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Using the 70:20:10 framework to onboard Patent Examiners at anytime from anywhere - IP Australia

Designing the DPET program curriculum and implementation model

IP Australia has trouble recruiting scientists and engineers to be patent examiners, for two main reasons:

  • Training is provided only in Canberra. Once a trainee has completed their training they can work from anywhere in Australia but they are often not able to move to Canberra to complete the training.

  • Training and recruitment is done in blocks and often suitable candidates find other positions before training programs commence.

At the beginning of this project IP Australia knew the business outcomes they needed but were unsure how to achieve them. The RPET model evolved to address this. Sprout Labs ran a number of design workshop with a range of staff members from the patent area to design and develop the model in a consultative way.  

The DPET program is a blended workplace model of training design, delivery and assessment. It draws from the well-known 70:20:10 framework, which grounds the training in authentic practice, and adopts a supported, self-paced learning model to maximise flexibility and learner support..

70:20:10 framework – how learning really happens at work

The 70:20:10 model of learning was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina in the mid 1990s¹. Essentially the model suggests that learning while at work happens in the following ways:

  • 70% from informal learning such as tasks that challenge the learner, watching others and participating in the workplace

  • 20% from mentoring and coaching (mostly from a manager or supervisor)

  • 10% from formal courses and reading

The DPET program methodology is built substantially around experiential learning through real work tasks in examination Sections (70), supported by workplace coaches and collaborative forums (20), and aligned with course units and interactive materials (10).

¹Lombardo, Michael M., and Robert W. Eichinger. 1996. The career architect development planner. 1st ed. Minneapolis: Lominger.


70 20 10 framework

The trainee begins working in their Section; the experience is the same for outpost and Canberra-based trainees. They work with their Workplace Coach (in most cases this will be a senior examiner) to develop a customised Training and Assessment Plan that includes some basic workplace tasks. The assessment for DPET is based on the new training package being developed through the CBT reform project.

If the trainee has no prior knowledge of patent examination they commence on the self-paced foundation stage of the program. If they have prior knowledge they will complete some components of the program, particularly those dealing with IP Australia’s systems and procedures.

Trainees progress at their own rate using worked examples that are based on the RPET program as well as new self-paced learning materials. They will develop skills in PCT examination practice and domestic examination practice at the same time

While the trainee works on the self-paced material they receive one-to-one support from their Workplace Coach, and also take part in the Learning Community, a synchronous and asynchronous online collaborative space for group interaction and tutorials run by the Learning Community Facilitator.

The delivery model represents a significant shift in IP Australia’s approach to training. The staff involved in coaching the trainees will be part of an online Workplace Learning Community that will support the program's delivery. This Community of Practice will be facilitated by the Workplace Learning Coordinator, who will also support the workplace coaches and moderate assessment.  

The DPET program enables IP Australia to have a training a program that allows new examiners to join the organisation at any time for anywhere in Australia.

Supporting workplace learning

The focus of the DPET model is the workplace learning activities. Research shows that the key to workplace learning is the trainee managers. For the DPET project Sprout Labs wrote a 150-page workplace learning guide to help support the workplace coaches. This provides them with detailed guidance about suitable workplace activities to do as the trainee is completing each unit. The workplace coaches are also organised into a technology community that is led by a full-time community leader.


The Learning Community  

The learning community provides opportunities for periodic group discussion of the complex, contestable decisions characteristic of a patent examiner’s work. These activities build and test the key analysis, argumentation and communication competencies not likely to be achieved through self-paced study alone. The learning community will focus on common workplace problems, not purely on content.

To support the learning community Sprout Labs:

  • has written a detailed Learning Community Guide

  • has provided accredited training in online facilitation skills to a group 17 people

  • is providing weekly ongoing mentoring to key staff members who are involved in the implementation of the program.


Professional development in how to design and build eLearning resources    

Sprout Labs developed and delivered a six month project based learning experience with a group of patent examiners and learning and development people from IP Australia. The program included skills in eLearning project management,  instructional skills design,  graphic design and video production and editing. Each participated worked on a developing material that would be used in the DPET program. The delivery mode was blended and included weekly virtual classroom sessions,  face to face sessions and mentoring.  Some of the participates have been assesses by an RTO and are receiving a nationally recognised qualification. The project now means IP Australia has all the skills in-house to be able design and develop quality eLearning. IP Australia has a sustainable  model for eLearning development into the future.