Using Blooms Taxonomy to Design E-learning

In this article I provide some suggestions on how to develop concepts for drag and drop questions or interactions in Adobe Captivate using an instructional design tool which has been around since the 1950's...Blooms Taxonomy of Performance Verbs.

My corporate clients are sometimes curious about the process I use to design their e-learning courses.  It's something of a "black art" to the uninitiated.  I explain that in early conceptual phases of the design process I often use Blooms Taxonomy to define learning objectives for a course.  These learning objectives are essential for designing assessment instruments such as quiz questions, activities, scenarios, etc.  Once the target knowledge or behaviour is identified, I develop course content to deliver the required knowledge or behavioural skills so that participants can successfully pass the course.  "Starting with the end in mind", designing assessment components before content, helps ensure I'm not developing content unnecessarily.

How Blooms Suggests Ideas for Drag and Drop

Now that our Drag and Drop Lite question widget has expanded the range of interactivity possible with Captivate 4 and 5, I'm again finding Blooms Taxonomy very useful.

It turns out that Blooms is a collection of verbs, which my elementary school English teacher used to call "doing words".  So, if the verbs in your learning objectives indicate that course participants need to "do" something with an object or concept, chances are you have the makings of a drag and drop interaction!

To illustrate: Here's a diagram of Blooms Taxonomy that I developed many years ago to help remind me which performance verbs relate to the various levels of learning.  (Click the image to see a larger version)

Blooms Taxonomy - Click to enlarge.

I recently modified this diagram to highlight specific performance verbs that suggest ideas for drag and drop interactions.  I've highlighted these verbs in blue text to make them stand out better. Verbs highlighted in orange in this diagram can also be assessed via e-learning.  However, verbs in grey text are usually either impossible or impractical to assess via an e-learning solution.  Thinking carefully about the verbs you use in your learning objectives is therefore quite critical to achieving success.

Here's a list of randomly-chosen verbs from various levels and possible drag and drop quiz questions that could be developed from them:

  • Name/Label - Drag names or labels onto objects or areas of a graphic.  E.g. Drag transparent text captions onto areas of a map to teach geography. See example here...>
  • List / Tabulate - Add a table to the slide background and drag objects or captions into their correct columns or cells in the table.
  • Match/Associate/Combine - Drag objects onto targets with similar characteristics.
  • Collect/Group/Categorize - Drag objects that belong together into groups.  (Hit targets can accept multiple drag objects.)
  • Isolate/Distinguish - Drag objects that do not belong away from a group.  Alternatively, drag a circle or rectangle over objects to distinguish them from others.
  • Assemble/Build/Construct/Reconstruct - Drag parts to construct or build an object. E.g. drag parts of a machine together to assemble the machine.  Then set the Success criteria of the question to jump to another slide where an animation of the working machine plays.
  • Structure/Restructure/Organize - Drag objects to replicate a process map or hierarchical structure.  E.g. drag job positions/roles into their correct location on the corporate organisational chart.  Drag randomised action boxes in a business process diagram back into their correct locations.
  • Grade/Rank/Rate/Order - Drag objects to show their relative power, order, weight, cost, importance, etc.  E.g. drag product graphics to show which ones cost the most.

Where Drag and Drop E-learning Excels

The really odd (but great) thing I'm finding about this approach is that it extends e-learning into educational domains where it was previously thought very difficult to enter because of the prohibitive amounts of time and cost involved.  Sophisticated interactions such as drag and drop usually required a bevy of graphic designers and programmers to pull off.

Budget and time limitations normally meant that rapid e-learning assessment insruments were restricted to basic True/False, Multi-Choice, Multi-Answer question types that were easy for tool vendors to design, and simple for e-learning developers to use.   

As a result, rapid asynchronous e-learning has typically been seen as more appropriate for lower-level Blooms performance areas such as Knowledge, Comprehension, and Application.  If you tried to create e-learning for Analysis, Synthesis, or Evaluation you would often run into serious difficulties achieving the greater levels of user interactivity required by the learning objectives. So higher levels were normally the exclusive domain of facilitated courses or synchronous e-learning where human instructors controlled the interactions.

But take another look at the Blooms diagram and see which areas have the greatest number of performance verbs highlighted in blue.  Oddly, the greater concentrations are found in relatively higher-order learning levels such as Application, Analysis, and Synthesis.  So it seems that, once you can add drag and drop into the creative mix, you suddenly have much more scope for creating useful e-learning interactions.  This is great news for e-learning developers that are tired of churning out the same old content!

Now, I'm not saying that drag and drop interaction is the "magic bullet" that solves all e-learning issues.  It's waaayyyy more complex than that, and you still need a good creative person involved in the design process. But what I do see is that it now gives Instructional Designers a foot in the door to opportunities previously closed to rapid e-learning methodologies.

Let's see where it takes us...shall we?


My corporate clients are sometimes curious about the process I use to design their e-learning courses.It's something of a "black art" to the uninitiated. I explain that in early conceptual phases of the design process I often use Blooms Taxonomy to define learning objectives for a course. These learning objectives are essential for designing assessment instruments such as quiz questions, activities, scenarios, etc. Once the target knowledge or behavior is identified, I develop course content to deliver the required knowledge or behavioral skills so that participants can successfully pass the course.


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