Beyond the Information Dump, by Tom Kuhlmann

31A question frequently asked is how to move beyond linear, click-and-read elearning. Our tendency is to build info-centric courses that push information out. To move past this we need to build courses that are learner-centric. And one way to do that is to switch from courses that push content out to courses that have the learners pull content in.

The Push Approach

Most linear courses follow a similar structure. They start with learning objectives, push out content, and finish with an assessment.

Push Course

This structure isn’t bad. Even if we wish to create interactive elearning we need good content. So having a linear structure like this works. But this isn’t very interactive and does little to help the learner use the information. That’s where switching to a pull course structure adds more benefit.

The Pull Approach

The pull course structure is built around learning objectives that are actionable. What is the learner supposed to do after completing the course? What decisions need to be made?

 pull course

Once that’s determined, instead of pushing information out, create decision-making opportunities that allow the learner to pull in the information required to make the decisions.

The Advantages

Push courses are fine for those times when all you need to do is present information or if the only requirement is course completion by the end of the year. However, there are some advantages to a pull course. The most obvious is when you’re trying to change performance. Having the learner work through real-world decisions is a great way for them to learn the skills they can apply on the job.

Below are a few more benefits:

  • Pull-based courses force the instructional designers to move away from information dumping. We have to craft an environment more in line with the learner’s needs.
  • Experienced learners spend time making decisions based on what they already know. They get to demonstrate their understanding without wasting time on content they already know.
  • New learners are offered a more flexible and challenging learning environment where they’re faced with the types of decisions they’d make in the real world. Some learners like to jump right in, make decisions, and learn from the feedback. Yet, others like to collect as much information as possible before making decisions. A pull structure offers that flexibility.

There’s a lot more to building an interactive elearning course. But a good place to start is by converting what would be a linear, information dump to something that engages the learner and challenges her understanding. Figure out how to get your learners to pull the information in and you’re on your way to success.


Tom Kuhlmann Author: Tom KuhlmannTom Kuhlmann writes The Rapid E-Learning Blog. He’s passionate about learning and technology with over 15 years experience in the training industry where hhe has developed hundreds of hours of elearning and managed elearning projects at Capital One, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser.

Tom has a Master’s in Education Technology from Pepperdine, where I researched how to cultivate communities of practice through the development of personal expertise. Currently, he runs the user community for Articulate with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers.


Twitter: @tomkuhlmann


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  2. [...] 3.  Get the learner to "pull" information. Switch from courses that push content out to courses that have the learners pull content. This way, learners are not forced to go over content that they already know.  [...]

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