Rethinking Learning Objectives: Engaging Gen Z Learners With Context, Content, And Assessment

Gen Z Learners: Engagement Through Learning Objectives
Summary: Gen Zs are totally reshaping the way we do training, courses and lessons. Your objectives are a function of their needs and expectations, so keep reading to discover why and how you should rethink them.

How To Create Learning Objectives That Engage Gen Z Learners

Each course is a learning journey driven by learning objectives. For every learning objective, there should be corresponding learning activities and assessments that help you and the learner measure how far and well you have gone on a learning journey. These objectives should be developed based on the learners' needs and preferences, not based on what you want to do. Many Instructional Design models place research, needs analysis, and determining learning objectives at the foundation of designing instruction.

So, you should create courses based on research and needs analysis of your target audience, not based on what's trending or what you are good at. If you have to create a course based on what you are good at, then find a connection between what you are good at and what your target learners need, prefer, and expect. Doing this not only improves learning outcomes but also fosters continuous learning in the real world, increases course completion rate, and increases course sales.

Understanding The Learning Journey Of Gen Z

Let us take an ESL lesson as a scenario: How can you explain a noun to a Gen Z adult learner as "a naming expression that forms the basic part of a sentence structure and is identified by its function as a subject, object or complement in a sentence,"? A Gen Z learner wants to see how knowing a noun relates to their lifestyle, interests, and fun activities so a more Gen Z-friendly explanation could be that "a noun is like the social media handle that names the object, subject, and complement of your sentences." They are all on social media and are already engaging with what you are about to teach them on social media, either as a consumer or a creator. A great idea to keep them on your course without sacrificing meaning and intelligence is to establish relationships and connections to their lifestyle.

Beyond fun, learning to Gen Zs means relationship and connection. So, while gamification, interactivity, and social learning are great features of a course, they could get boring and stressful if they do not incorporate relationships and connections starting from the learning objectives. Furthermore, it is not enough to only include a "real-life application" or " real-world case scenario" section as part of the outline of your course. A stronger connection to the real world can be built when you design your tone, subtitles, illustrations, content of the learning games and interactive elements, etc. to reflect what Gen Zs are interested in the real world outside the course or the classroom.

Incorporating Context Into Your Learning Objectives

Example One

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Define nouns using your preferred analogy.
  • Identify nouns in different parts of simple sentences from a blog post.
  • Differentiate between the functions of a noun using different sentences.
  • Write a short caption about your preferred topic using nouns in different positions.

Example Two

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Understand what a noun is.
  • Explore different functions of nouns.
  • Know how to use nouns in sentences.

From these two sets of objectives, which one do you think incorporates context best? Here are a few issues with the second set of learning objectives:

  • Non-measurable verbs
  • Leads to the creation of broad and vague content
  • Lacks context
  • Generic

Unfortunately, despite the vast availability of research and theories to guide the use of measurable action verbs when creating learning objectives and learning experiences, like Bloom's Taxonomy, adult learning, Cognitive Load Theory, Multimedia Theory, and many others, there are many courses out there with poorly phrased learning objectives. Just because many course providers use "understand", "know", "familiarize", "learn" and the like does not make it right to use these kinds of verbs.

Connecting Learning Objectives To Assessments: MCQs As An Example

Let us take a learning objective from the first case as an example ("Differentiate between the functions of a noun using different sentences.") and create a matching assessment question.

Multiple-choice question:
In the sentence "The student received an award." What is the function of the noun "award"?

a) Object (answer)

b) Subject

c) Complement

Creating matching assessments, whether in the form of multiple-choice, text-based, or hands-on projects, will ensure that both you and the learners can measure their learning. A poorly constructed learning objective will make it difficult for you to create meaningful and engaging assessments. It is always advisable to take your time and design clear, concise, and measurable learning objectives to avoid getting stuck as you develop your course content or avoid creating voluminous content that lacks context.


To sum it all up, learning objectives are a function of your learners' needs, preferences, and expectations. They lay the foundation for the remaining parts of your course, but if the foundation is destroyed what can your Gen Z learners do? If your target learners are Gen Z students, professionals, or customers, then it is time to rethink!