Thursday, April 11, 2013

Push v/s Pull – The story continues!

A couple of months back, on one of the days while browsing through some websites, I came across a blog by Jeffrey Cattel on the shift from ‘Push’ to ‘Pull’ learning. Well, to be honest, it had hardly been few weeks for me into the eLearning world then and these terms were absolutely new to me. Of course, I could extract some sense out of them by their literary meaning, but I needed to know more. Hence started the study, some more blogs, a few articles, a lot of discussions with my manager and I started getting a hang of how important this concept is for the industry. For those of you who are still not very well versed with the terminologies, here goes a small description, Push is the traditional eLearning strategy which makes an instructor or course designer merely push all the content and information to the learner irrespective of whether the learner needs it all or not. Pull learning, on the other hand is an Informal learning strategy where a learner is required to pull the content s(he) needs. There is no unsolicited information that is provided to the learner. This strategy can be used very effectively for Just-In-Time or On-Demand learning solutions.

Getting back to where we were, by the time I learnt about these strategies, my curiosity was at its peak to understand if the shift from Push to Pull was actually taking place in the eLearning world. To gather some firsthand inputs from people in the industry, I posted this query on LinkedIn. There were varied responses. Some people mentioned that they opted for a particular strategy depending on which generation they were facilitating. Some used one of the strategies depending on where exactly was their audience placed on the learning curve; some preferred one depending on the content.

A general observation was that those who strived for faster and direct learning preferred the Push, others implicitly preferred Pull. Many responses conveyed that a balance between the two strategies was the right model. Some of the participants even expressed that these concepts were totally hyped and there was no credible evidence that teaching to learning styles had any positive impact on student academic achievement. The detailed discussion can be viewed here.

Amidst this plethora of information, I got to understand what an instructor's considerations are before zeroing down on any or both of these strategies for a course. I observed that it’s a common practice with the instructors to push the content when the subject is quite new for the learner or when it is more process oriented. Pull typically comes in once the learner is acquainted to the course. Along with it, the audience’s age plays an important factor in deciding which strategy to opt for. For instance, Pull might not be the best strategy while targeting K-5 audience. There needs to be a certain level of pre-knowledge on part of your audience to enable Pull to work effectively. Having said that, I think it would be unfair to believe that only Push can work all the time. For effective learning and better results, when your audience is mature and has reached a desired level of course understanding, they should be allowed to Pull out the next set of information based on their judgment and interest.

The Mantra for the successful implementation of these strategies in your eLearning is, ‘Knowing when to push the ‘Pull’. Pull has evolved from being just a buzzword to a very powerful learning strategy that can reap multiple benefits for the instructors and learners, but only, if placed correctly. As far as I understand, one will always need to start off by Pushing the course elements to the audience. As the course progresses, the need to enable self learning for the audience will arise, Insert the Pull right there. If you can master the art of inserting the Pull at the right place, you are on the right track.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the same. If you have any more ideas and opinions about these strategies, do mention them through comments below.