The Rapid Elearning Blog

Here’s the challenge for many of us.  We want to make our courses engaging and interactive, yet sometimes the content or the time pressures of work don’t make that easy.

The default position for many elearning courses is to merely push the information out to the learners.  The end result is that the course is heavy on information and light on interaction.  By changing the way you structure the information, you can quickly build the framework for more engaging and interactive courses.  It’s just a matter of rethinking how you approach the course design.

Let’s assume you do all of the front end analysis and you’re ready to build the course.  You have clear learning objectives and all of the information you need to meet those objectives.  You also want to assess the learner’s understanding.  So regardless of which approach you take you basically start with the same content and goals.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - starting point

The Push Approach

I get to look at a lot of courses.  Generally, they all seem to follow a similar structure.  They start with the objectives, jump into the course content, and then end with a quiz.  Some of them will sprinkle knowledge checks throughout the course content to test the learner’s progress.  So a typical course might look like this:

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - typical course structure

This approach is kind of like how you’d build a product in a factory.  You design something that generally meets the needs of most people.  Then you push it out to all of the learners.  

There’s nothing inherently bad about this approach.  Assuming good content design and a product that is visually engaging, this works fine.  This is especially true if all you need is tracked completion and there are no real performance requirements for the course.  And the reality is that’s the case for a lot of elearning, no matter how different you want it to be.  Plus, it’s really easy to build courses this way because you can focus just on the information.

The downside to pushing your content to the learners is that it assumes that all of the information is equally relevant to the learners and meets their learning needs. 

The Pull Approach

Just like the previous approach, we’ll assume that you have all of the content that the learner needs.  However, in this approach, you’re not focusing on designing the content as much as you are creating reasons to use the content.  What you want to do is get the learner to pull the content he needs

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - learner pulls information

This allows each learner to have access to the same information, yet the learning experience might be unique to the learner.  So instead of focusing on creating a universal design that pushes the content, you focus on crafting the right types of reasons a person needs to pull the content.  With this approach you can still provide all of the same information.  All you’re doing is changing how the learner gets it. 

Here’s a real world example.

A while back I was doing some home remodeling and decided to put up some crown molding.  The problem with crown molding is that it has two surfaces, one on that rests on the ceiling and one that rests on the wall.  This means that it requires a special cut.  Having hung up other types of trim I was used to just cutting simple angles.

Not thinking about the crown molding’s compound angle, I proceeded to cut the molding at a 45° angle (which I learned wasn’t correct when I put the molding up on the ceiling).  I tried to guesstimate the next cut and got that wrong, too.  Now I had wasted two expensive pieces of crown molding and convinced my wife that if stranded on a deserted island she should plan to care for her own survival.

Since I obviously didn’t know how to cut the molding, I went online and did a search for the right technique.  I found one site that had everything you could possible learn about crown molding.  After clicking through pages of information, I finally found what I needed.  Unfortunately, I needed to brush up on calculus to figure out what all of the math symbols were.  I tried another site that in four simple steps showed me how to cut the molding the right way.

Now let’s look at the learning experience.  We’ll consider both sites “courses” on crown molding.  They both addressed how to cut crown molding and they were both built oblivious to me.  The courses were just pushed out on the Internet.

They only became relevant when I had a need and pulled the content to meet my needs.  At that point, my need was to cut crown molding.  So the simple four-step cutting information was all I needed.  It didn’t make the other information less valuable.  It just wasn’t relevant at that time.  However, if my need was to learn more about the styles of crown molding, then the other information would have been more relevant.

How do you get the learners to pull the information? 

When you push the information out, you spend your time trying to figure out the best way to get it to the learners and make it stick.  On the other hand, when you design the course for the learners to pull the information, you spend your time figuring out how they would use it and then set it up for them to pull the content. 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - are you pushing or pulling

In either case, you work with the same core content, you’re just changing up how you get it to the learners.  And that’s where you want to make the change in the way you approach the course design.  Instead of creating an outline of content, start by asking, “How do we get the learners to pull this information?”

This doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  Well designed case studies or scenarios can create a need for the learners to pull the information.  If I had taken a course on crown molding prior to hanging it up, I probably wouldn’t have remembered the cutting procedures.  However, once I had a need, I was motivated to find the solution and to this day, seven years later, still remember how to cut the molding.

