Fort Hill Company, long known for its innovative approach to training transfer, is now getting into on-the-job learning. Their new tool, 70-20, organizes learning opportunities around challenges. Learners engage in challenges and document evidence of their progress through text, photos, video, or web links. Learners can assign themselves challenges or be assigned challenges by a trainer, coach, or manager. Challenges assigned to multiple users enable social learning.

70-20 Logo

Licenses run for a year, so that learners can engage in challenges over time, making 70-20, not a subscription-learning tool per se, but one that can be used for subscription learning.

Fort Hill's experience is that challenges are most successful as learning opportunities when they are short and focused on a specific task or goal. Kathy Granger of Fort Hill told me that she envisioned enlightened learning facilitators utilizing 70-20 for subscription learning by creating a global challenge with specific sub-challenges strung together in an intentional way.

Reflection on Leveraging On-the-Job Learning

Although the percentages in the 70-20-10 model are of dubious origin (and are not verified by science), there's no denying that people learn while they work. The big question is whether this on-the-job learning is leverageable, and if it is, what are the most effective ways to leverage that learning.

Lots of folks are working on this. Group-learning platforms (like LearningStone) provide socially-enabled on-the-job learning support. Coaching-directed performance learning (like Cognitive Advisors) provide performance-support level coaching. Now we can add Fort Hill's 70-20 to the list.

It's great that organizations are attempting to leverage on-the-job learning. Kudos too to vendors who are developing tools for this purpose.

We're still early in figuring out how digital tools can help. More work and experimentation need to be done. New mobile tools may provide superior benefits, but old-fashioned management has a role to play as well. Let's not forget that apprenticeship — a potent on-the-job learning method — has been around for hundreds of years.

There are several dimensions of on-the-job learning that come into play with the new tools.

  • Whether the learning is leverageable or just organic.
  • The extent to which the learning is directed or spontaneous.
  • The extent of push technology.
  • The motivation of the learners.
  • The involvement of learner's managers (or coaches, mentors, etc.)
  • The validity of the learned information.
  • The ability of the tools to reinforce key points.
  • The ability of the tools to go beyond recognized needs to target unrecognized needs.

So much more to learn…



Michiel Klonhammer, one of the founders of LearningStone, taught me something last week — that subscription learning could be delivered within communities of learners, at least in those communities that have the advantage of a scheduled curriculum.

Subscription learning at its core is the periodic delivery of very short learning nuggets to learners. From the perspective of learners' cognitive architecture, there are several advantages to this method of learning. First, it can utilize the spacing effect, the finding that repetitions spaced over time are better remembered than repetitions not spaced over time. Second, it can reinforce ideas, providing the benefits of repetition itself. Third, because learners are likely to encounter these nuggets at work, they are more likely to be integrated in memory with workplace contextual cues.

The most obvious vision of subscription learning involves the intentional delivery of learning nuggets, designed and scheduled to maximize effectiveness. What Michiel (pronounced Michael in the English-speaking context) taught me is that short learning nuggets could also be delivered in a less prescribed manner when communities of learners deliver learning messages to each other.


LearningStone is a group-based learning platform that is typically used by learning facilitators (trainers, educators, and managers) to take learners through a curriculum and maximize learning-related interactions between learners. LearningStone's creators believe strongly that the human element is a key to learning. They built LearningStone to provide blended learning with a strong focus on collaborative learning — where the system and the trainer or coach can stimulate collaborative actions and both the system and the participants can stimulate other participants to join in, to be engaged and be motivated.

From a subscription-learning perspective, LearningStone's curriculum interface schedules learning events. These learning events are focused on the whole group, not the individual. That is, the learning events are not scheduled based on a particular learner's performance in learning. In addition, learning can occur at the initiation of the learners themselves.

I still have more to learn about LearningStone, but here are some initial reflections:

  1. Having a scheduled curriculum, even if it is not individualized, can provide learning nuggets spaced over time in an intentionally-designed manner.
  2. Obviously, this may miss some of the advantages of individualization, including more targeted retrieval practice, more precise feedback, and gamification affordances; yet, such spacing and intention can produce better learning than one-time events.
  3. Where communities of learners are active, their interactions can provide additional short learning events — and perhaps, just as peer mentoring is often more effective than expert-mentoring, such interactions may be especially beneficial to learners. 

