Outcomes Based Education: Advantages and Disadvantages

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 8.39.32 PM                                                                image source

What is Outcomes Based Education (OBE)?

Biggs and Tang (as cited in Goff, L., n.d., slide 9) in their Outcomes Based Education (OBE) Version 3 Teaching and Learning, outlined three main features of OBE:

  • state outcomes of teaching;
  • teach to increase the likelihood of most students achieving the outcomes;
  • assess how well outcomes have been achieved using authentic assessment.


With OBE, the focus of outcomes is to integrate student performance with those needed in the workplace (PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013). McMaster University sees this as a strength as it provides “. . . continuity between undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education” (Outcomes- Based Education 2010, para 2).

Assessment of outcomes is done using authentic assessment tools. Battersby states: “Key to the outcomes approach [in BC] is an approach to assessment that emphasizes ‘authentic assessment’ …[i.e.,] creating assignments that stimulate as much as possible the [real-life outside-of-class] situations in which students would make use of the knowledge, skills and values emphasized in the course” (as cited in PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013, page 47).


Critics state that constructing learning outcomes can be difficult and time consuming (Ellington, H., Earl, S et al., 1996).

While teaching to increase the likelihood of most students achieving the outcomes would appear to be an advantage, it can create challenges for teachers particularly in the K-12 school system where built in redundancy is the method used to manage student variation in knowledge (Lawson & Askell-Williams, 2007).

I recently learned that a local university is moving towards having all of their programs based on the OBE framework. Given that I was about to embark on revamping an online perinatal course for graduated RNs taking their a rural nurse specialty certification I was very keen to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using OBE.

In my investigations I learned that several countries, notably Western Australia, the USA and South Africa trialled OBE in their primary and secondary systems but there was a lot of push back from the public about how it failed to deliver basic skills in math and sciences as in the case of South Africa’s experience (Rice, 2010) and challenges with assessments in Australia. Donnelly (2007) noted criticism of OBE in the USA included a loss of vital educational material as a result of focusing so much on the process of education and the huge amount of time required of teachers for assessments.

As I worked my way through the readings detailing the disadvantages about OBE I couldn’t help but feel that these challenges could be outweighed by the advantages of aligning learning outcomes to workplace roles and responsibilities.

The focus of OBE is to ensure continuity for students are they move through the educational system and into the work place. This alignment of education and training is rooted in adult education practices of experiential learning and self-reflection (PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013). This means that I need to create learning outcomes that will engage the adult learner in such a way as to enable them to integrate the concepts, attitude and skills required for the workplace. The learning outcomes would need to clearly state these.

Assessment practices need to be such that they can produce graduates that “. . . can perform both academically and interpersonally on the job and in the community” PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013 p 49). Assessments need to be relevant and the marking scheme needs to be clear and accurate.

 After reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of OBE I feel that OBE will be a perfect match for the program I am redesigning. I do, however, need to be very mindful of watching out for the challenges this framework can produce.

Learning Outcomes

  • Need to be clear, relevant and integrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes that the RN will require to work on a perinatal unit
  • Need to be measurable – and while I appreciate that OBE places the focus on the student’s standard and not a universal standard, when it comes to obstetrical care there are established guidelines that must be met. Outcomes will reflect this.

Teach to increase the likelihood of most students achieving the outcomes

  • This course is for graduate nurses. Outcomes will build on existing knowledge and skills.
  • There will be mid term marks for ongoing assignments (discussion forum and case studies) with feedback provided so that students will have an opportunity to build and improve on their skills.

Assess how well outcomes have been achieved using authentic assessment

  • Assessments for the online course need to be authentic, in other words, related to the workplace, (PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013). They also need to provide an accurate representation of the students’ mastery of the subject (PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide August, 2013).

The online course I am redesigning is for post RNs seeking to specialize in maternity care and/or in a rural site where they will be required to be the primary nurse caring for a woman in labour. Nurses work as part of a health care team. Communication with team members is a vital part of the job. Having students engage in an online discussion forum will help develop those skills as they relate to a maternity patient. I will therefore incorporate discussion forum topics with each learning module so that students can learn collaboratively with each other. I will apply an analytical rubric to the formal assessment so that a mark can be determined.

Another skill required by RNs is critical thinking. I will also apply an analytical rubric to the responses received for the case studies. Patient teaching skills will be assessed using an analytical rubric when students present on two topics of choice (with the target audience being the woman and her family). I will encourage students to journal but it will be not for marks.


Donnelly, K. (2007) Australia’s adoption of outcomes based education: A critique Educational Research 17(2) Retrieved from: https://www.ied.edu.hk/obl/files/164891.pdf

Ellington, H., Earl, S et al., (1996) Advantages and disadvantages of the Learning Outcomes Approach Post Graduate Certificate in Tertiary-Level Teaching Module 1 Instructional Planning Robert Gordon University and Napier University. Retrieved from: http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/celt/pgcerttlt/main.htm

Goff, L., (n.d.) Outcomes Based Education Webinar. Centre for Leadership in Learning McMaster University Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance. Retrieved from: http://cll.mcmaster.ca/articulate/COU/Outcomes%20Based%20Education%20Webinar/player.html

Lawson, M.J. & Askell-Williams, H., (2007) OutcomesBased Education Discussion Paper. Association of Independent Schools of SA. Retrieved from: https://www.ied.edu.hk/obl/files/pratical_guide_5.pdf

Outcomes- Based Education (2010) McMaster University. Retrieved from: http://cll.mcmaster.ca/COU/degree/outcomes.html

Rice, A. (2010) Analysis: RIP outcomes-based education and don’t come back Daily Maverick Retrieved from: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2010-07-07-analysis-rip-outcomes-based-education-and-dont-come-back/#.V3GfypMrJAY

School of Instructor Education. (August 2013). PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development Course Guide. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver Community College.


3 thoughts on “Outcomes Based Education: Advantages and Disadvantages

  1. Pingback: The Teaching Perspectives Inventory – teachingadventuressite

  2. Pingback: A Contents-based Education versus an Outcomes-based Education (OBE) - Colour My Learning

  3. Pingback: Adult Education in the 21st Century Refection Series:  Innovation and Nursing – teachingadventuressite

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s