eLearning has the potential to move us into distance education, in this mode (more than ever) our students need to be told where they are going and how to get there. We need to formulate our goals as a means of communicating to the learner.

Topic aims

Topic aims are a broad statement of what you want to achieve in your topic. This can be quite general and should give students an indication of the scope of your topic, why it is important and its relationship to the course or discipline.

For example, Business computing

Business computer systems are the key to the effective functioning of today's business activities. This topic introduces students to the complexities that underlie important business information systems, the systems development process and modern electronic communications. In addition, students will be introduced to a range of internet tools and computer applications software including relational database, spreadsheet and presentation software. All business students will undertake this fundamental topic in their first semester as a basis for subsequent studies in IT.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are used to provide a picture of what learners should be able to do when they have completed a topic.

In most learning, students acquire new knowledge, skills and attitudes.


  • Which new terms, definitions, procedures do your learners need to remember?
  • In what new ways are your learners expected to explain, interpret or predict their world?

Suitable verbs: explain, summarise, contrast, interpret, recognise, identify, define, describe, give examples, illustrate, paraphrase, recall, reflect.


  • What do you expect students to be able to do with this new knowledge?

suitable verbs: solve, use, operate, develop, compute, classify, design, assess, apply, communicate.


  • in what ways do you expect to see a shift in your learners' beliefs, values or concerns

Suitable verbs: challenge, join, offer, question, support, decide, argue, criticise, defend.

You cannot look into a learner's mind to measure what they know. You can only get an estimate by observing what they say or do.Thus learning outcomes should be a specific statement of the observable behaviours that demonstrate understanding.

The following learning outcome is not helpful:

    The student will be able to understand information systems

It would be more useful in this form:

    The student will be able to distinguish between three different types of information systems: Management Information Systems, Expert Systems and Transaction Processing Systems.

Avoid verbs that are open to many interpretations, for example,

to know
to understand
to fully appreciate
t o believe
to grasp the significance of

Include verbs that describe behaviours that can be observed, for example,

to explain in their own words
to intervene
to solve
to construct
to recognise
to describe

Learning outcomes should not restrict your teaching. They set a minimum for what you can do. Once you know where you are going, you can be as creative as you like in getting there.