70:20:10 Learning Model: How to Enhance it with Technology

Learning is like a pie. To make it tasty, you need to know which ingredients to add and in what proportions. The 70:20:10 model is a magic recipe for corporate learning.

With the help of Dr Anthony Skip Basiel, an eLearning research and development thought leader with 20 years of experience in UK higher education, we’ve figured out how this formula works and how to apply it in the workplace.

How it all Began

The 70:20:10 learning model was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger, and Michael Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership in the mid-1990s. They surveyed almost 200 executives about their learning philosophy. The results were pretty surprising, and caused a notable shift in the learning world.  

The survey states that learning should come from a variety of sources:

  • 70% from challenging assignments;
  • 20% from developmental relationships;
  • 10% from coursework and training.

It’s been a while since then, yet the 70:20:10 model has stood the test of time, and is still often used to define the ideal balance for how to train employees.

How to Apply

Let’s translate the survey data into corporate language and try to understand how to apply it in a work environment.

  • 70% of learning is experiential. It comes from experiences employees face at work.
  • 20% is social or peer to peer learning. It is delivered through mentoring, feedback, and relationships with colleagues.

Together, these two types comprise informal learning, which occurs outside a classroom environment.

  • 10% is formal learning. It is conducted through training sessions.

Experiential Learning (70%)

Like children learn through play, adults learn best by doing. According to a study conducted by Edgar Dale, they retain 80% of what they personally experience.

Imagine the following situation: you want to learn to drive a car. You have thorough theoretical knowledge of the rules of the road, car parts, and how to drive. But does that make you a good driver if you’ve never even started a car? Naturally, that doesn’t mean you can just grab the wheel and go. Before starting to use a real vehicle, driving school students usually train on a driving simulator, which reproduces realistic situations in a risk-free environment. The message is that you can’t learn anything if you don’t try it first. But instead of learning in a real-life situation, you can use some innovative ways to develop your skills.

How to enhance learning with technology

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is an ideal solution for corporate training in manufacturing, energy, defense, and other industries where the workplace can be dangerous. With VR, people can practice their skills until they are confident in them, and then start the job with confidence.

For example, The Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue department in Florida uses VR to prepare trainees for real-life emergencies. During the simulation, potential firefighters need to rescue people from a virtual fire and provide first aid.

Instead of working with a dummy, students face a more realistic scenario

VR immerses trainees in a realistic learning experience, so companies don’t have to risk lives to train new employees.

For example, KFC has begun training their future chefs with a virtual reality simulation. It’s an escape room game, which traps participants in the kitchen until they can prepare fried chicken.

The gamified experience takes about ten minutes

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality can drive employee engagement just as much as virtual reality. But compared to VR, it’s much more affordable. That’s the reason why most companies are still focusing more on AR.

For example, Bosch, the electronics and engineering company, created the Common Augmented Reality Platform (CAP). It helps both new hires and consumers to understand the different ways automotive mechanisms work. Users can scan certain areas of the engine with their mobile devices to see overlaid content, such as video, images, and text explanations on how to conduct simple maintenance procedures.

When used in the repair shop, Augmented Reality increases both the speed and quality of vehicle repairs

Game-based learning

Games are actually a good tool for learning. They present a person with a challenge and make them develop their skills. For instance, when you play chess for the first time, you don’t even know how to move the pieces. Over time, after constant repetition, you learn to evaluate your opponent’s moves and start making good moves yourself. That’s how you become a better player and finally start winning.

The game-based learning model has been used by beauty product company L’Oréal. It developed an app called Fit Culture, which helps newcomers immerse themselves in the company culture. New hires navigate real-life challenges as they play the game. They complete “missions” and earn points to finally become a #CultureGuru.

Game-based learning

Dr Anthony Skip Basiel

Interactive video

Another way to develop tacit knowledge is through web video that employs scenario-based learning design. This case-study approach provides open situations for the learner to make decisions and reflect on the process. The interaction comes from places in the ‘story’ where there is a choice to be made. The learner’s prior knowledge and decisions result in meaningful consequences.

See an example of an interactive video with this CPR simulation.

Social Learning (20%)

Social learning is not a new notion. Information has been handed down from generation to generation since time immemorial. We learn when we talk to other people, ask questions, and share our knowledge. In recent years, the concept of peer-to-peer learning has been gaining popularity as an accepted practice in the workplace.

The simplest example illustrating social learning in the corporate environment is the meeting by the water cooler. Two or more colleagues meet, share ideas, and return to their workplaces with a little more knowledge.

So, whatever you’re trying to master, ask questions and get answers, not just from Google, but from your colleagues.

How to enhance learning with technology

Social media

In the modern interconnected world dominated by social media, it’s become par for the course to share things we find interesting and useful. People use social media not only for personal communication, but also for professional and pedagogical purposes. For example, with Facebook, you can:

  • create discussion groups for sharing information about a project;
  • carry out surveys to get feedback and suggestions on training courses;
  • create closed or secret groups and upload course material and assignments.

For instance, PayPal has a private group on Facebook where mentors upload learning content and host short classes, and employees share their insights and discuss recent information on ongoing projects.