You don’t even need to have big case studies.  You can present some simple questions or problem-solving activities that require a solution.  Essentially, you want to create a need for the information.  Once the learner has a need, then they’re motivated to fulfill it.  And that’s how you get the information to them.

By changing your focus from push to pull, you can share the same information and at the same time create a learning experience that is somewhat unique to the learner.  If you were to use a pull-based course, what are some ways that you can get the information to the learner?  Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas by clicking on the comments link.

If you liked this post, you might also find these of interest:


Tidbits:

I’m trying something new for the ASTD 2009 International Conference & Exposition.  I’ll be doing a series of rapid elearning demos at the Articulate booth.  Each hour will start with a pre-planned demo, however the rest of the time will be open to questions.  I’d love to know what types of demos you’d like to see.  Feel free to share them with me.  Also, if you happen to be at the conference, swing by the booth and say hello.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


69 responses to “Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?”

This pulled learning approach is more in line with adult learning preferences an Adult Learning Theory, which not enough people in our field are familair with and take into consideration. Thanks for the post.

Thanks Tom. You just solved a problem I was wrestling with. I think my menu will be a list of cases that need solving. There’ll also be a pool of information. I’ll let the learner decide which information applies and then use it. Intermingle the assessment into the case.

Jim

[...] Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled? The Rapid E-Learning Blog Tom Kuhlmann 19 May 2009 [...]

Tom I like this better approach. It forces learners to interact. So many times the requirments for e-learning are nothing more than a talking head. One point I would like to make is that once a learner pulls information forward, is should “stay forward”. Something in the program should indicate to the e-learner “you went here, and here is how you can quickly return”. If not the whole thing just becomes a frustrating Easter egg hunt for a learner who identified a need and wants to return to the information.

May 19th, 2009

As a multimedia developer working with an instructional designer, I have little sway as to how the content is developed. My challenge is presenting ideas to them that encourage pull learning in a compliance environment. I appreciate your thoughts. I have added this to one of my goals.

Makes a lot of sense when thinking about mobile learning as well. Thanks for the examples! (Just tweeted about this post.)

Tom,

First, I need the URL to the crown molding how-to site (seriously). Can you post it in the comments or email it to me? We have a few rooms to finish.

Second, yes, it’s more interesting to design and develop non-linear online courses than linear courses, and pull vs. push. I empathize with what Jared is saying. When we IDs are given a compliance (or other regulatory) course to design/develop, SMEs still want to make sure the learners do not miss a thread of information, so their comfort zone focuses only on linear/push in the design. How do we move them past this?

Third, responding to Jeff Goldman’s thoughts… perhaps we all need to build a few demos that show our SMEs the benefits of following adult learning theories, so they can see the difference vs. a “book online”.

May 19th, 2009

Pull vs Push…so simple and yet so ingenious! I’m an educator at heart and have spent years designing workshops, retreats, writing newsletters, etc. I’m now learning the online process. It’s difficult to keep an online course interesting and engaging, I think. However, the Pull system points directly to “just-in-time” training…WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)…key messages in snippets (not 400 page novels)…and other adult learning principles. Thank you for sharing!!

I don’t get it. Yes, I try to draw students in by presenting situations and using the content to help them understand how to resolve those situations. But I don’t get how that’s the starting point. Maybe I just have an antiquated mindset.

Here’s an example: Tom said “Instead of creating an outline of content, start by asking, ‘How do we get the learners to pull this information?’” So my question is, what information are you getting the learners to pull? How do you apply the content before you’ve got the content.

I read about a third of these blog entries. I’d read fewer, but they really are good, and they really pull me in. (Or am I pulling the content in?) Expanding that to what I do, I push out courses. We have a marketing department who pushes out information about those courses. Students choose which courses they’re going to pull in, if any. But once they’re in the course, each student has to learn the same content. Different bits of a course will apply to one person more than another, but we can’t cater to that because we’re telling an industry that our graduates will come to them with this specific list of skills and knowledge.

My approach has always been to work with the industry experts to outline what students need to learn, and then find ways to apply that to most students’ situations. I think the idea is the same, but in my little universe, content has always been the driver. I’ll keep trying to get it, but I haven’t yet.

