Are you looking for an easy way to boost learner engagement? Are you intrigued by microlearning but unsure of how to start or use it effectively? Are you looking for a different way to reach your learners? Adding pulsed learning to your overall learning strategy can provide learners with quick bites of information at a frequent pace to help change behaviors and foster a learning culture.

What’s included in your current learning strategy? At a basic level, most companies have learning “events” like workshops that learners attend to learn and practice skills or e-learning courses that learners complete to gain new knowledge. But what reinforcement do learners receive in between those learning events? As a training leader, that task can be daunting, because we focus so much time on making training events the very best they can be, leaving little time to focus on those smaller tasks or smaller pieces of supportive learning.

What Is Pulsed Learning?

Basically, pulse learning is what it sounds like – pulsing or pushing small bits of related content to your learners at a frequent rate. Pulsed learning is a way to deploy those microlearning assets that are so popular right now.

One of the major tenets of good microlearning is that a micro-lesson should be focused on one – and only one – learning or performance objective. This rule is true for pulsed learning, too. It’s a way to give your learners shorter lessons more frequently. Pulses shouldn’t be too long or too wordy. In fact, they should bring a breath of fresh air to your learning strategy.

Here’s an example: A company focused on transformational leadership planned an intense three-day, in-person leadership conference at the beginning of the year. To help pull through learning the rest of the year, the training organization took main topics from the event and created a calendar, with each month focusing on a topic like leading change, planning and prioritization, and accountability. Each week, the team “pulsed” out related learning resources for that topic via email and asked managers to communicate with their teams about the topic and related messages:

  • Week 1: Using content from the conference, the team put together a short message to the learners (voice over PowerPoint) reminding them of and reinforcing what they learned at the conference about leading change.
  • Week 2: The training organization sent a short email message to learners with a link to a TED talk video that reinforced the topic.
  • Week 3: The learners received a short email message reinforcing the topic with a link to a related article from a reputable source.
  • Week 4: L&D asked the learners to spend a few minutes answering a reflection question like, “What can you do in the next week to embody leading change?” and to share this information with their manager, who was to follow up with them afterward.

How to Do It

Here are some tips for implementing pulsed learning effectively.

  • What Topics? Determine the topic or topics that are most important to your organization right now and over the next three to six months (or even year). These topics are what you will want to focus your pulses on.
  • What Format? Pulsed learning and microlearning in general can take many forms. An easy way is to pull pieces that you already have from existing workshops or e-learning courses (as long as they make sense standing alone). Another idea is to link to reputable videos, articles or infographics that support your overall message.
  • When? Decide on your frequency. Pulsing content out once a week may be a good place to start. Plan your pulses all at once, and then gather and organize the resources you will use. Doing this up front will save you time and frustration in the long run. You can also work with an off-the-shelf content provider that can map their content to your needs. Find a structure that works for you, your company and your learners. For example, one company pulsed content once a week at 5:00 and called it the “5 at 5:00,” because the lesson would take less than five minutes. You can certainly pulse more frequently, or you could choose to pulse only at certain times of the year based on your organizational priorities.
  • How? Communicate to leaders and learners what you’re doing and why. Set expectations up front for what you are expecting them to do and when.
  • Launch! and adjust as needed.
  • How Are We Doing? Solicit feedback from your team at all levels to see how the program is working and what you can do to make it better. Make sure to ask for feedback on the frequency that you chose. Is it too much, too little or just right? The beauty of this strategy is that it allows for adjustments.

Overall, pulsed learning can provide an easy way to boost learner engagement. If you put in some time and effort up front, it can be a strategy that pays dividends long into the future.