Some educators have also adopted Pinterest for educational use. Since the platform allows people to share and find new information via pictures, descriptions, and short videos, it can be a useful tool for encouraging learners to explore a topic. They can post their own creations or information they’ve found on their own pinboard or a team board and re-pin their peers’ posts.

IBM uses YouTube for employee learning. They have an entire YouTube channel where employees can watch video tutorials and other learning materials.

IBM Training channel intro

Dr Anthony Skip Basiel

Learner-generated content

Another variation of social employee learning is the British Telecom project: Dare-to-share. Staff were encouraged to identify issues they encounter at work. Using smartphones, they make short videos to explain how they solved a problem and show what to do. Not only is this bottom-up, learner-generated Web 2.0 model a shift in ownership of content, it helps employees become evangelists to promote their knowledge.  

This method helped them reduce training time from 6 weeks to 3 days

Formal Learning (10%)

Though formal training makes up only 10% of this model, it’s the starting point from which other types of learning can grow. If the foundation is firm, you can be sure that the experiential and peer-to-peer learning that follows will be successful.

Take Photoshop for example. To succeed, you first need to explore its features and watch some tutorials that will help you develop practical skills. Even if you manage to master Photoshop intuitively without knowing the basic terminology, you won’t able to speak the same language with other designers and move forward in your profession.

Formal learning is the knowledge upon which informal learning is built. However, it also can act as a booster, accelerating what has been learned through on-the-job experience and interpersonal communication, so it can be used as a supportive tool for achieving good learning results.

How to enhance learning with technology


Not so long ago, employees were sent off to classroom courses for training, but eLearning technology is making traditional corporate learning a thing of the past. Compared to instructor-led training, online learning is more beneficial. At the very least, it saves your company money, allows you to personalize the learning process, and boosts employee morale.

A better way to deliver formal learning is to use a learning management system (LMS). Let’s take iSpring Learn LMS as an example to see how to organize online training in just three steps:

  1. Create a learning program, which may include PPT presentations, documents, audio, video and SCORM courses.
  2. Add learners and assign them to the courses.
  3. Keep track of your employees’ results and measure the effectiveness of the training.

Using an LMS is a good idea for delivering product knowledge training, sales and support skills training, new hire orientation, and channel partner training. To learn how it works, read this article about corporate LMSs.

Blended learning

Blended learning is a formal educational program that combines traditional teaching methods with digital learning.

For instance, this approach is used by a large iron and steel company called NLMK. They created a talent pipeline training program that they use to develop high-potential employees for the position of foreman. At first, employees go through face-to-face training on key efficiency indicators. Then, they view courses on the NLMK Group facilities, the production process flow, the internal business processes, and key regulations. In the final stage, employees have a mix of online courses and in-class training on soft skills.

Here, an LMS can be helpful, not only for delivering online training, but also for scheduling face-to-face classes. For example, iSpring Learn LMS has a calendar that allows employees to see which events are planned, automatically invites learners, reminds them about the event, and drops them a line if there are any changes.

iSpring Learn LMS calendar

Dr Anthony Skip Basiel


Web video conferencing is a powerful way to promote blended social learning. Many webinar platforms support live video, text chat interactive whiteboards, note-taking, real-time voting/surveys/quizzes, and PowerPoint slides. Plus, sessions can be recorded to capture the event for people who missed the webinar or want to revisit it. This is a great way to support your virtual teams.

Mobile learning

Many employees believe that training doesn’t have to stop after working hours. Also, most employees value the ability to learn anytime and anywhere, so mobile learning is a win-win both for companies and the people they employ.

Some companies have already learned from their own experience that it’s much more effective to let your employees take a course remotely, on their own schedule, than to keep them chained to their desks after work.

For example, Oticon, Inc., the global hearing aid manufacturer, allows their employees to learn at their own pace from mobile devices. They train their staff with iSpring Learn LMS, which has a free native mobile app. With the app, learners can take courses anytime and anywhere, even offline.

Example of mobile learning

If you’re considering adopting mLearning in your company, read our guide about how to create a mobile learning strategy.

To sum up

The 70:20:10 model shows that learning is more than just traditional classes. We need several ingredients to make it work. Also, you should keep in mind that this model is not just about the exact percentages, it’s about the balance. In real life, the breakdown may be more like 40% formal, 20% social, and 40% experiential; or 60% experiential, 10% social, and 30% formal, etc. Thanks to modern technology, the 70:20:10 framework can be more flexible than ever before. The best thing to do is to find the ideal balance between the ingredients to make the “learning” pie taste best.

About the expert

Dr Anthony Skip Basiel

Dr Anthony Skip Basiel is an eLearning research and development thought leader with twenty years of experience in UK Higher Education.

“My knowledge and capability in learning and development has grown from an innovative blend of higher education and industry through work-based learning. I have leadership, project and talent management skills developed through clear communication and professional collaboration.

As a Sr Postgraduate Programme Leader, eLearning Consultant, UK/EC Project Manager & bid writer, I worked at a strategic level to lead change management actions that saved time and money for the organization.”


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