Module Objectives allow students to build their understanding and mastery, in a scaffolded manner, towards the broader-level Course Objectives. Course Objectives sit at the higher course level, while Module Objectives are housed within the modules of the course. Because of this scaffolded structure, it is critical that Module Objectives are directly aligned to Course Objectives to ensure that materials provided to, and activities completed by, students in support of those Module Objectives will ultimately demonstrate mastery of Course Objectives. Course development efforts begin with Course Objectives. Using those as your starting point, break those broader objectives down into smaller ones – your Module Objectives. The learning content, activities, and assessments that are added to directly support the smaller Module Objectives are then assured of being aligned to the overarching Course Objectives. By going through this alignment process, you are ensuring that assessments measuring mastery of module material will also, in fact, be measuring mastery of Course Objectives.
Alignment is the relationship between multiple course components from the Module Objectives and Course Objectives down to the assessments, activities, and content. To most easily illustrate the relationship among modules, you will align each component to Module Objectives and ultimately Course Objectives. Key to this is that Module Objectives (MO) can only align to ONE Course Objective (CO). If there is a case that a Module Objective aligns to multiple Course Objectives, it is best to modify and refine the Module Objectives, so they align cleaning with one Course Objective. Let’s look at an example to illustrate this one-to-one alignment:
- CO1: Analyze the social and cultural impact of the Great Depression.
- CO2: Evaluate the legacy of the New Deal.
Module 4 Module Objectives:
- MO1: Explain how the Great Depression impacted family structures. (CO1)
- MO2: Describe how jobs led to migrations. (CO?)
- MO3: Identify legislation included in the New Deal. (CO2)
- MO4: Analyze how the New Deal changed the role of the government. (CO2)
In the example above, MO1 demonstrates a clear alignment to CO1; MO3 and MO4 clearly align to CO2. However, MO2 could potentially align to either CO 1 or 2, or perhaps neither, depending on the learning activities and assessments. In this case, the ambiguity indicates a need to make MO2 more specific so there is a clear alignment to just one Course Objective. As an added benefit to solidifying the module learning objective, this refinement helps provide a crystal-clear indication of what is truly being assessed. With this process, it is important to note that while you cannot align a Module Objective to more than one Course Objective, you can align one Course Objective to more than one Module Objective.
In revising the Module Objective, ask yourself:
- What is the goal of this module objective?
- Are students to be able to describe how unemployment and the Dust Bowl led to the Great Migration west and unemployment led to a migration from cities to rural areas?
- Or, are students to be able to describe how new job opportunities from the New Deal led to migrations and increased immigration?
By revising the objective to “Describe how unemployment and the Dust Bowl led to mass migrations,” we can clearly see the purpose of the objective and its alignment now to CO1. Perhaps, there is a need for a second objective as well, “Explain how the job opportunities presented from the New Deal impacted migration and immigration.” As an added benefit to these refinements, you can more easily and clearly develop assessments to accurately measure achievement of these tighter objectives.
Creating a one-to-one alignment between Module Objectives and a singular Course Objective will help you to adhere to best practices when mapping and designing your course.
- Specific Module Objectives can help create a detailed outline for the course to help ensure that you are teaching and assessing what you intend.
- Specific Module Objectives dictate the learning content, helping you to eliminate superfluous content.
- Specific Module Objectives directly drive what learning activities and assessments are needed and help to create space for more practice opportunities within an online course so that each module objective is addressed.
- For example, “Locate the organs of the digestive system on the human body” could be a practice quiz with a diagram to help students assess their understanding after consuming learning content while “Explain how nutrients are processed through the digestive system” will require a more comprehensive assessment such as a short presentation.
- Alignment to only one Course Objective will allow you to determine how often each is discussed and assessed. This can help determine if all the course objectives carry equal weight or if you need to rebalance the content and assessments within the course or across a program.
Be specific. Specificity in objectives is key to clean course alignment.
If you find that a Module Objective aligns to multiple Course Objectives, consider revising the objective to be more specific. Module Objectives should be very specific to not only the content but also to the skill that you are building. For example, “List the organs of the digestive system” is the first step as students’ progress towards “Explain how nutrients are processed through the digestive system.”
If you can revise Course Objectives, consider making these more specific as well. Often course objectives are so broad that they create significant overlap across an entire course. As an example, consider the objective “Use research skills.” This objective is so broad that in a research-based course almost anything could, in theory, align to the objective. If the objective is revised and broken into relevant segments such as “Write a research paper using appropriate and reliable sources” and “Use APA citations for sources within a research paper,” you can see how Module Objectives would sort into these two very different categories.
Start with the Course Objectives. Start with a Course Objective and break this one objective into specific topics and areas you need to cover for students. Then, organize the order and flow of these topics across your course. Finally, for each topic or group of topics, consider what the student needs to do to show appropriate mastery. Follow this process to develop your Module Objectives. By breaking down one Course Objective into smaller components, each Module Objective you have listed should align back to a singular Course Objective.
Select the best match. Sometimes a Module Objective can truly align to two or more course objectives, especially with specialized content. For example, “Describe symptoms of diseases that are related to the digestive system” could align to two course objectives:
- Analyze the impact of the digestive system on overall health of the human body.
- Evaluate diseases that impact the digestive system.
For the sake of a streamlined one-to-one alignment, one Course Objective needs to be selected. In this case, consider what your goal is for the Module Objective. Do you want students to be able to relate the diseases and the symptoms to overall health or should students be able to relate these diseases and symptoms to the impact they have on the digestive system? Perhaps they need to do both, but you are addressing these in different modules, so they can become distinct and specific module objectives. For example, “Describe symptoms of diseases that are related to the digestive system and how they impact the overall health.”