Learning outcomes are one of the most underestimated and overlooked elements of creating and selling an online course; and with the course creation training sector being dominated by marketers over qualified educators, many course creators are missing this absolutely CRITICAL step of their program development – which can negatively impact your learning experience and your sales.
Skipping the necessary course creation step of learning outcome development is like driving a car without a steering wheel, that was built without instructions – and then trying to sell it.
My name is Sarah Cordiner, I am a postgraduate qualified educator, teacher trainer, and course creation expert.
In this article, we’ll go through the process of creating learning outcomes for your course so that you design an outstanding program, magnetize your perfect students, and compel them to buy your course.
Learning Outcomes Are Critical Because:
- They clearly state to your prospect exactly what your course will teach them and what skills they will gain from it – making it easy for them to understand your offer
- They clearly and explicitly explain the benefits, outcomes, results, and rewards that the learner will get as a result of taking the course – and as such help sell your course for you
- They also filter out people who are not the right fit for your course and reduce refund requests, as clearly stated outcomes remove the vagueness that causes people to make incorrect assumptions about what they will get from your course
- They help you keep completely focussed and on track when creating your course content – as you ONLY have to create content that directly aligns to a learning outcome. Any content that doesn’t directly take students to achieve a learning outcome must be kept out or saved for another course, and thus saves you from ‘course creation overwhelm’.
- If you are creating courses for formal tenders, businesses, corporates or Government clients, you will not win contracts without having proper learning outcomes or a curriculum plan – it is an expected professional standard and will ensure that you meet that standard.
Surely you want to create an engaging course that inspires, transforms, and captivates your learners – your learning outcomes help you do that.
Leave Them Better Than You Found Them
When you start creating a course and commence your learning outcome creation, the first step is to ask yourself “How will my course make my learners and their lives better?”.
Your primary goal as an educator is to leave people better than you found them.
If you were to ‘leave them better than you found them’, what would that look like?
As educators, our effectiveness is not measured by how much money we make (although that is very important), but instead by how much better people are after they’ve engaged with us.
How will you do this?
Will your students leave you:
- More confident
- More skilled
- More independent
- With new perspectives
- Inspired and motivated
- What else?
Now we are going to build this out further into learning outcomes to really help you illustrate the benefits, outcomes, transformations, and rewards that your students will get if they take your course.
The Difference Between Course Aims, Objectives, and Outcomes:
You may have heard about course aims, objectives, and outcomes, but until you become a course creator, might not have thought much about what they are.
They help you form the skeleton of your entire course creation process.
Here is the difference between them:
What are course ‘aims’?
Course ‘aims’ are more ‘instructor-centered’; as in, they state what YOU as the course facilitator intend to accomplish for your learners as a result of your program.
- What you hope your course will do for your students, your overall intention of the course.
- What and where you aspire your students to be by the end
- What you want them to ultimately have learned/done/achieved by the end of your program
- It is broad and a higher-level overview of the general content and direction of the learning experience
- It is ambitious, but not beyond possibility.
What are course ‘objectives’?
Objectives are still more instructor or training organization-centered and serve to help you define how you will take your learners from where they are now, to where they will be at the end of your course.
Your objectives will guide YOU in the development of your program.
- The specific steps you as the instructor will take to achieve your aim
- Define HOW the learning outcomes you set will be attained and how the ‘success’ of your course will be measured.
What are course ‘outcomes’?
These may feel very similar to the objectives of your course, however must be STUDENT-centered.
The intended learning outcomes should be placed on your course sales page to show the learners what they will get from your training – outcomes are all about THEM.
Imagine that you are talking to your prospective students face to face and you say “By the end of this course you will be able to… ”, and you’ll be on your way to crafting a learning outcome.
- They describe with clear, measurable verbs – precisely what the learner will be able to do by the end of the course, what they will know by the end of the course, and how they will feel/behave by the end of the course
- They are all about what the students skills, knowledge, and emotional results will be by the end of your course in explicit detail
Decide What You Are Trying To Teach
Now, decide for each ‘learning outcome’ what you are trying to achieve for your learners.
Eg, are you trying to:
- Get them to ‘understand’ something (knowledge / comprehension)
- Get them to be able to ‘do’ something (apply / demonstrate / implement)
- Get them to be aware of or familiar with something (awareness)
- Get them to review, analyze or critique something
- Get them to feel something or no longer feel a certain way
- Get them to have a perspective, attitudinal or behavioral adjustment
When you know what you are actually trying to achieve for them, you are much better placed to provide exactly the right teaching content, but also explain to them what they are going to do and get from your course via a concise learning outcome.
TAKE ACTION: Start Crafting Your Learning Outcomes
Let’s begin drafting your learning outcomes.
We are going to do this in stages as there is a very specific WAY to write them, which we will go into next.