Jenise, I can’t help you with miter cuts, but I can tell you this. You’ll need a miter box. You can buy a plastic or wood one for 2 or 3 dollars, or you can spend 30 to 40 bucks on a metal one with clamps and guides and such. Spend the money!

I’m very intrigued by your article. Still haven’t decided on a format for elearning courses. I have several consultants with very good content and still not sure how to pull it from them in a way that can be translated to e-learning. I’d be interested in seeing how easy it is to use Articulate.

May 19th, 2009

A really good example of this approach is http://www.leffe.com/. This is a consumer portal for Leffe beer, so Leffe can’t teach users about their beer in a linear fashion. Visitors would check out. Instead, Leffe created a learning space where the user pulls information and interacts with the environment to learn about the different flavors, correct serving temps, and food pairings. It’s pretty brilliant.

(Off topic: @Michael: Yea, we’ve got a small mitre box already. My husband is salivating over a DeWalt mitre cutter/saw setup. Yikes!)

[...] Une présentation intéressante de structuration des informations figure (en anglais) sur le blog consacré au rapid-learning d’Articulate. [...]

I think you have to careful in how the push/pull strategy is implemented. As a company we have traditionally pushed out our content in a linear format (whilst trying to make the experience as interesting as possible along the way). We now have a situation whereby our instructional designers want to present the linear content in a “Pull” format using what has been described as “layered branching” in this blog (http://www.articulate.com/community/blogdemo/drone/player.html). It is a real challenge to convert a linear based structure, which you can have 100% confidence that the learner has looked at all of the slides to a “Pull” system whereby the user can access the content as they see fit. If the “Pull” system is designed badly, it can make the user miss content and it can make the online lesson more difficult to navigate. In our case “Push” systems are very usability friendly and the “Pull” systems are not. Which is more important interactivity or usability? I say usability is king. (Please note that I am a big fan of scenario based branching which offers proper interactivity, I think layered branching is an unnecessary waste of time and it is possibly how “Pull system will be design using Articulate”). I think Articulate should look at providing a feedback system to aid “Pull” systems, whereby the user can see what sections they have interacted with, as Mark Brown also says above. Maybe I need to see some examples.

May 19th, 2009

Hey Tom… Is there anyway to add “Facebook” to the ShareIt… I’d love to highlight some of these nuggets of wisdom to a broader audience…

Good discussion. Thanks for the feedback and questions.

@Michael C: Good question. I am working off the assumption that you already have the content that you need to meet the course. Typically when we push the course, we create the standard course linear outline: objectives, sections, knowledge checks. If we build a pulled course, we can get rid of that outlined approach. What we do is present reasons for the learner to use all of the content that you’ve organized for the course.

Here’s an example: I can tell you that X is the best remedy for swollen lymph glands. Or I can tell you that I have swollen lymph glands. What’s the best remedy? Then provide a means for you to pull the information.

You still have access to the same information. In addition, I can fill in the gaps in the way I provide feedback. I don’t need to build a complex branching sequence to get the learner to pull info.

This approach doesn’t work for all courses, and doesn’t need to be an all or nothing consideration. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be blended with a more traditional approach. I would say that the main consideration when starting the courses design is to ask why the user needs the info and how will it be used. Then build the course in that context.

One other point. The challenge for instructional designers is getting the content owners or clients to see the course in a new way. It’s a good idea to have some treatments that show the difference between an info dump and a more interactive approach.

Sambo makes a point which I think is the challenge to building many elearning courses: “It is a real challenge to convert a linear based structure, which you can have 100% confidence that the learner has looked at all of the slides to a “Pull” system whereby the user can access the content as they see fit.”

In an ideal world the measure of success isn’t that the learner looked at the slide. It should be that the learner can prove understanding of the content.

In Understanding by Design (a book I highly recommend), there’s an example of teaching kids about the food pyramid and nutrition. You could present all of the food pyramid info and track that they looked at the slides and then give them a quiz at the end. That is the approach typical of most elearning courses.

Or, you tell the kids they have to build a nutritious menu for a summer day camp. They don’t need a quiz at the end because based on how they build the menu you can measure their understanding of nutrition. As a learner, my first goal would be to qualify a nutritious menu. That need would drive me to the info on the food pyramid.

From an instructional design perspective, I don’t care if they look at every slide or not. I care that they can create a nutritious menu. That’s the measure of success. So to get the right success, you need to build the right level of need and access to the information. That’s where the instructional design comes in.

