There is conflicting information between learning outcomes and course competencies. Even in the education literature, the usage of these terms seems contradictory at times (Hartel & Foegeding, 2004). At EMCC, we have defined competency and learning outcomes as follows:
Competency - A competency details the knowledge and skills of students who complete a course or program. Provides faculty structure for the course and content to cover. Provides information to universities as to what was covered in the class for articulation purposes.
Learning Outcome - A learning outcome articulates what students will be able to do in both the course and more broadly. Learning outcomes are focused on what students can do upon completion of a course, program or degree/certificate completion.
Please note that many courses, such as physics, have changed their course competencies to mirror learning outcomes. So, this may cause confusion for some areas.
Source: Hartel, R., & Foegeding, E. (2004). Learning: Objectives, Competencies, Outcomes? Journal of Food Science Education, Vol. 3, 69-70.
Definition: Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are statements that describe significant and essential learning that learners have achieved and can reliably demonstrate at the end of a course, program, or activity.
Source: Shirley Lesch, George Brown College
A nutrition class may have competencies of:
- Explain the basic concepts of scientific method as applied to nutritional information
- Identify the relationship between nutrition and other factors in maintaining optimal health and nutritional status during the lifecycle
- Use food guides, diet planning principles, nutrition-related tables, food labels, and/or exchanges to plan, calculate, and/or evaluate food and beverage intake
But, a student learning outcome for the course might be: At the end of this course, the student will create a plan to correct a documented nutritional problem.
Out of Class Example
An Internship may have functions of:
- Review print collateral and digital marketing materials for compliance and graphic standards
- Update and/or rework of existing print collateral and digital materials
- Assist with development of new projects
But, a student learning outcome would be: Upon completion of an internship, students will define industry expectations and the components of planning for a career in marketing.