The 20:20:60 Rule of eLearning Evolution


“What you think is the difficult part is the easy part.” – Peter West

 “The first ninety per cent of the task takes ninety per cent of the time, and the last ten per cent takes the other ninety per cent.” – Arthur Bloch

How many eLearning or technology initiatives do you know that failed or faded out?

  • Can you walk around your campus and see technology abandoned?
    • Hardware sitting dusty in the corner of the room or packed away in a cupboard, never to be used again or rarely used?
    • Technology that was going to ‘change everything’ or revolutionise teaching and learning…but didn’t?
  • How many technology-based initiatives can you think of that reached their full potential? You know – the potential that was highlighted in the organisation’s newsletter, promoted in the media, spoken about by the leadership, etc.?

Why do so many eLearning initiatives fail or fade? Why do so few succeed or reach their full potential?

The three phases of change and implementation

There are three main phases when working to enhance education by leveraging technology. Unfortunately, it is the first phase that often gets the most time, money, and attention. The second phase gets some as well, but often not enough, and the third phase (an essential phase) often gets little or no attention.

And that is where the problem lies.

The first 20% – the ‘technology’.

The ‘Tech’    


It is essential to find the ‘right’ technology, whether it is hardware, software, a cloud service or infrastructure. Some think it is the main component of change. It isn’t. It is vital, but it isn’t the main thing. It must be ‘right’, but all it takes is a few bright and knowledgeable people, experience, expertise, money, and the appropriate product.

However, just finding the right solution doesn’t solve the problem. It is just the start of solving the problem.

I have found this first phase takes about 20% of the time and ‘effort’[1] of the change program.

The technology is often a large and obvious budget item, as it can be expensive. Whether hardware, software or infrastructure. It is also visible. You can show it to people, take a photo of it and organisational leaders can have photos taken with it to promote in the media – evidence of the organisation’s commitment to ‘change’ and ‘improving education’.

The next 20% – the tech training

The ‘Tech’ Tech training  


New technology requires training of staff – teachers, support staff and the like. This is essentially how to ‘press the right buttons’ to make the technology work. It is often supported by manuals, training videos, etc.

It is essential and important. It will involve support and training sessions, but if that is the end of the training, it isn’t enough.

The final 60% – changing the educational paradigm

The ‘Tech’ Tech training Educational paradigm change and personal support

“Deeply ingrained habits and beliefs take a long time to change.”

Changing the educational paradigm is the vital component. It takes time to change habits and foundational paradigms. One study[2] found it took an average of 66 days to develop a new habit, with some cases taking 254 days. And that was for a basic habit.

Existing educational methodologies are deeply ‘burned in’ approaches for most people and change often isn’t easy. After all, some teachers may say ’What I have been doing for years works. Why change?’ Yet improvements can always be made, and this is what must be highlighted. Otherwise, are we to assume we have reached the peak of educational methodologies[3]? Is everything already so good that no further change is needed?

This portion of the ‘training’ requires a focus on the new ways to teach and learn; the methodology improvements facilitated by the technology. The technology is secondary.

This part of the training does not focus on ‘which buttons to push’.

Its focus is more involved with why to ‘push the buttons’; the educational advantages of the change for teachers, students and the organisation.

It also focuses on the optimal methods of teaching and learning that make ‘the button pressing’ (and the underlying technology) useful.

Its total focus is on the teaching and learning, and on supporting teachers and students to become comfortable and fluent with the evolved educational methodologies.

This phase requires:

  • regular training and support sessions – preferably weekly or fortnightly, and preferably in person.
  • support that is ‘instant’ – preferably a phone call away and definitely not by submitting a support ‘ticket’ to an online system that may be responded to hours or days later.
  • An enthusiastic and knowledgeable training team of teachers known by staff to be effective. This provides credibility and confidence in the program.
  • A large enough training team to provide support for all staff.
  • Examples of success using the new approaches.
  • Training for staff provided in the same format as staff are expected to teach[4]. For example, providing professional development/capability uplift by using a PowerPoint presentation and a ‘lecture’ when alternative approaches (such as flipped learning) are being promoted is hypocritical.
  • Active support and visibility from the leadership of the organisation. Thus, while time and funding allocated for training are essential, more is needed. Hopefully, the leadership of the organisation is also involved in the training. It needs to be more than ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Some questions and answers

  1. So…is this ‘total program’ of three effective phases difficult? Probably.
  2. Does it take a lot of time and resources? Yes.
  3. Does it produce instant results? No.
  4. Will there be a reluctance to change from some staff[5]? Yes.
  5. Will there be resistance from some of the leadership and ‘bean counters’ of the organisation? Yes.
  6. Will some assume that teachers will ‘just figure it out’ by themselves? Yes (But many teachers won’t. There will be a small percentage of teachers who will succeed through self-education and working additional hours. However, teachers are generally time-poor and have too many pressures in day-to-day teaching – just surviving – to find more hours in the day to research new paradigms and then try to work things out by themselves.)
  7. Are the results visible? Can I take a photo for the promotion of the program? Yes, but it will be of people learning and teachers teaching differently, not of ‘shiny’ equipment. The media is unlikely to be interested.

But – and these are the important questions…

Will it produce positive educational change? YES (if done ‘properly’).

Is it essential? Yes (if long-term success is the goal.)


This isn’t ‘rocket science’. This is common sense.

Changing and improving the educational paradigm and thus educational practice takes time, effort, and long-term support.

Changing and improving the educational paradigm and thus educational practice isn’t a ‘technology’ solution, it is a ‘human’ solution that leverages technology.

What is your organisation providing?


[1] The composition of the ‘effort’ required varies with each phase, and its composition can also vary between projects. However, anyone who has been responsible for driving the evolution of education in an organisation will know what it entails.

[2] How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world – PHILLIPPA LALLY, CORNELIA H. M. VAN JAARSVELD, HENRY W. W. POTTS AND JANE WARDLE University College London, London, UK

[3] The article Have we reached peak education? expands on this concept.

[4] The article Is it time to blended learning PD the right way? explains this concept in more detail.

[5] The article Blended Learning and the paradox of the experienced teacher provides insight into the reluctance to change by some.

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Peter West
Peter West currently leads a Learning Technologies Team that explores new learning technologies for a leading VET organisation. Previously he was Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College on the Gold Coast, Australia. He has been leading learning organisations in all aspects of technology-enhanced learning for over twenty years. He can be contacted at and

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