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Objectives v. Outcomes

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Student learning outcomes build upon, but are different from, course objectives because they represent a new perspective.



Objectives represent valuable skills, tools, or content (nuts and bolts) that enable a student to be successful in a course.

SLOs represent overarching products of the course.

Objectives focus on the more specific content and skills important within the course or program. They are contained in the Course Outline of Record (COR).

Outcomes express higher level thinking skills that integrate the content and activities of courses, programs, degrees and certificates.

Objectives can often be numerous, specific, and detailed, and they may include the building blocks as well as higher level thinking expected in a course.

An assessable outcome can be displayed or observed and evaluated against criteria.

Sierra College has carefully distinguished between the use and location of student learning outcomes and learning objectives. This information is contained in the Institutional Assessment Plan: “Objectives are contained in the Course Outline of Record and stored in an electronic course management system, WebCMS. Individual instructors regularly assess learning objectives and continually make changes to improve student learning as a result of assessment. Student learning outcomes are defined at the program level and linked to courses, degrees, and certificates. Authentic assessments are developed by faculty and implemented in courses to provide information used for the improvement of student learning and the support of institution-wide practices.”

Examples from Sierra College

Student Services - CalWORKs

Student Learning Outcome: Increase awareness of on-campus support programs/services as well as community agencies readily available for further resources and assistance.

Institutional Outcome: Accept personal responsibility by recognizing oneself as the principal cause for opportunities and experiences. Effectively develop, apply and manage a healthy physical lifestyle and emotional well-being. Self-motivate through planning and acting to accomplish goals. Recognize the value of life-long learning.


Course Objective: Construct a full-length essay with appropriate attention to audience.

Student Learning Outcome: Write an appropriately structured academic work.

Institutional Outcome: Communicate thoughts, ideas, and information effectively in writing in a variety of modes and for a variety of purposes.


Course Objective: Evaluate the relationships among the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and duodenum.

Student Learning Outcome: Demonstrate knowledge of biological organization and integration.

Institutional Outcome: Identify and understand questions or problems across disciplines and in practical applications. Develop hypotheses.

Fire Technology

Course Objective: Differentiate between water supply requirements, distribution systems, and testing for public and private fire protection.

Student Learning Outcome: Students will analyze and apply measures to resolve problems in areas of suppression, prevention, and EMS.

Institutional Outcome: Use sound reasoning to specify solutions and consequences. Test hypotheses using methods appropriate to the problem (such as the scientific method, mathematical reasoning, and principles of logic).

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