But for now, complete the questions below in bullet point form:
- What will they (your students) be able to DO by the end of your course?
This is about their practical SKILLS.
Things they will physically be able to demonstrate.
By the end of this program, you will be able to…
- What will they KNOW by the end of your course?
This is about their KNOWLEDGE.
What concepts will they have grasped comprehension of?
By the end of this program, you will be able to…
- How will they FEEL by the end of your course?
This is about their emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. What will they feel more or less of? What emotions will they have more or less of? What fears or pleasures will they have less or more of?
By the end of this program, you will feel/not feel…
For this next step, you might like to download this FREE Learning Outcomes Cheat Sheet to help you.
The most important thing to know about creating excellent learning outcomes is that they MUST be explicitly measurable.
This means that they must state how many, how much, how long, etc to achieve what you promise.
You should also use a VERB in every learning outcome (an action/doing word) as this clearly says WHAT they will do and makes your outcomes much more specific.
Below are some learning outcome examples where the verb is highlighted in red to help you with this.
The free Learning Outcomes Cheat Sheet includes a huge list of suggested verbs for different types of learning activities to make this process much easier for you.
What NOT To Do
When creating your learning outcomes, do NOT use vague and indefinite words like ‘understand’ and ‘learn’ in your learning outcomes – they could be interpreted in endless ways and cannot be measured.
From this moment on, the words ‘understand’ and ‘learn’ are banned from your learning outcomes statements.
They CAN however be used in your course aims and objectives, as these are broader statements about the overall intentions of your course.
Below are some examples of learning outcomes from some of my own courses so that you can get an idea of what a good learning outcome looks like. Note that they all follow a pattern, as there is a FORMULA for creating magnetic learning outcomes.
The Learning Outcome Creation Formula
Here is my formula for creating amazing learning outcomes. Use this structure when creating your own:
VERB + What they will do (with a measurement where possible) + how they will do it.
Read the examples below and tweak yours again to meet the same structure.
Examples of Good Learning Outcomes:
- Assemble your list of at least 3 income-generating products and services
- Formulate your 3 profitable ‘packages’ and offerings for your wider online course business using Sarah’s profitable education business model
- Determine whether you are an Entrepreneur or an Edupreneur
- Establish and set the price of your online course, including payment plans for your students based on Sarah’s course pricing guide
- Recognize the 5 main warnings of a lucrative and global business model
- Construct your ‘Funnel of Service’ using Sarah’s ‘Online Course Marketing Blueprint’
- Craft your Edupreneur Strategic Plan for the next 12 months using Sarah’s ‘BHAG Plan’ template
- Uncover the one perfect course idea inside of you to start teaching now using Sarah’s ‘perfect course topic’ method
- Implement strategies for finding the best topic for you and your unique combination of expertise using Sarah’s topic selection process
- Uncover the top course topic that is most aligned to your deepest passion and has the best potential for profit
- Establish the exact audience for your course and list the top10 differences in what they want vs what they need so that you can craft a killer sales page that converts like crazy
- Find, research, and review your top 10 competitors so that you can determine how your course will be better and different from what is currently on offer in your market
- Conduct the essential 5 pre-course testing activities necessary to determine whether your course has market demand and the potential to sell
- Gather real data on what your audience think about your course idea and what content it should include using Sarah’s market testing strategy
- Formulate a clear course plan outline for transforming your learner’s lives
- Create your course aims, objectives, and outcomes using Sarah’s learning outcome creation formula
- Master the art of correct learning outcome creation and formulate your formal course outcomes for your landing page using Sarah’s ‘Online Course Landing Page Template’
You will notice that all of these learning outcomes start with a VERB, as this clearly denotes what the learner will do.
They then follow with what the learner will do, to what level, and how they will do it.
Note that I did not use the word ‘understand’ or ‘learn’.
You can use the Learning Outcomes Cheat Sheet OR a thesaurus to come up with other words that you can use instead.
My learning outcomes above state how and what the outcome of the course will be for my student in a way that could be measured and assessed at the end.
It will be very easy to assess whether or not my course did or did not deliver what the learning outcomes promised it would by the way that they are worded.
Where possible, ensure that you add in numbers to denote how long, how much, how many – to further specify what your students will get from your course.
For example, instead of just saying: “By the end of this course, you will be able to demonstrate the steps for making a coffee.”
You should say: “By the end of this course, you will be able to demonstrate the 6 steps for making a coffee.”
This makes your learning outcomes even more meaningful, measurable, and explicit.
The learner knows exactly what they are going to get without any confusion or misinterpretation of what your course is going to do for them.
Here are some more examples of verbs that you can use:
|Do / Skill
You are now well on your way towards crafting a great course! For more information on the steps of creating and selling an online course, check out my article here: The 10 Steps to Creating a Wildly Successful Online Course.
Have any questions? Reach out!