Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue
decorative image

Student Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements that describe what students should be able to demonstrate, know (knowledge), think (attitudes, values), and/or do (skill) by the end of the program/course. The recommendation is to use four or five learning outcomes per course.

Why are SLOs important?

Learning outcomes are the most important feature of your course outline. In fact, they are the essence of your course because they:

  • Define the type and depth of learning students are expected to achieve.
  • Provide an objective benchmark for formative, summative, and prior learning assessment.
  • Clearly communicate expectations to learners.
  • Define coherent units of learning that can be further subdivided or modularized for classroom or for other delivery modes.
  • Guide and organize the instructor and the learner.

A SLO drives the instructor’s decision in regards to what activities and practices should be used to facilitate learning. Student learning outcomes also inform choices in the assessments that will be used to check for understanding and determine mastery or competency. Further, students find SLOs useful because they are clear guides to get them through the course. Student learning outcomes clearly explain your intentions for their learning.

Learning goals are overarching statements that guide your decision-making about what a student should know, understand, care about, and/or be able to do as a result of being in your course. On the other hand, learning outcomes are learner-centered, active statements that tell a student what knowledge, concepts, and/or skills they should be able to display, understand, or demonstrate after completing your course. The following table compares the two concepts:

Goals Outcomes
Broad Specific
Generally difficult to measure Measurable
Intangible Attainable
General intentions Realistic
Abstract Time-limited

Download our takeaway handout, “The Process of Developing SLOs” for more tips.