Performance goals are one of the most valuable tools in the learning & development toolkit. These easily observable indicators of success help learners and educators alike set expectations for the skills and abilities that will be possessed upon completion, and provide context that increases learner motivation.
But what sets the performance goal apart from its cousin, the learning goal? And what should you consider when incorporating either of them into your business eLearning content? Keep reading to learn more about using performance goals in eLearning, and why you should bring them to your L&D strategy.
Performance Goals vs. Learning Goals: What’s the Difference?
While there are plenty of debates in the eLearning world about the differences between performance goals and learning goals (and which works best), the reality of the matter is that both goal types serve different purposes.
Learning goals are typically about increasing skill and competence driven by the desire to acquire knowledge. They give learners objectives for building mastery over a skill or concept, and help to encourage a more in-depth, 360°-view of a subject or topic. Learning goals are often used to help learners level-up their experience, abilities, and productivity.
Performance goals, on the other hand, spend less time on theory and context and more time asking learners to quantifiably demonstrate an understanding of a particular task or function. Performance goals possess some sort of observable criteria that can be assessed and improved upon by continued practice and skill-building, and are a great way to help learners achieve short-term goals and iterate on their existing knowledge base.
Why create performance goals in eLearning?
One of the biggest benefits of creating performance goals for eLearning is the added sense of accountability they instill in the learning process. Performance goals clearly define what skills or abilities a learner will require to possess to be successful, and they level-set the expectations of everyone involved.
Even better, performance goals offer learners a window into their own skill level and help them to identify any potential weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. When presented properly, they can be used as a vehicle for positive self-discovery and increased ownership over learning.
Thanks to their short-term timeline, these goals are a great way to see a measurable change happen within a team or organization in a short period of time. Some of the other benefits of using performance goals in eLearning include:
- Clearer focus
- More effective use of employee time
- Measurable results
- Increased communication
- Employee well-being
5 Best Practices for Creating Performance Goals in eLearning
1. Know Your Audience
Before you roll up your sleeves and start setting goals, take a step back and try to find out as much as you can about your learner audience. What are they hoping to achieve through this learning exercise, and what is their skill level going in? Where would they like their skills to be upon completion, and what are the organization’s expectations and definitions of success?
Take some time to figure out what it is that your employees needs to learn, and why they need to learn it. This will help you create a clear picture of what procedures and functions you need to focus on and prioritize them throughout the content creation process.
2. Clearly Define Your Goals
A clearly defined performance goal helps learners transfer the content that they’re getting through eLearning into their own real-world examples and scenarios. They help to situate and contextualize the content and provide learners with the opportunities to practice the new skills they’re building in real-time.
Be clear about what it is that you want your learners to achieve, and how it is that they will achieve it. When learners have a clearly defined starting point, they can begin to measure their progress.
3. Make it Actionable
Pay particular attention to the language you use when creating your performance goals. Since you want your learner to demonstrate a skill or ability in order to measure success, using action-oriented language and starting your goal with a verb can help to describe the activity and place context around the goal itself.
Starting your performance goal with the right action verb can be the difference between improved results and learners that are stuck spinning their wheels. ‘Prepare’, ‘provide’, and ‘perform’ are all great examples of words that can be used to inspire action within the learner.
4. Introduce them Early
Performance goals should be included in any introductory content associated with your learning material. Whether they’re in the syllabus or the intro slides, make sure that learners have a clear understanding of the purpose and desired outcomes for learning.
Introduce your learning goals early to give your learners the opportunity to frame their understanding of the rest of the course content, and identify how it relates back to their intended outcomes.
5. Don’t Forget to Measure
When clearly defined, performance goals offer observable and assessable outcomes that demonstrate an understanding of newly acquired skills. Performance goals are a must-have for any organization that is defining their digital infrastructure and moving closer and closer toward data-driven decision making.
Check in on your learners often through formative assessments and in-class discussions, and use your performance goals as a barometer to help you identify any gaps or potential miscommunication. The more you measure, the more you, your learners, and your learning outcomes will improve.