have come up with our own tips for learning outcomes.

  • They are in your head...write them down.
    Writing outcomes should not be intimidating. As an instructor, you already know what your students should be able to do, think, feel, or know after they complete your class. Those ideas are already in your head. To create your learning outcomes, start by jotting down, in general terms, what you want your students to gain from taking this course. These written thoughts can then be converted into learning outcomes by utilizing a “formula” such as the ABCD model or a learning outcomes generator website. 
Note: There are several generator websites listed in this course that you may find helpful.

  • Develop outcomes then plan course
    It is sometimes tempting to start finding and creating your assessments and learning activities before you have written your learning outcomes. It is always best to fully develop your learning outcomes before you begin planning the rest of your course because your assessments and activities should be based on and support your learning outcomes. 
Identifying assessments and learning activities before you have written your learning outcomes is kind of like putting the cart before the horse. You need to know where your students need to be (learning outcomes) before you can determine how they will demonstrate they have gotten there (assessments) and what resources (learning activities) they will need along the way.

  • Verify observability and measurability
    After you have written your learning outcomes double check that they can be easily observed and easily measured. Avoid using words such as know, understand, learn, and become familiar with. These words are not concrete which makes them difficult to observe and measure. Think about how you might assess their knowledge, understanding, learning, or familiarity.

    If you have too many:

    • Should they be able to discuss it? 

    • Should they be able to compare and contrast it to something else? 

    • Should they be able to synthesis it?

    Use those types of action verbs in your learning outcomes rather than know, understand, learn, or be familiar.

    • Watch the scope
      Keep an eye on the scope of your learning outcomes. You don’t want them to be too broad or too narrow. If they are too broad, it may be difficult to see how it directly relates to your specific discipline and course. If they are too narrow, they start to appear more like a list of tasks to complete rather than outcomes. Stanford Online put together a quick reference to help determine if your outcomes are too broad or too narrow. They have also provided some examples of broad and narrow outcomes along with possible alternatives. To view the Stanford Learning Outcomes Scope Examples, go to

    •  Keep quantity reasonable and achievable

      Ideally your course should have about 5 or 6 learning outcomes per hierarchical level. Having significantly more or less than 5 or 6 could indicate you aren’t covering enough content or you are trying to cover too much content for the time you have available for the course.

      If you have too many:

      • determine what is most important and delete the rest.

      • are your outcomes too narrow in scope? 

      If you have too few:

      • are there related concepts that you can add to your course?

      • are your outcomes too broad in scope?

    • Ask for feedback
      • Outcomes can sometimes be challenging to get right the first time.  It takes practice.  Don't be afraid to bounce your ideas off of someone, a colleague, a mentor, or the campus Instructional Designers (We promise there is nothing you can ask us we haven't heard before.)

    Resources for Writing Learning Outcomes

    Below are resources you might find handy for writing learning objectives.

    Bloom's taxonomy and learning domains

    Learning Outcome Builders

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