Instructional Design

SMART Rethinking: Creating Learning Objectives That Motivate

Anyone who’s had a heart-to-heart with their high school guidance counselor knows the SMART formula for making goals: They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely for the best results. But while the SMART formula might help you commit to lose weight or finally write your science fiction novel, it might be a little oversimplified for the eLearning process.

When working with learners, you need to tap into motivation using a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. Unless learners perceive the benefits, they might not fully engage, no matter how SMART the goal. Rethink the way you approach custom eLearning objectives to really get your learners to sit up and take notice.

Managing Expectations

There are two sets of expectations to be respectful of when executing eLearning course development: First, the expectations of the administrator and second, the expectations of the learners themselves. The administrator, designer or manager (or anyone who is the catalyst for the course) has specific goals in mind for the module, whether it’s improved proficiency, a new skill or information-based. By understanding the administrator’s expectations from day one, you’ll be able to build a course around those objectives.

Of course, the administrator or manager isn’t the only one with expectations. Learners come into an eLearning experience with perceptions and ideas. By funneling those expectations into learning objectives, your learners see the benefit for themselves in completing the course.

Take a learner who feels like he doesn’t have the time to go through additional training, for example. Structuring the course objectives around becoming more efficient will appeal to his existing attitude. As always, learners are most often motivated by how the experience will affect them as individuals, so structuring objectives around the benefits frames eLearning in the most positive and engaging light.

Immediate Measures

Let’s face it: Learners aren’t always the most patient bunch. In a perfect world, you’d be able to use the SMART model to come up with a specific timeline for course objectives. But in the real world, learners are looking for the immediate benefits of their learning experience. By creating course objectives with immediacy in mind, your learners are ready to dive in and see the effects.

Don’t forget that with those immediate effects, you’ll also need to include a way to measure or demonstrate those benefits. If you promise that – upon completion of the course – the learner will be more knowledgeable about a product or more likely to close a sale, you’ll need to test that via quiz, simulation or some other measure. This proves to your learner that your course objective isn’t just lip service to get them to participate, but a tangible way to improve.

Of course, SMART can always be a helpful abbreviation to help you define goals and plan learning objectives, you might need a more targeted approach to really motivate your learners on an individual level. Perhaps it’s less about thinking SMART and more about knowing what your learner really wants.