Training Plans: Push v Pull techniques

If you’re developing training material, consider blending push and pull techniques to ensure learners retain more of the subject matter. What’s the difference?

  • Push gives the information to the learner. The learner is passive.
  • Pull encourages the learner to find the information they need. The learner is active.


Of course, most training materials should combine both pull and push. If your training materials are developed correctly, your courses will push content at learners some of the time, and then pull answers from them.

Why use both?

Two reasons.

  • Pull increases interaction. It forces the learner to be active and take ownership. It avoid spoon-feeding content.
  • Pull reduces cognitive information overload. You can only absorb so much information.

Push approach to learning

  • Define objectives
  • Deliver content
  • Use quizzes to test

This is fine most of the time but it doesn’t prioritize the most important content or course objectives. Every slide, for example, has the same importance.

Pull approach to learning

The learner is:

  • In control
  • Find reasons to use the content.
  • Studies only the content they need.

Scenarios are one way to encourage reader to look for find answers. Use questions or problem-solving activities that require solutions.

The Pull technique encourages learners to determine where they can find the correct answers.

By shifting your training materials from push to pull, you can encourage learners to be proactive, identify solutions, and take ownership.

Push content tends to be top down. SMEs down to users. The learners have little or no say in the content development, priority, or pace of the course.

Pull content is more fluid. The learner decides what they need to learn. After all, if they know 75% of the course, why make them sit through 4 hours of material. Instead, they can focus on the 25% they don’t know.

Push v. Pull Differences

Push is

  • Company develops Content for Learners
  • Static
  • SMEs set curriculum

Company says: You must do this!

Pull is

  • User develops Content that supports the company
  • Flexible
  • Learner defined curriculum
  • Employee feels: I want to do this.

Push or Pull?

So which approach should you use in your e-learning – Push or Pull?

Push e-learning courses are best suited to compliance-based companies and if you want to ensure that your learners have viewed all training materials.

Pull e-learning works if you want to give learners scenario-based challenges to complete, and autonomy over their development.