Distributed Learning: The 70:20:10 Model


As we discussed in our Introduction to Distributed Learning, we're explaining how you can support effective informal learning experiences in your organization. This week, we’re covering the growing popularity of the 70:20:10 model, which helps L&D leaders focus on informal and/or social learning activities.


The 70:20:10 Model

What’s the last work-related task or concept you learned? How did you learn it? Chances are, you learned it from simply doing your job—whether it was finishing a task or using a piece of software for the first time. Or, maybe a peer or coworker taught you something. It would be quite rare, however, if the last thing you learned was through formal training.

That’s the 70:20:10 learning theory. In other words, we learn:

  • 70% through our workplace challenges and experiences
  • 20% through contact with other people, either face to face or online
  • 10% through formal training programs and structured content

While these percentages may vary, the point is that most learning happens when we’re simply doing our jobs. The rest of our learning results from social interactions and formal training. The 70:20:10 model is relevant to distributed learning because it tells us that learning opportunities are everywhere. 

Small Study, Big Impact

There’s no denying that the 70:20:10 model has caused a stir in the L&D world, as it’s often a popular topic at learning conferences. And an increasing amount of products and learning solutions are being implemented based around this model.

Yet, 70:20:10 is based on a small research project 20 years ago that asked 200 managers how they believed they learned. The success of the model is most likely due to the way it rings true for learning professionals in their own experiences, but this also illustrates the need for more research in learning and development. After all, if that one survey can have such a far-reaching impact on our industry, just imagine the insight we could glean from robust, ongoing data about learning across our organizations. Without that data, we don’t even know what we don’t know.

Curious where learners find information?

If you aren't already tracking how learners are digesting information, here's a simple way to get started. Use this simple three-question survey to help pinpoint and better understand how employees find answers to their work-related questions outside of formal training.

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Up Next: Distributed Learning Trends

In our next post, we’ll discuss how the internet has become a significant resource for self-directed learning and cover some common misconceptions about the 70:20:10 model.