Objectives are at the core of Instructional Design. They are the grass roots in the solid ground, the granular reality upon which the course is built. Objectives answer the question: What do I want my students to be able to know or do when they're done with my course? Accordingly, the verbs. Action verbs. A wonderful place to find action education verbs is in Bloom's taxonomy (organizational structure) of higher-order thinking, where we start with the simplest level, Remembering, and continue through Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, and Evaluating and end up with the most complex level of higher-order thinking, Creating. A beautiful pictograph of Bloom's courtesy of Mia MacMeekin resides on the boardwalk, right down here. (Click on down arrow.)
Instructional Design is creating a course from scratch, right from the ground up, while online instructional design means creating a course from scratch, and then incorporating it into the Course Management System (CMS); putting it on the Internet, essentially, so students can take your online course. In my class on Instructional Design, I have been learning to create objectives, the foundational building blocks of any class or lesson. Click here to see the beginnings of my objectives for Emotional Healing Within a Safe Online Community (form 6, Smith, 2008).
Since objectives answer the question: What do I want my students to be able to do - or know? - they really are predicting the future. So then the instructional designer works backwards in time to answer that question in the present. Since the objectives need to be very grounded in reality in order to build the course upon them, all the following steps will then be built on a firm foundation. If you like detail and design and education, you may come to love Instructional Design!
There are set ways to create objectives. The first is to come up with the verb, which has to be a measurable -- or assessable -- action. So "read" or "understand" or "learn" don't work because later, during assessment time, those verbs are not measurable by an outside entity -- say a test or a teacher or some other assessment measurer. The student may know s/he understands whatever the content is, but translating that awareness to the assessor is the magic trick of assessment.
Two broadly effective and successful ways to create objectives are the ABCD and ADDIE methods (Corrigan, 2013, Eboni, 2009, Heinich, 2000). My favorite, by far, for its simplicity, is ABCD; A for Audience (student), B for Behavior (action verb), C for Condition (under which action is performed), and D for Degree (to what Degree?). With Susan's help, I was able to pare down the objectives into component action verbs. I think it was this process that was so very painful: splitting the verb hairs so that all the action was named -- dissected, really!