70:20:10 Model: Pros And Cons Of Applying It In Online Training

Do the 70:20:10 model benefits outweigh the downsides? In the 1980s, an NGO called the Centre for Creative Leadership created the 70:20:10 model for training. It states that 70% of training is on the job, 20% from peers, and only 10% from formal instruction. As you develop your online training courses, you should ensure the bulk of the online training course involves hands-on contextual activities. Yes, it’s formal training, so on paper, it’s part of the 10%. But by incorporating the kind of tasks your employees will actually face at work, you’re playing in the 70% zone. Include some group tasks and you’re now covering the 20% too! Let’s delve into the pros and cons of this model so that you can determine if it’s right for your online training program.

Top 70:20:10 Benefits And Drawbacks

Pro: Empowers Employees

One of the top 70:20:10 model benefits is that it gives employees a sense of autonomy. The idea of learning by doing gives them agency in ways that regular training doesn’t. Of course, this requires confidence on the corporate learners’ part. But it’s still satisfying to discover things yourself instead of being told. This is the main distinguishing factor between adult education and childhood learning. Through online training, they have the opportunity to explore their own cognitions and learn by doing, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

Con: It’s Not Empirically Proven

Unfortunately (for this case), the world today runs on statistics. The 70:20:10 model doesn’t really lend itself to metrics, even in eLearning set-ups. You could claim you learned a task by being exposed to it. But there’s no real way to confirm whether it was the online training course or the work exposure that entrenched this skill. Also, in corporate settings, it’s hard to get approval for something that has no stats. Besides, it’s an uphill and tricky task asking the boss to pay. Especially when he/she’s being told it only accounts for 10% of its stated purpose.

Pro: It Emphasizes Practicality

Good online training courses for adults tend to be more contextual. There’s less theory and more of the actual skills you’ll use. This ID approach applies the same principle, and that’s where the 70:20:10 model benefits truly shine. For example, in a compliance online training module, one-tenth of the online training content is stating the rule itself. The bulk of the lesson should be the application, showing what (non)compliance looks like in everyday work settings. You can have some group assignments for homework, but most of the online training course will involve individual simulations and branching scenarios. Give employees the chance to see how their actions and decisions can lead to negative repercussions for the entire organization.

Con: It Can Be An Excuse For Not Training

On the other hand, think about the worst supervisor you’ve ever had. You know the kind. They assigned you a task you were ill-equipped for and seemed to enjoy watching you flounder. That kind of supervisor could easily subvert the 70:20:10 model benefits. It can become their catch-all for not actually teaching their wards. There needs to be a very careful balance between ‘letting them learn’ and providing useful, hands-off assistance. The difference can be as simple as providing an online reference database and frequently updating it.

Pro: It’s Easy To Apply

The 20% portion of this model is relatively easy and potentially free. Simply get your corporate learners into a social media group or build them a chat room. You can also pair them up with a mentor or study partner that can virtually check in from time to time. Or use corporate eLearning blogs and online discussions to facilitate peer-based eLearning feedback and information exchange. The 10% is already covered by enrollment in the online training course. But even the 70% has a lot of scope for DIY learning. They could use role-play video games to practice certain tasks. They could rehearse with Virtual Reality tools. Another option is to assign a task and issue a how-to guide with step-by-step instructions.

Con: It’s Challenging To Evaluate

Because so much of the task relies on action and personal experience, it’s difficult to pinpoint success. Are the 70:20:10 model benefits the root of their success? Are you really able to ‘test’ something that involves « learning by doing »? You can confirm how many times they tried the task before they succeeded, but you can’t take full credit. They could have studied on their own or have intrinsic talent. However, you can review the virtual library to see which topics are most popular. This can guide you on which areas require further online training or enhanced eLearning content development. It can also show what topics corporate learners are most interested in.

Pro: Facilitates Real-World Application

Employees aren’t just reading about compliance topics or tasks, they’re experiencing them firsthand. Better still, it’s in a risk-free online training environment that allows for mistake-driven learning. This facilitates real-world application so that they’re able to improve on-the-job confidence and avoid making those mistakes in the workplace. It’s also backed by more structured training and social learning tools for added support. For instance, the employee needs help identifying where they went wrong during the simulation. Or how the character in the story or anecdote could have done things differently. They can turn to their peers for clarification or guidance.


The 70:20:10 model has been around since the 1980s, so it must be doing something right. It’s an all-in-one study guide, and it makes a lot of sense on the surface. But when you explore it more carefully, you spot both its advantages and its downsides. It looks good, but there is little evidence proving it actually works and that the 70:20:10 model benefits trump the drawbacks. It focuses on hands-on tasks, but sometimes it’s a smokescreen for throwing corporate learners in at the deep end. It’s easy to implement, but finding out its ROI and the actual success rate is a different discussion. So, apply with care, and be sure to follow things up after launch.

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