Alex Khurgin, Director of Learning and Creative at Grovo (a Microlearning Vendor), says that Microlearning is good for enterprise learning because it builds alignment with organizational goals, it meets the needs of today’s learners for shorter and shorter learning nuggets, and it’s cheaper than longer learning initiatives.

You can read his article at the Chief Learning Officer website. It’s worth the read as further evidence that vendors are hot to push for shortened learning nuggets.

Of course, microlearning is more potent when it is intentionally threaded over time, utilizing the scientifically-backed principles of spacing, retrieval practice, and feedback.

The buzz is in the air…There is definitely something changing in our industry…With many recent discussions of microlearning, subscription learning, nano learning, and the like, it seems the marketplace is being readied for a pivot to a different type of learning…

In a webinar today, David Mallon, Senior Vice President at Deloitte, shared how Bersin by Deloitte sees the future of the learning industry.

In a nutshell, they’re pushing the idea of “Continuous Learning.”


As you can see from the diagram, they see almost any learning modality as a possible leverage point for continuous learning. To be clear, they are not embracing subscription learning, they are arguing that we in L&D need to engage learners continuously to maximize learning.

As part of the same presentation, Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify did share examples of subscription learning, though she didn’t call it that. You can see the Axonify learning model below. Notice how spaced repetitions and retrieval practice are backed into it.

The bottom line is that the industry is beginning to recognize the importance of supporting remembering,  application, and on-the-job learning — and subscription learning is a new tool in the toolbox.

Some of you may be interested in the Learning Landscape Model, which highlights the importance of remembering, prompting, application, and on-the-job learning.



John Medina, author of Brain Rules, and Development Molecular Biologist at University of Washington/ Seattle Pacific University, was today’s keynote speaker at PCMA’s Education Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

He did a great job in the keynote, well organized and with oodles of humor, but what struck me was that even though the guy is a real neuroscientist, he is very clear in stating the limitations of our understanding of the brain. Here are some direct quotes from his keynote, as I recorded them in my notes:

“I don’t think brain science has anything to say for business practice.”

“We still don’t really know how the brain works.”

“The state of our knowledge [of the brain] is childlike.”

“The human brain was not built to learn. It was built to survive.”

Very refreshing! Especially in an era where conference sessions, white papers, and trade-industry publications are oozing with brain science bromides, neuroscience snake oil, and unrepentant con artists who, in the interest of taking money from fools, corral the sheep of the learning profession into all manner of poor purchasing decisions.

The Debunker Club is working on a resource page to combat the learning myth, “Neuroscience (Brain Science) Trumps Other Sources of Knowledge about Learning,” and John Medina gives us more ammunition against the silliness.

In addition to John’s keynote, I enjoyed eating lunch with him. He’s a fascinating man, wicked knowledgeable about a range of topics, funny, and kind to all (as I found out as he developed a deep repartee with the guy who served our food). Thanks John for a great time at lunch!

One of the topics we talked about was the poor record researchers have in getting their wisdom shared with real citizens. John believes researchers, who often get research funding from taxpayer money, have a moral obligation to share what they’ve learned with the public.

I shared my belief that one of the problems is that there is no funding stream for research translators. The academy often frowns on professors who attempt to share their knowledge with lay audiences. Calls of “selling out” are rampant. You can read my full thoughts on the need for research translators at a blog post I wrote early this year.

Later in the day at the conference, John was interviewed in a session by Adrian Segar, an expert on conference and meeting design. Again, John shined as a deep and thoughtful thinker — and refreshingly, as I guy who is more than willing to admit when he doesn’t know and/or when the science is not clear.

To check out or buy the latest version of Brain Rules, click on the image below:





Like an arrow through the heart! Max Roser's tweet really kills. With his one tweet he spread false, misleading, and dangerous information to thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of people across the globe. 223 Retweets. 198 Favorites. Egads. What a disaster!

MaxCRoser Bogus Pyramid

More reason The Debunker Club is needed. More reason for you to help debunk these myths!

Please, someone, please send me a tranquilizer…


And apologies to Max. I'm sure he's a fine human being. And of course he's not the only one who sends this bad information around (we have evidence that 223 others followed his lead), so I shouldn't really be focused on the poor lad….

