Lesson 3: Developing online course learning outcomes

Online courses ensure academic rigour with similar course learning outcomes and course design elements as the classroom-based course

A good place to start when designing an online course is to review your course outline for clearly written course learning outcomes. Well-defined course learning outcomes provide a strong foundation for online course design and fostering student engagement with appropriate activities and assessments.

The course learning outcomes for an online course should be very similar, if not the same, as the traditional course to ensure academic rigour.

 

Write or review course learning outcomes

Course learning outcomes are statements of what students should be able to demonstrate after completing the course. They should be concise and reflect an appropriate level and type of learning.

 

Some example course learning outcomes:

  • Students should be able to design and create a small applet or application using object-oriented design principles.
  • By the end of this course, students should be able to formulate a research hypothesis based on a critical evaluation of the current literature.
  • Students should be able to summarize the historical context of development discourse from Colonialism to today.

There are three domains of learning to structure course learning outcomes: Cognitive, affective and psychomotor. All three domains can be present in an online course. Use the following charts to help identify what the target learning is for course learning outcomes.

Cognitive domain

Knowledge and skills

Retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory.

  1. Key verbs

    Tell, list, recognize, describe, recite, locate, label, identify, memorize, define, match, name, outline, recall, reproduce, select, state

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Locate different countries on the world map.
    • Identify styles of architecture in urban settings, such as downtown Calgary.

Perceive meaning and grasp mentally.

  1. Key verbs

    Explain, describe, clarify, compare, generalize, summarize, extend, paraphrase, represent, exemplify, illustrate, classify, contrast, convert, distinguish, instantiate, estimate, give examples, infer, interpret,  rewrite, arrange, match, paraphrase

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Compare different artistic painting styles.
    • Explain the formation process of igneous rock.

Carry out or use a procedure or process theory in a given situation.

  1. Key verbs

    Solve, show, classify, use, execute, carry out, implement, choose, report, apply, compute, construct, demonstrate, manipulate, modify, operate, prepare, produce

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Solve linear equations.
    • Use rhetorical strategies to make arguments in writing.

Break material into its constituent parts and determine how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose.

  1. Key verbs

    Analyze, sort, contrast, investigate, separate, differentiate, break down, compare, diagram, deconstruct, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, organize, integrate, structure, calculate, modify, solve

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Differentiate between plant and dwarf plant.

Make judgments based on criteria and standards.

  1. Key verbs

    Judge, select, decide, debate, justify, verify, argue, assess, prioritize, predict, appraise, conclude, critique, defend, evaluate, estimate, test

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Debate the extent to which human activities might affect climate change.
    • Critique the methodology section of a research article.

Put elements together; reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure.

  1. Key verbs

    Create, invent, design, devise, formulate, hypothesize, produce, generate, plan, construct, compile, compose, organize, write

  2. Example

    Students should be able to:

    • Generate a business plan based on the clients’ needs.
    • Produce an Individual Program Plan (IPP) for students with a learning disability.

Lesson checklist

  • Write or review your course learning outcomes

  • Complete the Course Design Checklist

More lessons

Gamification

Lesson 4: Designing online learning activities and assessments

Communication

Lesson 5: Communicating with students

Structuring course content

Lesson 6: Structuring course content