With that said, the reality is that many customers or organizations don’t really desire performance improvement. What they really want is compliance and tracking of courses. In that case, it probably makes more sense to take the path of least resistance.

The food pyramid example is a great one. I think that we run into two common misconceptions from clients and SMEs. One is that our learners are blank slates and are all equally ignorant of the content (“no child knows that sugar should be restricted”). The other is that exposing learners to content is enough to make them learn it (show them the pyramid and quiz them on it).

Instead, by presenting a problem to be solved as Tom has described, we let learners who already have some knowledge use it and “place out” of some parts of the course. By solving the challenge correctly, they prove that they have the required knowledge and skills.

The learners who don’t have the necessary knowledge will need to go pull it, and that’s a great opportunity for us to introduce them to the job aids that they’ll be using in the real world.

Content that learners might want to review later is probably best off on the intranet or some other easily accessed, easily updated place, rather than locked away in a course in the LMS. The course could then become mostly a series of interesting, real-world problems, with the content to solve those problems existing in an easily-searched resource that could also be used on the job.

To steal the food pyramid example, the pyramid and details about it would be the job aid. It would be in some format that the kids can access at any time, not just when they’re taking the course.

In keeping with some of the previous comments, I think it is important to consider whether the instruction being designed builds on previous units. Some instruction may need to be more direct, while other learning units lend themselves to discovery learning. We will always need to identify and select the approach most appropriate for the content.

This article is pretty much a short version of my pedagogy essays for the last year. I have been criticizing e-learning courses for using old behaviorist approaches, instead of trying out new methods based on more cognitive theories. I will be starting to develop my online course this summer, and I am glad to see that I am not alone in thinking it is better to make the students pull what they need.

As for those of you who are afraid that students might not cover the necessary reading: It is up to you as designers / teachers to develop assignments that require that students need to know everything to answer them – I know it is not easy, but it is a very satisfactory way to work for both students and teachers!

This is really interesting and I need to see more examples to help solidify the concept in my mind.

I am wondering if I could use the pull model with a population of my learners who are overseas and, culturally, very reliant on being told what to do and nothing else (they don’t even tell me if they come across errors in my eLearning modules). I’ve worked really hard to engage them as active learners and I’m wondering if the pull model will help this objective or back-fire on me.

Jenise, I think you did a great job capturing my questions. Including the crown molding mitering website. Sorry Tom! I swear I’m not distracted off the topic. I just need your resource for that too!

This is a great article! I like your simple, straight-forward explanation. The concept is really the power behind the internet as a whole, and especially those of us who’ve grown up with the internet as a learning tool. Just like reading the dictionary isn’t as helpful as looking up a particular word when you need it, the same is with any kind of learning — the pull approach aids in maximum retention because the user has made a choice to learn and has the necessary ‘hooks’ (if you will) to put that learning on in their memory.

The challenge here is that it all depends on the requirements in place. As people have already mentioned, in situations of compliance where everyone must know the same content whether or not it fully pertains to them the push vs. pull approach is much simpler and straight forward. What we need is a bridge between ‘compliance’ situations and a world of learning ‘opportunities’.

I suppose… what we need is really the TEST. The pull approach basically is saying that a person learns best when they are asked to give an answer (i.e. you were ‘asked’, by the necessity of the project, to give an answer about how to cut crown molding). So, really, in compliance situations, it’s more about how to fully and completely test ALL the concepts, forcing users to look up information if they don’t know it already. If you could do a really well done scenario approach to your compliance concepts, you’d have your ‘pull’-initiating method. That’s just a little hard when you’re dealing with 400 pages of hospital content. |0.o|

Very interesting… it’s definitely something to chew on for a while though. :)

Great article! Thanks!

May 19th, 2009

Any suggestions on ideas that you could use to use the pull concept with technical needs based products i.e. ball bearings, there is the need to deliver certain information before you move on to the next piece?

Off topic. I couldn’t find the crown molding site I found a few years ago but this is pretty close.

What’s amazing is the amount of info available today versus just a few years ago. That is another consideration for course development. We want to be careful not to overwhelm the learners with info or choices to the point where they’re debilitated.

