The 70 20 10 model (The Career Architect Development Planner. Lombardo et al, 1996) – also written as 70-20-10 or 70/20/10 – is a learning and development model that demonstrates the impact that different factors (social, formal and experiential learning) have on people’s ability to understand, learn and retain information.

Using the 70 20 10 model in elearning

The 70 20 10 model shows us that elearning courses need to be made up of more than just traditional online training (ie, written resources and videos). As we’ll cover, incorporating a range of teaching methods and assessments and other online communications like email sequencing and a dedicated Facebook group, are essential in supporting learners.

We’ve broken down the 70 20 10 model into its respective parts and will show you how you can incorporate features that reinforces each part of the model from within your online course and beyond.

The 10% – Formal learning

It may come as a surprise that the formal learning that happens through your elearning course, makes up the smallest part of the 70 20 10 learning and development model.

But don’t throw in the towel just yet.

You can easily ensure that your online course content sets up your learners for the social and experiential learning part by ensuring your lessons incorporate the following tried and tested formats.

Remember that student engagement and steady course progression is key to the whole process of learning.

Bite sized lessons

We’ve all been there – Googling an answer to a seemingly simple question and instead getting lengthy articles and a ten minute long YouTube video. Who’d want to skim through that?

Ideally, your lessons should explain concepts and ideas in just 3-4 minutes. Presenting each part of your lesson in bite-size chunks helps with retention – and later makes your content easier to find and refer back to.

Drip feeding content

Similarly to the idea behind bite-sized lessons, drip-feeding content allows you to provide your students with easily digestible content bit-by-bit. This approach has proven to be effective as a means to engage students. Making the task of learning less daunting versus being given access to all course content at once. Drip-feeding lessons can create a sense of excitement as students anticipate the next lesson to continue their learning.


Undoubtedly this is one of the key parts of elearning that’s often overlooked or lazily executed. While quizzes are easy to implement as a means to test your students throughout their learning, they provide little opportunity to really test someone’s knowledge in a real-life scenario.

Where possible, the end of your lesson should include some kind of coursework – preferably that can be marked and assessed by the course tutor. While this isn’t always feasible, it’s important to really challenge your students by getting them to apply their learning in a mock-real-life situation.

Mobile-optimised elearning

Some learners aren’t sat in front of a computer. Some don’t have access to printers. Some need downloadable content. If your content isn’t mobile optimised then you’ll undoubtedly create a challenge for some of your learners. You need to make it as easy as possible for your students to access your content anywhere, anytime. If you can’t get the formal learning part right then it’s harder for the rest of the learning process (social and experiential) to follow.

Progress emails/ encouragement

These days it’s pretty easy to set up email sequencing. Whether triggered by a milestone (ie, after completing lesson 2) or by time (ie, an email sent 3 days after purchasing the course), email sequencing can be an incredibly effective tool for engaging your students. Try either encouraging them to continue or signposting them to the next lesson or module to maintain that progression.

The 70% – Experiential learning

Experiential learning, sometimes referred to as ‘on-the-job-training’ makes up the largest portion of the learning model, accounting for 70% of how learning is retained and reinforced.

You may think that experiential learning can’t be replicated through a learning management system or elearning course, but with these features it can.

Assessments and feedback

A key problem with a lot of online training is the limited capacity for continuous learning. The relationship between repetition and retention has been proven dating back as far as 1911. Continuous, reinforced learning needs to occur in order for students to understand new concepts and apply them successfully to real-life scenarios. This can be built into your online course through the creation of:

  • Case studies
  • Scenarios/ briefs
  • Long-form assessments and essays
  • Activities/ challenges

with student progress/ understanding checked through:

  • Teacher feedback
  • Peer reviews

The key to getting this right would be to have one of these types of assessments at the end of each module or lesson. After the completion of the assessment having the answer and any feedback available to your students is essential for referencing and progression tracking. With that in mind, reinforcement through roundups/ overviews and cover sheets should be built into your online course.

Knowledge base

On the note of having content to easily refer back to, building in a knowledge base could be the answer to assisting your learners with fact-finding. We spend a fifth of our time searching for answers on Google but this could be drastically cut down by creating a knowledge base with all the information in one, searchable platform. By having a dedicated knowledge base, your students get a shortcut right to the relevant information, without the need to sift through multiple articles.

Knowledge base


We touched on drip-feeding content and the benefits of email sequencing and subscriptions follow the same logic. With learners being subscribed they’ll receive tidbits of course content to reinforce their learning – this can be a short video, case study/ real-life example, scenario or challenge (ie, go out and do XYZ). Subscribers aren’t confined to the realm of the learning management system and you can provide a mix of content that’ll assist with experiential learning. This way you’ll provide variety and get your students engaged without asking for too much of their time. A subscription-based model supports continuous learning and provides a steady income for course leaders.

The 20% – Social learning

Social learning is the peer to peer element of the learning process. When you consider that this makes up a whopping 20% of the learning model, it’s simply not good enough to omit social learning methods from your e-learning course.

Contextual comments

The inclusion of what we call ‘contextual comments’ allows students to ask questions to other students within the context of a lesson or assignment. This creates a discussion within the platform and allows students to learn by teaching others.

Contextual comments can be added at points during videos and webinars, and even within bodies of text. When you make social learning possible within your elearning platform your course will have greater value, particularly in terms of engagement and information retention.

Setting up a group

Having a private group where your learners can come together to share ideas, talk about assessments and get clarity is the perfect answer to fulfilling the social learning need. This can be done in a forum (similarly to the contextual comments) within your learning management system or through Facebook.

We’ve found the Facebook is an extremely powerful platform with a huge user base already having accounts which they log into every day. Sometimes moving the community onto Facebook can have better engagement as people check into the group while they casually browse; rather than trying to create an active community within the learning platform where building a community outside of Facebook can be a hard-slog.


Sometimes it’s not possible for course leaders to support all their students – this is where the idea of a mentorship program comes in.

Mentors act as support for more junior students – becoming the go-to person. The appeal of this, often, voluntary role is the reinforcement of a mentor’s own learning and the recognition this position offers. Although typically unpaid, mentors reap rewards in other ways, through course credits or a reference on their CV.

As well as learning online, students and mentors can meet through online messaging and video calling platforms. This kind of learning, where a students completes an online task and then has this learning reinforced through one-on-one sessions is known as blended learning.

At first it might seem like there are no benefits of the 70 20 10 model within the context of elearning. Where formal learning makes up only 10% it can be easy to disregard the application of the learning and development model’s teaching; thinking that it instead works against the value of elearning. However, as we’ve demonstrated, social and experiential learning can be achieved within a learning management system, through the use of easily accessible, free tools like social media platforms and email.

If you’d like to learn more about building these features into your current LMS, elearning course or marketing strategy please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below.