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Course Reviewer’s Corner

By Michael F. Tamara, Assoc. AIA

Manager, Continuing Education Programs

Why Does a Submission Need Both a Course Description and Learning Objectives?

It often seems to be the case that credit designation and learning objectives are stressed as the most important parts of a course submission. This is rightfully so, because these are the two pieces by which a member’s continuing education credit is determined and measured.

Although the learning objectives are the most detailed pieces of information, they should not overshadow the need for an equally well written course description. Some Providers find these two things redundant.

It helps to look at the description as an overall snapshot or summary of the course. Ask yourself what the course is about at its most fundamental level. What are the key ideas? The description does not need to be overly wordy, but there does need to be enough there so the person reading it would gain a good sense of the purpose of the course. It should always say more than what we already know from looking at the course title.

The learning objectives then follow by breaking down the knowledge you intend for attendees to take away from the course, and how you plan to measure that the knowledge has been successfully transmitted. As such, the learning objectives are not mere repetition of the description, or individual descriptions in and of themselves, but actual, assessable metrics.

Essentially, what you’re saying is “this is the idea of my course”—the description—and then “these are the goals by which people will learn about that idea”—the learning objectives. Both are very important to a complete submission.

In architectural terms, the description is the foundation, and the learning objectives are the structure built on top of it. Just as a good house needs a solid foundation, good learning objectives should also flow from a good, solid course description.


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