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The 70-20-10 model is useful for designing a training mix that maximizes learning outcomes through Experiential, Social, and Formal training.

As a course creator or corporate trainer, the end goal is for your learner to gain value from the course, retain the information provided and achieve a transformation which is demonstrated by the ability to achieve the desired outcomes of the course. For a corporate audience, one way to measure success is through increased productivity on the job or a behavior change. For an individual course creator, when the learner achieves the desired transformation, they may be motivated to purchase other courses or products that they offer.

The 70-20-10 Model, created by McCall, Eichinger, and Lombardo in the 1990’s is one tool that is useful in designing a training mix that will engage the learner, lead to higher retention rates, achieve desired learning outcomes, and result in the promised transformation.

How does the 70-20-10 rule work? 

The more engaged a learner is, the better the outcome and retention of the material should be. How people learn has not changed over time, even though the method in which content is delivered may have radically been transformed.

McCall, Eichinger, and Lombardo surveyed corporate executives to discover their thoughts on learning philosophies. The results were rather surprising!

  • 70% of what learners retained was related to hands-on experience, job-related skills, and decisions made in the work environment.
  • Learning from co-workers and peers, coaching, and mentoring accounted for 20% of information retention.
  • The smallest percentage, 10%, covered was from traditional instruction with only a 10% information retention rate. 

Here’s a summary with examples, you can click the link to skip to each section:

Experiential: 70%
  • On-the-Job Training
  • Gamification
  • Online Simulations
  • Virtual Reality
  • Scenario-based Learning
Social: 20%
  • Mentorship
  • Discussion Boards
  • Online Meeting formats
  • Webinars
  • Social Media
Formal Training: 10%
  • Onboarding courses
  • Lectures
  • Instructional videos
  • Textbooks
  • Knowledge Base

Experiential (70%)

Experiential learning is when the learner can get their hands dirty, like on-the-job training, such as completing projects, or daily tasks. Instead of reading about how to do something, the learner is challenged to learn through trial and error.

And if they get stuck, they can lean on social and formal learning resources to fill the gaps.

Experiential learning works so well because it brings the trainee closer to the action – and tests higher levels of competency, like applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, as described by Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Digital content has the potential to allow for various levels of engagement and provide experiential opportunities, which enables a much higher rate of retention. There are several methods to apply Experiential Learning through online course creation.

Here are some examples:

Online simulations

Online simulations of situations are one way this can be achieved. Virtual reality is a tool that could be used to provide learners with situations they will face and how to deal with them. It provides a safe environment to try, learn and grow for a multitude of skills, imagine being able to practice hitting a tennis ball, creating a gourmet meal, or discovering proper ergonomics as you work from your home office.

Another example is Scenario-Based learning. In this type of course, the learner is immersed in a situation, required to make decisions that will move them forward through the situation, receive immediate feedback on their choices, and be provided with the opportunity to reflect upon the choices before moving on. This can be achieved by utilizing branching scenarios, the learner immediately sees the results of the choices they are making in the situation.


Gamification is a third way in which learners can be engaged in the course. By crafting a thoughtful gamification strategy that combines behavioral design and game mechanics, the learner becomes more engaged in the experience and more often achieves the desired transformation. A common type of gamification strategy is to use points, badges, and leaderboards to motivate the learner to complete tasks and achieve recognition for completing those tasks. Other popular game mechanics that can be used in an online course include random rewards, Easter eggs, and certificates that create a sense of adventure while completing the course content.  

With Thinkific, you can integrate gamification apps to improve the overall student experience. Learn about the available apps in the Thinkific App Store.

Social (20%)

Social Learning, or the 20% portion of the 70-20-10 model, is a key component and not to be overlooked.

Peer-to-peer learning and discussion are important elements of the learning process as they help to build better connections both with the content and others. This type of learning can be accomplished through mentoring, feedback, and relationships with co-workers.

 Online platforms such as Zoom, and social media sites are ways that interactions between co-workers may be facilitated. The social interaction piece is a great way to encourage learners and connect with them personally. Even though this element accounts for only 20% in the model, the overall value should not be dismissed.

Speaking of social learning, did you know that Thinkific allows for integration with Zoom and offers a Community feature along with the ability to turn on discussions within a course? Providing opportunities for learners to easily interact without having to log in to different places also allows for a more consistent experience.

Putting social learning and community engagement into practice is what helped Thinkific Plus customer, MBRU, reach over 300K enrolments within 3 days of launching their free Community Immunity Ambassador Program to help fight COVID-19. Read about their story here.

Related: How To Create An Effective Professional Learning Community

Formal (10%)

You are probably familiar with the more traditional lecture style of teaching. The content is often pre-recorded with slides designed to reinforce the message or videos that are narrated and remind one of a movie, while we don’t want to discount this style of information transfer, it’s also time to explore how to incorporate more of the experiential and social elements into course creation.

Creating a more interactive and engaging experience will provide better results and happier learners. 

Tips on implementing the 70-20-10 model in learning and development

Proper planning is key when a course is being developed and will ensure that each of the components of the 70-20-10 Model is reflected in the course. Each component is important and should not be minimized.

A tremendous amount of energy could be put into creating a course with all types of gamification and scenarios, but if the information provided is weak at best or the learner has not been adequately prepared with the information they need to successfully navigate, the course will not yield the desired results.

Similar results would be expected if the course is designed to listen to a speaker talk at the learner for hours on end, but there is not an opportunity for peer-to-peer interaction or any sort of engagement of the learner with the material. The key is balance.

Take some time to create an eLearning Storyboard prior to creating your course content. As you draft your lessons, think about ways you can incorporate experiential learning, social learning, and traditional content transfer.

Perhaps you can share a shorter video, followed by an activity, and then a discussion with peers to discuss not just what was covered by how it can be applied to the learner’s current situation.

By incorporating and applying the 70-20-10 Method, you are on the road to providing a more transformative learning experience to your audience.

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