Many educators are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, a method of classifying learning objectives according to the different levels of thinking skills required. The 1950s-era taxonomy is generally depicted as a pyramid, with lower-order thinking skills at the bottom. Once these are mastered, learners can practice higher-order skills.

The original pyramid featured these skills:

The original Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid. The levels, starting from bottom to top are: knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

In the 1990s, the taxonomy was updated to use active verbs: remember, understand, apply, analyze, create, and evaluate. They also switched the placement of the top two skills — create (formerly synthesis) and evaluate (formerly evaluation), placing “create” at the top of the pyramid. This recognizes that learning and thinking are active processes and places creation of new ideas and patterns at the pinnacle of human thought.

The updated Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid, which uses active verbs. Starting from bottom to top: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

Build thinking skills

Human thinking and learning occurs along a continuum from basic cognitive activities, also called lower-order thinking skills, to higher-order skills.

The foundation of the Bloom’s pyramid — the lower-order skills — includes:

  • Knowledge — knowing and remembering facts
  • Understanding — categorizing or comparing information
  • Application — using acquired knowledge in new situations.

Much corporate training focuses on these three levels.

Higher-order skills, often called “critical thinking” skills, are more abstract, thought to require more cognitive processing. They are useful in new and novel situations in which lower-order skills, such as remembering, might not help. These higher-order thinking skills include:

  • Analysis — figuring out connections between concepts and ideas, identifying causes, and finding evidence to support a statement
  • Synthesis — identifying or building a pattern from diverse elements, combining parts to create a whole
  • Evaluation — forming, presenting, and defending conclusions based on judgments about information, determining the validity of ideas

Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a structure for guiding learning.

In 2008, Andrew Churches created a version called Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, adding verbs that address forms of learning and creating that reflect the digital age.

Taxonomy provides assistance in developing learning goals & content

Like the original taxonomy, Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy offers lists of related verbs that instructional designers can use to develop learning objectives. In creating content, they can progress from lower-order skills like recalling information and defining terms, to higher-order skills like applying information in new situations, identifying connections among concepts or ideas, and analyzing and evaluating content to form an opinion or determine whether information is credible.

The digital taxonomy integrates verbs and tasks used for digital learning and creating, and includes verbs and suggested activities that pertain to eLearning and other approaches to online learning and exploring, such as:

Poor Use with
Adult Learners
Effective with
Adult Learners


Simple games layered on top of content

Scenario-based games that use the content

Leaderboards, competition

Fan excessive competition among employees or teams by offering large prizes for top performers and/or shaming those with lower scores

Challenge employees to beat their own past performance, or design a leaderboard that shows each employee only the four scorers above and below them

Points, rewards, badges

Award points or levels for completing sections of training or playing for a set number of minutes

Award levels, badges or points for recalling or applying content correctly, demonstrating mastery

  • Remember — bookmark, google, link, search
  • Understand — annotate, Boolean search, journal, tweet
  • Apply — chart, display, execute, present, upload
  • Analyze — attribute, deconstruct, illustrate, mash, mind map
  • Evaluate — comment, editorialize, moderate, network, post
  • Create — blog, film, integrate, podcast, program, publish
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Comparison of the Three Levels of eLearning Content
Off-the-shelf subscription libraries
  • Saves development time - you don’t have to create any courses yourself.
  • Good fit for a limited budget.
  • Quick to set up and launch.
  • Access to hundreds of courses on a wide variety of topics.
  • Users cannot make any changes to the pre-existing content.
  • Users do not own any of the content.
  • An overwhelming amount of courses and a short time in which to complete the training can create a higher likelihood of users experiencing learner fatigue.
  • Learners may view content that isn’t relevant to their learning objectives.
  • Time and resources can be spent curating your content library to suit your learners.
Course customization
  • A premade course that is quick to set up and launch.
  • Customization options such as adding your logo, branding, choice of colors, or some fonts.
  • You do not own the content of the course.
  • You cannot make significant changes to the content of the course (e.g. adding your own images, data, or organization’s terminology).
  • You cannot make significant changes to the content of the course (e.g. adding your own images, data, or organization’s terminology).
Fully custom courses
  • Completely tailored to meet your organization's audience, needs, and strategies.
  • You have limitless creative potential.
  • You own the original content/IP.
  • Prevent learner fatigue through personalization.
  • You can change, personalize, and maintain the courses however you want and at your discretion.
  • More expensive - custom courses are a bigger investment for both time and resources.
  • Learners will not have access to as many course options as quickly as they would through a library subscription.
  • A professional eLearning development team should be assigned to this project - either hired in-house or contracted.
Pamela S. Hogle

An experienced writer, editor, tech writer, and blogger, Pam helps you make sense of learning science and eLearning technology. She provides information you can use to drive improvements in your training effectiveness and ROI.

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