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Align Course and Module Objectives: Prepping a Course to Collect Analytics

Submitted by on July 8, 2013 – 11:22 am2 Comments

hand aligning wood blocksThis post is part of an on-going series that discusses how to gather learning analytics through course alignment. In the first post of this series, we discuss how course alignment provides the most basic method for measuring learning and retention, and how strong alignment begins with measurable course-level objectives. Once you establish course objectives and an overall picture of how your course will flow throughout the semester, focus on creating module-level objectives. Module objectives help students focus on specific aspects of the overall subject and act as building blocks for students to achieve the course-level objectives. After you align course and module objectives, you can start gathering student analytics, which we’ll address in the remaining posts of this series. When creating module objectives, ensure their effectiveness by incorporating the following characteristics:

Module-level objectives should be measurable and written in student-centered language.

Just as with course-level objectives, your module-level objectives need to specify how students will demonstrate that they achieved the objective. Typically, this involves an action verb within the language of the objective. (See Bloom’s Taxonomy-Action Verbs Requiring Cognitive Outcomes for action verb examples.) Example: “By the end of this module, you will be able to discuss various elements of the plot for the first 200 pages of Madame Bovary.” The example above also uses student-centered language, which means the objective contains language that allows students to quickly understand what they will be expected to do.

Module-level objectives should support a measured incline of student achievement.

Course objectives identify what students should be able to do by the end of the course. Use your module objectives to provide a scaffold for students to incrementally reach that point. Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you design this scaffolding:

Bloom's Taxonomy

Your course-level objectives should be toward the higher order thinking skills; use module-level objectives to build up to them. For example, if you have a course objective at the “creating” level, you could provide scaffolding by using

  • a remembering objective in Module 1
  • an understanding and applying objectives in Module 2
  • an analyzing objective in Module 3
  • an evaluating objective in Module 4

You don’t have to scaffold at every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, but you should provide the lower order thinking skills objectives throughout the course in a way that supports students as they gain the knowledge needed to achieve the higher order thinking, course objectives.

Module-level objectives should be measured within the module and supported by module materials.

Be sure that what you state as a module-level objective actually happens within that module and that you provide students with the materials and resources they need as support. For example:

Module objective: By the end of this module, you should be able to discuss various elements of the plot for the first 200 pages if Madame Bovary.
Readings and materials:
  • The first 200 pages of Madame Bovary
  • Handout on the different elements of plot in novels
Learning activity:
  • Self-check identification exercise for different elements of plot
Discussion (assessment):
  • Discussion posts asking students to identify two specific plot elements from the first 200 pages of the novel

Be wary of using objectives provided by the textbook.

Keep in mind that textbook objectives align with materials provided by the textbook manufacturer (test banks, class lectures and assignments, long and short essay assignments). Unless your course uses all these materials, create your own module  objectives. Otherwise, objectives may be irrelevant to your course. Stick around for the next post in this series where we’ll discuss how to start pulling analytics from your course alignment.

Your Turn!

What challenges do you face when creating objectives for your course? Do you have any tips for creating strong alignment that you can share? We would love for you to share your comments! [social-bio]


  • Susan Farber says:

    As an instructional designer and experienced educator (grades 4-6, intervention specialist and face2face & online higher education), I often find it useful to create a chart to track how specific elements of effective course design align with each other. This implies that I create columns for the course objectives, module objectives, instructional resources, instructional activities & strategies, and assessments to ascertain that what is placed within an online course flows together and supports student success and my capacity to reach out to students and do my job.
    This also assures that there are no gaps.
    It’s useful to become well-versed in Bloom’s Taxonomy and the various verbs to denote student learning.

  • Heidi Ash says:

    Susan, I completely agree! In fact, in my next post I will be bringing up some ideas for charting and keeping track of how everything works together in your course. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us!