Fort Hill’s 70-20 Tool for Challenge-Based Learning — Reflections on On-the-Job Learning

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…