Teaching soft skills online

Are you needing to develop learning outcomes for soft skills? A soft skill would be how to communicate with others, empathizing with diverse cultures, grow spiritually, become more creative, etc. Whereas, practical skills would be how to professionally arrange flowers, build an e-course, compose music, write a book, etc.

I am proof of that as I have developed many soft skill leadership courses for postsecondary institutions.

Two important things when teaching soft skills online:

  • Make learning an experience
  • Have learners dig deeper

Let’s explore each of these.

Experience-based learning

Experiential-based learning focuses on taking learners through an experience. This type of learning basically taps into the emotions.

In the online environment, you can ‘help’ learners experience something through rich multimedia, such as video, audio/podcast, and visuals.

  • For example, meditations can be provided in an audio format, pictures can tell a thousand words, and video is great for showing a process or something really impactful (i.e. a moving news story).

Another powerful way to reach someone is through story. Openly share your story or someone else’s, and make it personal and poignant for the learner.

Stories can be presented in any format including text.

Additionally, live connections with people can also create a sacred space to share and inspire.

Dig Deeper

Great, so your learners just experienced some pretty awesome content that was moving and inspiring. Now what….. (drum roll)….

Get them to do something (aka learning activity).

Right? Active learning is in, passive learning is out.

Learning Domains

Now, I am going to get academic here, so bear with me. I’ll flip it around, don’t worry. There are basically 3 domains or ways we learn.

  • Cognitively: We think, understand, and basically add info to our brains
  • Affectively (aka affection): We appreciate, empathize, and feel something
  • Kinesthetically: We construct, build and do something with our bodies

For soft skills, it might be best to focus on affective learning, or feelings of your learners. Here is a link to notes on the three learning domains (scroll down to the Affective Domain).

For the affective domain, notice the skills progressively build from your learners willing to listen about the soft skill, and then move on to respond to it, organize around it, value it and finally internalize it.

It has been found that this sequence of learning works best for “things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes.” (Donald Clark)

This makes sense, as you can’t make me feel or empathize with anything unless I want to. Obviously, if I join your course I want to learn so help me by leading me through an experience journey that is well sequenced (i.e. don’t jump ahead to far or fast; it might overwhelm or lose me).


Here’s an example

Using the affective domain chart, I will work with their learning outcome verbs in the right-hand column.

Course: Finding Your Soul Purpose

 Learning Outcomes/Goals
(i.e. overall goals)

Learning Objectives
(i.e. various lessons)

By the end of the course,
the learners will …

By the end of a lesson, the learner will …

Identify the key components of a soul purpose
  • Distinguish between soul purposes and other life goals
  • Reflect on their heart’s desire
  • Find sources to inspire their soul purpose
Present their soul purpose to others
  • Share their soul purpose with classmates
  • Listen to the purpose of others
  • Respond with genuine feedback
  • Accept the guidance of others
Create steps to follow their soul purpose
  • Prepare steps to pursue their soul purpose
  • Arranges parts of their life to prepare the journey
  • Informs life partners of choices
Act upon their soul purpose steps
  • Perform one step towards soul purpose
  • Shares journey with others
  • Practices other steps toward goals
  • Reflects on feelings, questions and concerns
** Notice the lovely verbs which can be seen, measured and lessons built around = your road map to designing instruction


  • Tanja @ Conscious Introvert Succes January 17, 2014, 9:21 am

    This is great information, Kelly!

    I’m in the process of putting together some training webinars for introverts, so I suspect I’ll need a mixture of cognitive and affective learning.

    I’ll definitely use your idea for setting learning outcomes for each one too.

    Blessings and thanks


  • Alenka January 17, 2014, 9:31 am

    Great article! Thank you for sharing!
    It is so important to address different needs and positions.

  • Laura Kelly-Pifer January 21, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Really enjoyed this. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Holly February 5, 2017, 8:50 pm

    This article is great – thank you Kelly. I didn’t see that before. I will have to revisit my course and activities now to see if I have the right approach in them.

    • Kelly Edmonds February 6, 2017, 12:12 pm

      Glad it helped, Holly! Some of your course is factual, and some is going within to becoming stronger and more focused on living one’s life with migraines. That is where some of these strategies might help – for personal empowerment.

  • Julia Campbell July 13, 2017, 9:51 am

    Right now I am designing a course for nonprofit professionals to give them a step by step blueprint on planning and launching a digital storytelling campaign. I love the idea of combining practical information with more affective learning. Thanks for the continually great info, Dr. Kelly!

    • Kelly Edmonds July 13, 2017, 11:56 am

      Julia, thanks for your comment. Your ideas sound great!

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