But cripes! How do people get through the education system not knowing not to pass information around without at least a hint of skepticism, without checking sources, without taking a breath of oxygenated air…

Here's the evidence that this information is bogus:





People have been cheering on the Serious eLearning Manifesto for over a year now…

Those of us who instigated the effort have been delighted with stories about how people are integrating the Manifesto and its 22 principles into their work.

Here's an example from Mark T. Burke, Founder and Lead Innovative Educational Program Designer for ThinkID8 and elearning consultancy. Mark believes so strongly in the eLearning Manifesto that he's created a series of posters in his office.

Mark Burke Manifesto Office Picture

Asked why he did such a thing, he said, "I was looking for something I could use as a personal framework.  So, as you can see, I adapted the opening statements to 'I….' statements.  Of course, I did this to demonstrate to others MY commitment to the collective vision of the Manifesto."

Kudos to Mark!


I met Mark as he led a workshop with Dr. Karl Kapp at Bloomsburg University for instructional designers. The workshop is fascinating in that it's designed to help instructional designers learn how to take more entrepreneurial approaches to their work and careers.

To honor David Letterman soon after his sign off, I’ll use his inverted top-10 design.

The following represent the Top 10 Reasons to Write a Blog Post Debunking the Learning Styles Myth:

10. Several scientific review articles have been published showing that using learning styles to design learning produces no appreciable benefits. See The Debunker Club resource page on learning styles.

9. If you want to help your readers create the most effective learning interventions, you’d do better focusing on other design principles, for example those put forth in the Serious eLearning Manifesto, the Decisive Dozen Research, the Training Maximizers Model, or the books Make It Stick, How We Learn, or Design for How People Learn.

8. There are already great videos debunking the learning-styles myth (Tesia Marshik, Daniel Willingham), so you’re better off spreading the word through your own blog network; through Twitter, Hangouts, and LinkedIn; and with your colleagues at work.

7. The learning styles myth is so pervasive that the first 17 search topics on Google (as of June 1, 2015) continue to encourage the learning styles idea — even though it is harmful to learners and wasteful as a learning method. Just imagine how many lives you would touch if your blog post jumped into the top searches.

6. It’s a total embarrassment to the learning fields (the K-12 education field, the workplace training field, higher education). We as members of those fields need to get off our asses and do something. Haven’t teachers suffered enough blows to their reputation than to have to absorb a pummeling from articles like those in The New York Times and Wired Magazine? Haven’t instructional designers and trainers been buffeted enough by calls for their inability to maximize learning results?

5. Isn’t it about time that we professionals took back our field from vendors and those in the commercial industrial complex who only want to make a buck, who don’t care about the learners, who don’t care about the science, who don’t care about anything but their own special interests? Do what is right! Get off the mat and put a fist in the mouth of the learning-styles industrial complex!

4. Write a blog post on the learning-styles myth because you can have a blast with over-the-top calls to action, like one I just wrote in #5 above. Boy that was fun!

3. There’s some evidence that directly confronting advocates of strong ideas — like learning-styles true believers — will only make them more resistant in their unfounded beliefs. See the Debunkers Handbook for details. Therefore, our best efforts may be to focus not on the true believers, but on the general population. In this, our goal should be to create a climate of skepticism in terms of learning styles. You can directly help in this effort by writing a blog post, by taking to Twitter and LinkedIn, by sharing with your colleagues and friends.

2. Because you’re a professional.

1. Because the learning-styles idea is a myth.

Insert uplifting music here…

June is Debunk Learning Styles Month in the learning field!

One of the most ubiquitous myths in the world today, learning styles has risen to a crescendo within the workplace learning field and in education as well. The idea is that if you diagnose learners on their learning styles and then tailor learning methods to the different style — that learning results will improve.

It’s a widespread belief, but it’s actually false. Research evidence suggests that using learning styles to guide learning design does not improve learning results.

The good news is that there are several solid research reviews that demonstrate this. Indeed, The Debunker Club, which I organize, has compiled some excellent resources for folks who want to see the evidence.

To see The Debunker Club resource page on learning styles, click here.

To join The Debunker Club in debunking learning styles now (June 2015), click here.

To become a member of The Debunker Club, click here.