Tom, great post. Simple yet effective. My only issue is that our clients have a fixed mind set when it comes to designing courses. For most of them, eLearning like venturing into unknown territory. Doing anything other than traditional eLearning isn’t met kindly with. Nevertheless, its a challenge for us! Thanks for the post!

I think that designers can get caught up in the process because that’s what we’re supposed to be good at. The focus should be the end result. That’s where I think a lot of concerns about people reading all the info or whatever come from – we think that’s part of the learning process. Cathy makes a good point about learners not being a blank slate.

Kathy Sierra says something like we should get peoples’ attention, build interest, provide rewarding challenges and then a payoff at the end of the learning experience – like finishing a level in a game.

I’ve had the most success when people want to learn and enjoy it along the way. I think that the pull approach is always the best way to do this.

If you have slides in your training that they do not need to look at, they should be removed!

One method we use is to supply course references. They can be used to answer questions/help with scenarios in the course, but users are not forced to open them or read all the information. This way, if someone feels they can finish the scenarios without help, they are not forced to read a lot of extra content. If the user finds the extra content helpful, they can read all of it.

[...] Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled? | The Rapid eLearning Blog Here’s the challenge for many of us. We want to make our courses engaging and interactive, yet sometimes the content or the time pressures of work don’t make that easy. [...]

May 20th, 2009

Excellent article and image of how to engage learners. The language alone will assist me in helping clients make the distinction between what they want to do in the learning process. This language really helps focus on do you want the elearning course to be learner vs. the teacher (or content provider)centered.

Tom,

You wrote in a comment above:

“What’s amazing is the amount of info available today versus just a few years ago. That is another consideration for course development. We want to be careful not to overwhelm the learners with info or choices to the point where they’re debilitated.”

That’s why I enjoy creating courselets… that is, mini-modules that are no longer than 15 minutes duration. I need to practice the blog posts from Articulate that show us how to link a course to another as a part of the “Push” of learning.

Mini-modules can be precise, engaging, and improve performance.

May 22nd, 2009

The trouble… many (perhaps most) of the ISD types I’ve worked with have a cookie cutter view of how instruction is delivered. This is based on a lot of factors, I would guess, but the largest being what’s come before.

What has come before? What we’ve seen is largely the model Tom has described in his illustrations. It’s a screen based model. And this screen based model drives everything from our presentation paradigms to our estimation calculations. Tom says it’s not inherently bad. I have to disagree. This centricity is at the core of what’s bad about every conveyer belt spoon feeding design I’ve seen (which is probably 95% of the designs or products I’ve had the pleasure of viewing).

We’ve recently gone back to formula on our eLearning philosophy. In doing so we’ve focused on a specific series and have intentionally applied a cycle in the process that challenges what has come before with a barrage of ‘why’. Remarkably, we have been able to reshape the foundations that we base our formalized training efforts and are venturing into new territory (for us) that removes a lot of the me-centric perspective (tech centric, visual centric, ISD centric) that tends to make products a steamy pile of irrelevance.

We basically started with these pilons:

1. Respect the time and environment of the learner
2. Focus on value and relevance (separate need to know from nice to know)

We extended this with a set of simple guidelines and principles that support the core philosophy.

At the core of these principles is DO NOT THINK SCREENS. Support the performance and understanding of the concepts with ACTIVITIES.

For this course series we also examined what we were measuring and compared this to what was really important to the organization. We (our customer) thought they really wanted to measure short term retention (with a long multiple choice test). When it came down to it we were initially measuring exposure. In the long term we wanted to measure impact… This is NOT something that we had any hope of measuring with a goofy test.

However, a test was a way to offer adaptive variability and some level of convenience for our users. So we opted for two entry paths:

1. Test out. Master each section to 100% and you are marked ‘complete’ for that section. Test out of every section and view the summary and you are complete for the whole enchilada. Time invested if you know the material well enough to DETERMINE answers to the situational test: 10 mins.

2. Jump In. Sections contain activities that build concept understanding and enable the learner to meet the terminal objectives.

If you test out of one of five sections, it’s clear that you need to run through the other four section’s activities to complete the course. Since we reallize that many folks prefer alternate methods of learning we are also going to try to make the materials available in a print alternative. The section activities are largely case based so a print medium should accomodate this well. Will we be duplicating the online experience? Nope. Will there be bonus activity features in the multimedia package? Yep, the idea is that we will create a richer ‘consistent’ experience online. However, the offline or real-world alternate activities can be just as rich if the learner is willing and able to engage the activity (have a conversation, observe and reflect, etc..)

