Virtual learning boom drives growth in Pulse software for schools


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GRAND RAPIDS – Spurred by an uptick in achievement among students using its virtual learning management program, southwest Michigan-based Student Achievement Systems LLC is looking to double the number of students and teachers served in the coming year.

Put to the test amid COVID-19 restrictions, Pulse – a licensed, cloud-based software product – replicates the in-person classroom where the teacher is standing in the front looking out to see who is completing their task and who isn’t. It makes virtual learning more effective by helping educators closely monitor virtual classrooms and remote student performance in real time.

“Teachers and administrators know that the lack of real-time engagement between students and teachers threatens to hurt student development,” said John Sorensen, CEO of Student Achievement Systems. “Pulse effectively helps close that interaction gap with a powerful dashboard and other tools that schools need more than ever.”

Developed by Michigan educators, Pulse was launched in 2017 with Berrien Springs Public Schools as a way for virtual teachers to more closely watch the progress of their students. Pulse now monitors over 6,000 students and teachers, capturing every interaction and progress event. The company predicts expansion to 11,000 users in 2021.

“When you lose face-to-face instruction, you need to rely on different measures to drive improvement,” said Kristi Teall, executive director of Link Learning, an off-campus virtual learning program of Berrien Springs Public Schools. “Pulse has allowed us to monitor student behavior and the appropriate support so our students can be successful.”

That success is evidenced in student graduation numbers.

“Since Pulse’s inception, we have seen a 15 percent increase in graduation rates,” said Chris Loiselle, Link Learning director of quality assurance.

Pulse integrates with a school’s Learning Management System and pulls data for each student in real time, all the time. It then populates a teacher dashboard, which is a live summary of student and teacher engagement.

“I have all of the information I need to look for trends in performance and achievement in one place,” Teall said. “Pulse has given me the opportunity to assess our center, staff and student successes in a completely virtual environment.”

Sorensen foresees the growing value of Pulse.

“Even beyond the 2020-21 school year, virtual learning will increase and expand in primary, secondary, and higher education,” Sorensen said. “COVID-19 accelerated the transition, but the trend was already apparent in charter cyber-schools, alternative education programs, and credit-recovery offerings.

“Pulse helps make the administration and management of virtual programs more efficient and cost-effective,” Sorensen said. “As schools and colleges consider the costs and benefits of technology tools to aid their transition to more virtual learning, Pulse fills critical gaps that other technologies cannot.”

To aid in this growth Pulse was recently awarded a Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) grant through the Small Business Development Corporation of Michigan. The $15,000 initial award is being used to improve the website, communication and marketing.


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