The first step in creating an online or hybrid class (see Online Teaching Terminology) at UCLA is to identify the goals and learning objectives of the course. Learning outcomes specify in measurable terms the knowledge, skills, or attitudes which students should acquire through the learning experience. In online environments, clear learning objectives are especially important in guiding student engagement and activity. In addition, learning outcomes structure how you develop course activities, assignments, and criteria for assessment. In online or hybrid course design, it is important to take into account external factors such as student demography, the context of the course and infrastructure or support structure. Consider the following questions:

What is the purpose of the course?
What role does this course play in university of major requirements?
Does this course serve as a prerequisite for subsequent courses?
Does your course have prerequisites?
Does your course have a lab, and do you teach it?
How is the course unique or similar to other courses?

Who are your students, and what do they need?
Are your students majors (or potential majors), non-majors, or both?
In what way might your students use content or skills from this course in the future?
What is the demography of the students in your course in terms of age, race, gender and ethnicity?
What percentage of students in your course have high-speed internet access or personal computers outside campus computing centers?

What is the support structure of the course?
Will your course have graders, TAs, or other assistants?
Are you the default technology troubleshooter for the course, or do students have technical support staff for computer problems related to the course?

What are the key concepts that structure your vision for the course?
Do the students need to understand other concepts or the context in which the problem/issue exists?

What cognitive skills or abilities should students master to achieve course goals (what should they gain from the course)?
What kind of thinking or application abilities do you want students to develop?
What content and information is needed to facilitate learning these skills?
What sequence of content and activities is needed?
What types of learning are involved in developing these skills?

When creating learning outcomes, choose verbs which refer to observable and measurable goals. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (published originally in 1956 and updated in 2001) provides examples of useful verbs which describe concrete and specific learning outcomes:

  • Knowledge/Remembering: define, list, recognize
  • Comprehension/Understanding: characterize, describe, explain, identify, locate, recognize, sort
  • Application/Applying: choose, demonstrate, implement, perform
  • Analysis/Analyzing: analyze, categorize, compare, differentiate
  • Evaluation/Evaluating: assess, critique, evaluate, rank, rate
  • Synthesis/Creating: construct, design, formulate, organize, synthesize

Expected learning outcomes are usually articulated in between three and ten formal statements. Set goals that are concrete and measurable, and provide clear guidance for course design. For more information, see, among many online resources, the samples collected by Carnegie Mellon.

After developing course goals, consider other ancillary skills that facilitate larger content- and skill-based goals in the online environment. Examples of ancillary skills include: peer teaching and/or evaluation, composition, 3-D visualization, collaborative or group work, ability to assess and contribute to knowledge/argument in digital writing or artifacts, and online portfolio development.

What ancillary or technological skills are required for students to achieve course goals?
What technologies are available and best suited to present the content to facilitate learning?

After considering the context of the course and choosing learning and ancillary skills objectives, you can begin to develop specific content and assignments. Rather than attempting to "cover everything," choose content topics which support the overarching learning goals of the course. You may want to organize topics to build increasingly-complex skills, ideas, and applications throughout the quarter. Consider also visiting the Teaching Goals Inventory for suggestions.