In my abundant opinion:), we will break out of these cycles of v-o-m-i-t when we stop using ‘screen’ as the common unit and establish (1) better patterns for what works and what doesn’t (2) a common language for communicating problem profiles and patterns that work for each situation. Cookie cutter ISD isn’t helping our industry.

This is evidenced by the emergence of rapid-development tools that enable anyone to do it. I think these tools have their place and they provide tremendous value for generation of concept / process understanding closer to the source – providing responsiveness and agility.

The way we have been doing it most o’ the time… yep – anyone can do it. We gotta wanna change it.

[...] previous post, we looked at how you can make your elearning courses more effective and engaging by getting your learners to pull the course content rather than you just pushing it out to them.  A great way to create a pull-type course is build it around problem-solving [...]

This indeed will help while designing the courses for Mobile devices.

[...] artículo es una traducción del artículo: Are your e-learning courses pushed or pulled? de Tom [...]

Very good. Thanks.

Absolutely agree with pull type learning. I find that the challenge is to convince an organisation to release what they see as “control” (push learning) so that the pull option can be more fully implemented.

Super post, Tom. This is one of the secrets that made LeapFrog so successful! There was always a mission of some sort for the learner. Upon reading this post, I immediately came up with an idea for making the current course I’m working on MUCH more engaging…

Thanks so much for your insightful blog!

Ellen

[...] Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled? – The Rapid eLearning Blog via kwout [...]

After having pondered this marvellous article from a school teacher’s perspective for a few days, I guess that the target group and the level of their abilitites may decide upon which approach to take, or rather what to emphasize more in your course design. — Whereas more advanced students that have already aquired some experience in dealing with texts, or sorting the wheat from the chaff, will probably find it more fulfilling to be granted more freedom in chosing their paths to more knowledge, younger and/or less experienced learners may be overtaxed, and feel lost if left to their own devices without further guidance. — Ideally – and although the pull approach sounds so much more interesting, modern and Learning2.0ish, maybe both aspects should somehow be implemented in course designs to provide a balanced and differentiated package that does not leave parts of our target groups in the dark?

@Matthias: considering the experience of the learner is critical. However, I think this approach would work fine with a new learner. You’re not leaving them to fend for themselves. Instead you do offer “further guidance” in the form of additional resources.

There could be a “tell me more” type link to addtional info. You could introduce an avatar like guide that the person can visit for additional information and guidance.

Very nice post Tom; with sales training scenarios/case-method works wonderfully. Of note; I’ve had even greater success in easy-to-use help systems (even predicitive EPSS on occassion). Learning at the moment of need is a very hard sell though. So with that said, I wonder how effective using a pull-like course would be in working with clients who actually need a help system, not a course. Great post!

[...] Rapid E-Learning Blog recently offered a model of pull learning as formal learning in which the learner is presented with [...]

September 18th, 2009

do you can make a delicious.com link?

Thanks.

@Nancy: I don’t use delicious for links.

Too much information is a hinderance to the student. A good balance will keep the student busy enough to study how much they want and learn the information when needed instead of giving a load of material and saying ‘read that’.

[...] “Tom Kuhlmann writes about designing e-learning courses using a pull approach vs. a push approach. Ideally, it’d be nice to be able to pull information from any source than just pulling from the content provided. This is kind of BIG P pull and little p pull. You can pull content but you’re still within a course structure that has been pushed to you, there’s a little pull. Unless structure is definitely needed a much more engaging option to traditional push methods of content delivery.” [...]

[...] elearning courses push information to the learners.  I discussed this a bit in the blog post, Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?  The assumption is that people will learn because we make the information available to [...]

November 16th, 2010

Designing and teaching in a non-linear way is relevant for all learners. I know many think that this may be easier for adult learners, but the fact is that all learners think in both linear and non-linear ways. Younger students are simply not given as much opportuntity in a traditional classroom to learn from a non-linear design. When offered the choice, they shine! As for training teachers to TEACH this way…that is the hurdle. The results are so amazing that most, once they give this style of teaching a try, wonder how they did it any other way.

We are trying to sell our e-learning package as part of my company’s software licensing. No customers are interested in paying for “push” learning. There are no instructional design constraints (think compliance training) when you are actually trying to sell the effectiveness of training. When people are paying for training, they don’t want to be locked in to navigation or have to score a certain percent to continue to the next module–heck, they don’t even want modules! The pull technique is perfect for this model.

December 29th, 2010

How challenging for all teachers…
As we tend to PUSH content only, instead of giving our students an opportunity to PULL information from them. We are so content focused. I have been challenged to change the way I teach in the classroom. Yes, I have begun to transform all those bullet power points that push content! Thanks

I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

[...] What content needs to be in the course?  There’s always more than enough content for most elearning courses.  The challenge is usually figuring out what to get rid of more so than what to put it.  I like Cathy Moore’s action mapping process.  She does a great job helping you figure out how to make relevant courses without too much extra information.  You can also manage the content better if you find ways to get the learners to pull what they need.  [...]

[...] Kuhlmann, T. 2009, ‘Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?’, The Rapid E-Learning Blog, viewed 15/04/2011, http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/are-your-e-learning-courses-pushed-or-pulled/. [...]

I have read every post in this thread and am convinced I need to do something to change my ways. I understand why pull is better than push but am having a hard time applying it to my situation. My function is to standardize (every) procedure in a manufacturing environment and then create the training modules that will be used to reinforce the learners experiences on the floor as well as test their ability to perform the procedure correctly. This has been a completely push application on my end because I do not go to the floor and make sure thaey are actually doing it right. With content as straight forward as “this is how you should be doing it”, how can I convert the training (and my mindset) to a pull system? As always, this has been highly educational and I truly appreciate everyone’s posts.

@j.Jones: good question. Sometimes all people need is a list of instructions or job aid. If you do want more dynamic elearning, the key is to understand the performance requirements and the decisions/actions needed to meet them. Then build your training around that. In that case, they are presented with real world type decisions where they have to review what they know (or pull what they don’t) and then make the decisions that impact performance. The decisions have consequences. It’s in that process that you can deliver the information and help them use it to meet the objectives.

[...] the Rapid E-Learning Blog, Tom Kuhlmann gives a great overview of push versus pull learning. The nutshell is that with push learning you’re not focusing on designing the content as much as [...]

[...] từ Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled? của Tom [...]

[...] és „pull” módszert mutatjuk be. Az ihletet egy 2009-es blogcikkből merítettük, amelyet ide kattintva olvashattok [...]

[...] Instead of pushing information out, create a way for the learner to pull information [...]

[...] recently came across an article by Tom Kuhlmann of the Rapid E-learning blog entitled Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled? Although a few years old it got me thinking, [...]

This is interesting Tom,

I think I’mn starting to get it.

Now let me give an example. Suppose I’m writing a course about how to make an Economic Outlook. This is a publication policy advisors have to make.

I now have put the 30 steps you need to take to make this Economic Outlook. In there I would just put in linear. Each step completes something. Each step has some aids for instance, some check lists etc. Each step builds upon the previous.

That would be the linear approach.

Based on your article I think I need to make it more pull though. Not push like the 30 steps approach.

I would then choose for the following format:

List a couple of problems you have when you make an Economic Outlook. And then put all these items as menu items in my course. Questions to be solved could be like the following:

How to get your publication approved?

How to get your outline approved?

How to present your economic outlook?

How to make sure your outlook is of good quality?

How to write a chapter?

How to do analysis?

How to make graphs?

How to work with others?

Am I getting it?

I would then make a matrix of all these questions and just put that as a menu before the course starts with questions.

Each question will then start with a summary of the situation and the problem. And some aid material and checklist. And also some description on how you solve that question. We could also include a quiz at the end of that block on what was learned. After this block and question the learner can then decide what next question to pick.

So no guidance, no push, only questions you need to solve when you are making an Economic Outlook.

Can you please comment?

@Runy: you’re moving in the right direction. I like to start with real world decisions. For example, in your example, the real world decisions are centered on creating the economic outlook. I’d put them in a situation where they need to creat ean outlook. Then guide them through the types of decisions they need to make. The pull mechanism is to offer ways for them to collect the information they need to make good decisions. For example, one type of pull could be a fictional character like Professor Paul. He’s an expert on XYZ. Contact Prof. Paul. This allows the person to connect with your fictional character who may brief the on critical considerations.